Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Fri, Sep 30th, 2016

From Dust to Dust

When Adam and Eve fell from grace in the Garden of Eden, they were cursed by God. “By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return,” says the verse in Genesis 3:19. Today we know that we evolved rather than being dusted off of a biblical potter’s wheel and most people who die naturally end up in a coffin rather than having their bones returned to the ground. But there are still far too many who die in the dust. The images are there for anyone to see: charred, dismembered, crushed human bodies of men, women and children. The picture below shows a Syrian mother who tried to cradle her child, but a bomb dropped by the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad in combination with Russian military support killed them both on September 22.

Syrian mother and child, photo by James Longman, BBC.

Syrian mother and child, photo by James Longman, BBC.

The picture here is a shocking reminder of the utter ugliness of war. The bombs are supplied by supposedly civilized nations like the United States, Britain and Russia; the justification is a “state” supposedly defending itself from “rebels.” So far it is estimated that perhaps as many as 450,000 Syrians, if not more, have died from all the factional fighting, most no doubt from the atrocious bombing campaign of the government. Some 11 million have been forced to flee their homes, almost half going outside Syria. Those who remain suffer a humanitarian crisis worse than any Syria has ever faced in modern history. The bombs fall daily and the death toll climbs to new heights. The city of Aleppo has been mostly destroyed, looking more each day like Dresden after its devastation in World War II.

Take a long look at the picture above. Here is everything you need to know about humanity in one image. A woman died trying to protect the life she brought into the world. More than any soldier wielding a kalashnikov, this woman is a hero. The Prophet Muhammad said that a woman who died in childbirth is a martyr. I suspect he would say the same about a woman who died trying to protect her child. A rescue worker is shown desperately trying to save anyone trapped in the rubble. Emerging from the swirling dust there is a positive side to humanity, the side that cares and tries to save life. Faint voices may be heard beneath the rubble and a few lives spared, but the essence of the best humanity is to search for any sign of life and to mourn those who have been killed.

Now consider who is not in the picture. Not Bashar al-Assad, the butcher who sits in a comfortable palace, like Nero overlooking the realm he has set on fire. Not Vladimir Putin, who sends his planes to aid the Syrian army in dropping barrel bombs on anyone deemed a “rebel.” Not Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran which has sent troops to bolster the Asad regime. Not Nasrallah, who sends his followers to prop up the Asad regime. Not the weak representatives of the United Nations, who fail to act to stop this genocide. Not the arms manufacturers whose profits from war in the region have skyrocketed. Not the American nor the British politicians who pretend the loss of life in Syria is none of their concern. They are all absent, but they are all share the guilt of taking the life of this innocent woman and child. When the dust has settled, the shame of inaction will linger for decades.

About the Author

- Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Senior Fellow at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg of Bonn University, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.

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