Will peace ever return?

Ozma Siddiqui

By: Ozma Siddiqui

We are in the middle of the blessed month of Ramadan but the untold cruelty being unleashed upon the weakest segments of society, the women and children, caught as they are in the maelstrom of internal conflicts with their countries having become perpetual war zones has left them bewildered and forlorn. All this, while the world looks on with blinkered eyes-cold and uncaring and vested interests ruthlessly drive on toward their mission of world imperialism and control of the world’s natural resources.

One cannot help seeing the United Nations in the metaphor of “the best lack all conviction” and the tyrannical imagery of Bashar Assad and the Israelis among other invaders and usurpers including the drone attacks in Pakistan: “While the worst are full of passionate intensity” and have a free hand to do whatever they like with impunity. Why for example, are young girls being systematically abducted by the Boko Haram in Nigeria under the pretense of protesting against western education and then labeling this as a sin? For all we know, we will never see these girls again and who may have very well become fodder for the flesh trade or victims of human trafficking. But, what did the Nigerian government do to stop the terrorists except for a few lame appeals?

Al-Shabab, the militant outfit in Kenya, has killed tens of thousands of people in the name of Islam while the Muslim Brotherhood’s clashes with the government in neighboring Egypt recorded 638 fatalities at the last count.

What is preventing Aung San Suu Kyi, that soft spoken, erudite and sophisticated Oxford-educated leader from helping the Rohingya Muslims in her country who are now a displaced people fleeing their homeland? Apparently, she cannot commit political suicide by siding with them as prejudices run deep in her country according to an article in the Guardian. So, what choice do the Rohingyas have but to suffer silently?

Thousands of families go to sleep hungry across the world and thousands others have sunk to abysmal levels of poverty while yet thousands more have been lost to oblivion — homeless, stateless and penniless. The saddest part of the tragedy is that the people on whom the worst of atrocities are being wracked have no idea of what has started it all. The thousands of Afghans who have fled the violence and poverty in their country are now refugees in different countries, including Pakistan with some holding Pakistani passports. Approximately 18,000-20,000 people have lost their lives in the ‘Afghan war’ since 2001.

Thanks to the political instability in Pakistan, hundreds of Pakistanis have gradually moved out to settle in foreign climes and are now termed as overseas Pakistanis having attained dual citizenship of the host country and their country of origin. Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to deteriorate before our very eyes while the media channels hold ‘intellectual’ talk shows and the entertainment media, particularly the ubiquitous ‘morning shows’ depict a world which the average Pakistani can only dream about. The news channels are of course, heavily censored despite the popular ‘Geo’ which makes bold to raise its head in protest now and then but are dealt with a heavy hand as happened in the recent case of a front-line journalist and anchor, Hamid Mir. That said, the government has done nothing to stop the drone attacks in the country as the blind missiles kill hundreds of families in their wake.

Browsing through a tourist magazine the other day, I was struck by the sheer natural beauty of Syria: The breathtaking landscapes, mountain greenery and crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean sea and was suddenly reminded of the dark cynical lines of T.S. Eliot’s Love Song: Let us go then, you and I/when the evening is spread out against the sky/Like a patient etherized upon a table where the beauty and the calmness of a warm summer evening is characterized by the impotency and helplessness of mankind in general. Does it ever occur to Bashar Assad of what he might be losing as his country blows to smithereens? After all, leaders, monarchs and presidents are first of all, men…Estimates put the death toll in Syria at over 160,000 in its three years of conflict.

As humanity bleeds and the righteous among us stand up to protest the bloodshed, the rest of the world stays silent: To wait and to watch. While think tanks worry about the increasing world population, there are few who worry about what might happen when there are just not enough people left. According to data, over 60 million were killed in World War 11 which was over 2.5% of the world population while World War 1 claimed 37 million lives.

Since then, the toll of human deaths has soared to figures which can only be speculated. The 1992 -95 Bosnia-Herzegovina genocides and ethnic cleansing following the break-up of Yugoslavia resulted in more than 100,000 deaths of which Muslims formed a large majority. It has been touted as the first case of genocide in Europe after WW 11.

As the violence escalates in the Middle Eastern region, one wonders if there is a bigger agenda to this seemingly mindless bloodshed in a part of the world which is geographically far away from the powers blamed for the upheaval in the deserts of Arabia. There were no WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) in Iraq but the false accusation uprooted a whole country and toppled its president who was tried and executed for being a leader by the very people who had brought him to power. Curiously, while Bush Jr. went back to his doting parents after the invasion of Iraq, (it cannot be termed a war) Tony Blair returned to the region as a peace envoy! What he has achieved in this position is a matter of sheer speculation but if media is to be believed, this intelligent man with a beautiful knack for oratory is now thought to be quite mad. That said, the country continues to be milked dry of its rich oil resources which are being channeled to stakeholders in Europe, America and Asia.

Israel’s atrocities toward the Palestinians continue unabated with Palestinian territories increasingly being usurped by Israeli settlers whose numbers are also on the rise as more people immigrate to Israel to make it their home. Social media sites are replete with instances of extreme cruelty targeting teens, little girls and boys and of course, women. But atrocities in Israel are not a human rights issue and life goes on as usual.
Interestingly, political turmoil everywhere leads to large masses of people migrating to different lands. Some even land up in the very countries which were out to colonize them! Not only are they foreign in their own land but are also outcasts in the countries they choose to immigrate to. Both the UK and Australia are a case in point although the former has shown a more humanitarian stance to displaced peoples.

Egypt was burning after the Arab Spring with the country having deteriorated at every level. El-Sissi’s coming to power gave cause for celebrations but the molestation and stripping naked of a young woman in Tahrir Square raised questions about the moral depravation in this once famous cradle of civilization.
As the hapless people of the world wait for an apocalypse to end their trouble with some seeking refuge in Allah and others appealing for humanity and common sense to prevail while still others close their eyes and escape to nirvana hoping to reawaken to a more peaceful world, the majority of us are forced to see the reality for what it is:

We are the hollow men/We are the stuffed men/Leaning together/Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!/Our dried voices, when/ We whisper together/Are quiet and meaningless/As wind in dry grass..(T.S. Eliot: The Hollow Men, 1925)



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