Does it count more the head of a child or the one of a capital? This question is as terrifying as legitimate after what happened in Palmyra, in Syria. The entire world was shocked thinking about what the ISIS could have done to the archeological site called the Pearl of the Desert that is considered cultural heritage. No one worried about thousands of people living next to the ruins, in an oasis 240 km northeast from Damascus, in a city that, up to now, lived thanks to tourism.
Newspapers and TVs presented Palmyra as Pompeii, a dead city without citizens that represents history. Nevertheless, this is not the case. It appears that the Western world got bored with the same stories of black dressed murdering people. Some random comment of Assad (the regime proclaimed that the army helped civilians escape before leaving their positions) calmed everyone and took the attention away from civilians. The attention was on the museum, although all around there was the horror.
In reality, just on third of the inhabitants could escape and consequences were dramatic. The ISIS killed 400 civilians, mostly women and children. Organizations for human rights reported that hundreds of corpses of soldiers were found around the city.
Thing is, we do not think the war is menacing for us. Pity is like a faint shiver. One person dying in Paris is like one hundred dying in Syria, Iraq or Nigeria. Indignation in the Western world is geographic, and lacks of depth. Children killed are no news anymore; corpses are a routine; beheaded prisoners are recurring. It is like a film we already know it does not thrill us anymore.
This behavior does not let us recognize desperate people on boats – we impersonally call them “migrants”. We are unable to recognize faces and stories of those who left children, wives and relatives flooded in blood; of those escaping from horror; of those who think anywhere is better that what they left; of those who look for some future for themselves and their future generations.
There are people willing to send them away with the same indifference of those who are not thrilled anymore – or better, are not interested anymore – hearing hundreds of families were killed. People that could have been saved if the international community had taken the matter in its hands firmly. We call ourselves human beings, but are we actually good at being … human?
Translation provided by Mary Ann D’Costa