Sunday, April 28, 2013

Syria: The Road to Nowhere?

Syria’s civil war has been raging for two years now.  And, as ever in such protracted internal conflict, the outside world is torn between responding to a heart-wrenching humanitarian catastrophe and staying outside the fray.  The images of death and deprivation, of humanity’s cultural heritage destroyed cry out for ‘something to be done’.  And yet, apart from humanitarian aid to the dramatically growing number of Syrian refugees, the provision of  ‘non-lethal assistance’ to ‘approved’ Syrian rebel groups, and the drawing of a (now muddled) red line around the large-scale use of chemical weapons, very little appears to have been done so far, eliciting accusations of indecisiveness from some Western media and of indifference from Syrian rebel groups.  Surely, now that Assad has seemingly used chemical weapons, it is time to ‘alleviate the Syrian people’s suffering’ and push yet another ruthless Baathist regime out of power?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Boston: Between Fear, Power and Temptation

America woke up to the Caucasus this week; and, unfortunately, it was not quite the awakening anyone would have wished.  In the West, Chechnya had hitherto been the purview of a select few: academics, scholars, and perhaps a journalist or activist or two with an interest in far away places with unpronounceable names.  Russia’s annihilation of Grozny didn’t really ring a bell with too many; and the tremendous horrors of Beslan had long migrated from one-minute news bites into the back recesses of most people’s memories.  But in an era when places with unpronounceable names suddenly become relevant as soon as they are connected with that ‘T’ word – you probably know which one I mean – Chechnya suddenly received its share of attention.  And for all the wrong reasons.