Sorry, Syrians, but your bloody oppression isn't sexy enough
The usual protesters prefer Yank-bashing to spotlighting real tyrannical regimes, writes Eamon Delaney
Published 21/08/2011 | 05:00
NOW that the international condemnation of Syria has reached a peak, where are the protests in Ireland? Where is the lobby which always comes out to protest against US war efforts, and predictably on anything to do with Israel? For the past few months, the Syrian government has been brutally massacring its own people, shooting down protesters on the streets and rounding up democracy activists and yet there hasn't been a single protest about Syria by the many vocal 'anti-war' and similar human rights groups here in Ireland. Not a single one that I could see. No placards on O'Connell Street, no calls for boycotts, no condemnations by artists' bodies and other cultural worthies. And more to the point, whenever I, and others, asked about this extraordinary discrepancy, we get only silence. Because the traditional protest lobby know it is true. The discrepancy is presumably because these conflicts don't involve the US, or Israel, or the West in that one-sided, self-hating fashion of the liberal left. Or, to put it in their own words, we expect better of Israel and the US. They are 'like us': democratic, ostensibly obeying the rule of law and higher standards of human rights. But this is baloney, and totally selective. It means that outright tyrants like Syria's President Assad get off the hook because, well, because we don't expect any better. But surely we should be harsher with murderous regimes, such as Syria's, intent on crushing anything except their family-run police state?
It was the same with Libya at the outset of that conflict. I remember being on Dublin's Dawson Street on the day of the original Benghazi assault by Gaddafi and seeing a bunch of vociferous demonstrators protesting about the visit to the European Commission office of an Israeli trade official that the rest of us had never heard of. This was what exercised the bearded placard-wavers, and professional letter-writers -- the 'Zionist enemy'. That day's impending slaughter in Libya, thankfully averted by Western intervention, was completely ignored and it was left to a group of Libyan exiles down on O'Connell Street to try to garner support for their cause. But at least the Libyan opposition got some support. The Syrians are left to fend for themselves, against an army of tanks, machine guns and a secret police skilled in torture and brutality.
Young men are reportedly hung upside down in police stations, their bodies streaked with blood. And yet still they march, defying the gunfire, demanding freedom and posting their courageous clips on Twitter and Facebook. How they would appreciate some support from Western activists. But sorry guys, it seems you're just not interesting enough.
It is the same, incidentally, with Iran. Here is a country, where the government has stolen the election, crushed the opposition and is now engaged in a wave of executions. And the occasional stoning of women. But in Ireland it's business as usual for the Iranians. You won't see any protests outside the very ample Iranian Embassy out in leafy Blackrock, south Dublin --a large diplomatic mission in a country as small as Ireland. Funny that. And this blindness is shared by the official culture. Now that we have surrendered our foreign policy to Brussels and become obsessed with money, the idea of an independent post-colonial Ireland speaking up for besieged peoples elsewhere is a thing of the past. Unless, of course, its media-friendly Gaza.
I'm often invited to anti-war meetings but seeing as such gatherings can also attract knee-jerk anti-American sorts I generally decide it isn't worth it.
But Syria and Iran are not the only countries whose repressive actions go ignored by the protest lobby. Where are the protests about Kashmir where the people are subjected to a brutal martial law by India? Ah, but cuddly India, it couldn't be. Why, I'm going to Goa, to rehearse my anti-Israel rhetoric. Or what about the Saudis and their treatment of women, Shias and domestic workers? But, for the anti-war lobby, getting exercised about any of these abuses or conflicts, seems to come second to traditional bog standard Yank-bashing.