What is there left to say about Syria? The horrors have been reported on and reported on. Discussed and discussed. Outside of the human rights, diplomatic and aid communities, you suspect the wider public is finding it hard to focus on any more.
There's a lot more one could say about Saudi Arabia's almost unimaginably bad human rights record. But unless something miraculous happens, Theresa May won't mention of any of this during her time in Riyadh. A semi-ritualistic reference along the lines of "a range of issues were discussed, including human rights" is probably all we'll get.
In DeLillo's White Noise the narrator Gladney spends a lot of time with his academic colleague, Murray Jay Siskind, a cynical New Yorker with a penchant for constant theorising. Gladney, half-appalled, sums up his colleague's acidic take on the world: "Murray says we are fragile creatures surrounded by a world of hostile facts. Facts threaten our happiness and security."
Creepy it may be, but <em>Rillington Place</em>'s slow-burn horror is essentially a slice of good old-fashioned British macabre - think Jack the Ripper, <em>Brighton Rock</em>, <em>The Elephant Man</em>, <em>Burke & Hare</em>. Far more frightening than these dark historical dramas are the real-life death penalty cases unfolding around the world <em>right now</em>.
In just one recent four-week period (mid-September to mid-October) something like 120 children were killed by the barrel bombing and air strikes in east Aleppo. That's an average of four or five children killed every day. It's an absolute tragedy and nothing can justify it. The wider situation for children in Syria is beyond bleak.
Such is the self-absorption of Britain with things that affect Britain, you could almost be forgiven for thinking the world's refugee crisis is largely about who comes to this country. It's all about Calais, isn't it?... The UK is just a bit player in the global drama - the tragedy - which has seen tens of millions of people forced out of their homes because of war and repression.
Allowing passengers to cram a plane's overhead lockers with large imitation AK-47s seems an odd thing to permit in these days of heightened airport security (where every 100ml-plus container of moisturiser is banned and travellers are ordered to remove their shoes at the er, drop of a hat), but there you go
To paraphrase Kafka's most famous line, one might almost say that one day the country of Israel awoke to discover it had been transformed into a gigantic security state which routinely sets aside basic human rights. Except that no such sudden metamorphosis has taken place. In truth Israel has been acting this way for a very long time.
Mitchell's "new Srebrenica" line echoes Jan Egeland, the United Nations official who's responsible for trying to broker humanitarian access in Syria. The effectiveness - or otherwise - of UN efforts to deliver aid into Syria has been one of the many vexed issues of this crisis. With Srebrenica (as with Rwanda) the UN failed abysmally. Is it going to fail with Syria as well? Let's fervently hope not. And let's hope that Aleppo stays at the centre of international attention. Because, even without a standalone massacre of Srebrenica's magnitude, Aleppo is already a frightening humanitarian emergency. Aleppo isn't the new Srebrenica, it's the old Aleppo. And that's easily bad enough.
When news of the accusations against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe came though recently, the phrase that caught the eye in many of the reports was that the Revolutionary Guard alleged that she'd participated in the "design and implementation of cyber and media projects to cause the soft toppling of the Islamic Republic". <em>Soft toppling</em>. Rather like a chess piece casually knocked over.
Is the UK government doing enough over the terrible case of Giulio Regeni? By "enough" I mean: is the governent putting any real time and effort into supporting the campaign to find out what really happened to this Cambridge University student who was abducted and tortured to death during his PhD research in Egypt?
As with around 600 hundred other Palestinians, a six-month "administrative detention" order has been served on Abu Sakha by the Israeli military. With these scandalously unjust orders, no reason needs to be given and lawyers for those held have no real means of contesting the rulings which can be based on secret evidence. In Abu Sakha's case, the Israeli military have been quoted as saying the circus trainer poses a "danger ... to the security of the region". So that's supposed to be that.
The idea of a springtime in relations between Iran and the rest of the world is fanciful, a false spring no less. A new, slightly warmer relationship between London and Tehran might indeed lead to scheduled BA flights... but I'm unconvinced that anything fundamental has changed or is likely to do so.
Maybe we shouldn't fret. As with the old reggae producers (King Tubby et al), we've apparently got our top people in the control room when it comes to the Saudi-Yemen onslaught (Philip Hammond, you might say, is "at the controls"). No, let's stop worrying and learn to love the bombing campaign in Yemen. Now repeat after me, "We have some of the most stringent export controls ...".
We're reaching the end of 2015 with no end in sight over Syria. The carnage and agony continue. So do the detentions, the torture, the deaths in custody, the "disappearances" and state gangsterism. The Syrian government's barrel bombings also continue and the ever-widening internationalisation of the conflict appears to mean that any eventual resolution is harder still to envisage. But what, if anything, have we learnt about the Syria crisis during 2015? Here are a few thoughts...
15/12/2015 18:03 GMT
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