Opinion: Ceasefire made no difference to Syria′s starving civilians | Opinion | DW | 21.09.2016
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Opinion

Opinion: Ceasefire made no difference to Syria's starving civilians

Syrians have had to learn a bitter lesson in recent days: They're starving, whether there's a ceasefire in place or not, says Jürgen Stryjak.

As far as we can tell, hardly anyone in Syria expected the latest ceasefire to be a lasting one. Hardly anyone dared imagine that it marked the start of a solution to this bloody conflict. Despite this, most people yearned for the ceasefire, celebrating it on the streets and in cafes. Whenever anyone asked them about the cessation of hostilities, the most common reply was "Alhamdulillah," which means "Thank God!"

One of the most tragic consequences of this now failed ceasefire is that many people in Syria were forced to learn a bitter lesson: that there's little to gain from a ceasefire. Especially if you're among the people in those areas that are being occupied and starved - mainly by Bashar al-Assad's soldiers and his allies.

Hundreds of thousands going hungry

According to UN estimates, some 600,000 people are affected, though other organizations say the total could be as high as a million. During the initial days, when the ceasefire was fragile but holding, it would have been possible for humanitarian aid to reach these people. But it didn't, because the Syrian government refused to issue aid workers the necessary papers. The trucks were standing at the ready. Now, an aid convoy has been bombed, and the UN has called a halt to aid deliveries.

Jürgen Stryjak Kommentarbild App PROVISORISCH

Jürgen Stryjak is the Cairo correspondent for German public broadcaster ARD

The starving Syrians had to learn that not even a ceasefire makes sense. They go hungry when weapons are down, and they go hungry when the fighting resumes. What's to stop them, then, from joining Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, the terror group that was until recently known as the Nusra Front and is a splinter group of al Qaeda? Or from at least supporting these terrorists? Their fighters have at least proved that they are able to break through blockades. They might be terrorists, yes, but why should a starving Syrian living under an occupation care? The terrorists are stronger, and their numbers are growing.

The politics that create terrorism

Assad - and Russia too - keeps stressing that the main goal is to defeat the terrorists in Syria. So why are they pushing civilians into the terrorists' arms? If Assad had really wanted a ceasefire, why did he not ensure that the starving people would benefit from it, and break the vicious circle of escalation?

Whoever is responsible for the collapse of the ceasefire - the warring parties keep blaming each other - the party that's to blame for the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people is the very same party that completely gave up on the agreement without once trying to save it: the Assad regime.

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