Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

The Crimes of Man Are Worse

There can be no doubt that the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria last week was tragic. Its effects will remain in the memory and minds of the victims’ families, those who were affected, and anyone with a conscience, be they from the region or not.

Nonetheless, this tragedy is not the only one we have seen in our region. Indeed, while it is true that the earthquake is the worst in 100 years, the numbers (and I mention numbers because there is no way to measure pain and how people feel) tell us that we have seen, and are seeing, worse.

Today, some of those talking about this calamity are doing so in an attempt to “whitewash” the Assad regime. This is a catastrophe and a tragedy in itself. According to the United Nations' figures, the earthquake has killed over 25,000 people in Türkiye and Syria and displaced over 5 million Syrians.

This is painful. No reasonable person could accept it, but what are the figures of Assad and Iran’s crimes in Syria? According to the statistics for the year 2021, not those of today, they killed around 400,000 people in Syria.

According to the United Nations, more than 6 million Syrians have been displaced inside the country due to the violence of the Assad regime and Iran and Russia’s interventions, while 5.5 million have been displaced outside Syria.

Moreover, chemical weapons have been used 38 times in Syria since the revolution erupted, according to the United Nations. Thirty-two of them are attributed to the Assad regime, and just two weeks ago, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons condemned the Assad regime for using chemical weapons in Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in 2018.

Thus, per the numbers, the scale of the disasters and suffering caused by people, specifically the Assad regime, the Iranian militias in Syria, and the Russian forces that intervened in the country, is greater than that left by the earthquake.

The regime’s crimes were committed using barrel bombs and chemical weapons, which are added to its torture and executions. All of this has been documented, and they are the reason why the Caesar Act sanctioning the regime was passed. We also have the use of ISIS, the intervention of Iranian militias, and Russian airstrikes, which killed around 9,000 Syrians alone.

Here, the reader will ask: What is your point? I am making two points. The first is addressed to the international community, which has spoken of its regret over the earthquake, specifically its ramifications in Syria. Now, it wants help, while the crimes that Assad and Iran committed in the country wreaked more havoc than the earthquake, and their hell was continuous and systematic; it was not a single event. Nonetheless, nothing was done to help defenseless Syrians.

The other point I want to make is that those who are trying to “whitewash” the Assad regime after its crimes in Syria, as well as those that Iran committed, are making a grave mistake. They have always been hurting the victims of the Assad regime, and now they are hurting the victims of the earthquake.

I do not say these things lightly. Indeed, the Assad regime did not allow aid to enter opposition areas until five days after the earthquake, and we will soon see proof. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also called for an “immediate ceasefire” in Syria to facilitate the delivery of aid to the earthquake victims.

To conclude, we cannot toy with people’s emotions and make them forget. We cannot accept the solutions for a real tragedy that come at the expense of larger, ongoing tragedies engendered by the Assad regime and Iran.