“You are fighting the hungry with a sip of water and a loaf of bread, even predators don't behave like this!"

12 February 2014

During the Geneva II conference, the Syrian regime and the opposition agreed on very few things, one of which was to let humanitarian convoys into the besieged opposition strongholds in Homs. Soon after, news spread that some residents of neighborhoods loyalist to the regime had formed a “human wall” to stop the aid from being delivered. With emotions running very high, conversations around this issue on social media reveal a mix of sarcasm, grief, anger and sectarian outbursts.

Most people agreed to condemn the group who tried to prevent the food from reaching hundreds of families trapped in old Homs. As an activist said to Syria Untold on a previous story, “the situation after 20 months of siege is catastrophic. There are more than 4,000 people, living under siege in 13 neighborhoods. During these past 20 months there have been more than 1,000 deaths and 1,000 injuries including 8 deaths strictly from malnutrition, as well as more than 300 children who have been without school for nearly two years.”

While rejection to the incident itself was agreed on, many differed in their assessment of the reactions that followed. Some went as far as accusing the regime of precipitating the situation in an attempt to further drag the revolution into its sectarian quagmire.

“You’re fighting the hungry with a sip of water and a loaf of bread, even predators don’t behave like this, you shabbiha, you monsters!” translator Thaer Deeb said..

Enraged by the story, that was widely shared online, some intellectuals pointed their fingers  at the Alawite community, which the ruling family belongs to. “This will be remembered as the first Alawite protest against the regime in history, and it had to be to protest the delivery of food into besieged Homs,” Maher Sharafeddine regretted.  

This sort of comments ashamed others. “Instead of pointing at those who were really involved in the incident, as any rational thinking would indicate, some scoundrels prefer to engage in sectarian generalizations,“ Deeb complained.

Others pointed at the fact that reactions were erupting without having even one photo, one video of the so-called “human wall”.

As for renowned doctor Rim Turkmani, she reflected on the implications of highlighting certain incidents while others remain uncovered:

“If we want the best for this country, we should protect it from ourselves as well, from our emotional and biased reactions. No one wants to talk about the work done in the coast (“the coast” is how the areas with an Alawite majority are commonly referred to) to support the displaced from Homs, Aleppo and other devastated areas. However, an undocumented story about a group intercepting buses carrying food spreads like wildfire.”

The buses turned around and found another way to reach their destination, according to Turkmani, “and that could have been the end of the story, if it wasn’t because some insist to make this about the Alawite community.  Why would we be surprised that regime thugs would try to prevent food from being delivered, since it is precisely the regime that started the siege in the first place? Engaging in generalizations and demonizations of a whole group does not help our brothers and sisters in besieged Homs. Why do we keep spreading news that only harm us and contribute to igniting rage and hatred, as if we didn’t have  enough suffering already?” 

To these insights, other activists, such as Fadi Jawmar, responded that fingers should be pointed at those who stop food from being delivered to people under siege, not to reactions to that despicable act.

The unrelenting stress suffered by Syrians since the regime unleashed its brutal repression against unarmed demonstrators translates into strong passionate reactions that many fear will lead to division. Opposition activist Abou Ali Saleh, who has been working in Homs since the beginning of the uprising, recommended: 

“Take a deep breath before you make a passionate comment or generalization that you may regret later. The fact that some would want to prevent food from being delivered in the besieged areas is shameful to any human being, but some of the reactions are no better. These things make me so sad and depressed that I’ve thought of shutting down our TV channels and all our work.” 

Despite the grief, Saleh continues to call on his fellow Syrians to work on building the country they would like to have.

“We will only win with love. Hatred will turn against anyone who exports it. Whoever wants to preserve a united Syria, whoever wants to see a Syria that is different from this hell we are living in, needs to present a better discourse and a better attitude than the ones we have now.”

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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad