Face down, barely touched by the water, lying prostrate and motionless in death. Aylan, the little Syrian refugee who drowned in September 2015 close to the beach of Bodrum, a tourist paradise in Turkey. He was still wearing his red shirt and dark shorts, his shoes were laced. And the photo of that little, composed, and delicate body went viral on the Internet and was endlessly reposted on Twitter, as a symbol of migrants’ tragedy. The wave of emotions pushed Germany to open the doors to refugees, “choosing” Syrians. Then everything went back to normal. Governments resumed bombings, planes resumed air raids, targeting also schools, hospitals, and houses.
Aylan has become a distant memory by now. Both his body and story have been forgotten. Today global consciousness is being shaken by another iconic image, that of the little Omran, 5 years old, sitting alone in an ambulance, covered in dust and blood. He does not weep, for a while, he does not even move, his eyes are expressionless. In the video, after a while he tries to wipe his face with his little hand; as if he wanted to see the future.
The video of the child who has been just rescued from the rubble of a bombed house in Aleppo has gone viral; it is the image of a people that seems destined to passively suffer the terrible violence of a war without end. Omran, according to the explanation of the Aleppo Media Center activists, was treated for a head injury and has been already dismissed from the hospital. But five other children and three adults died in the raid that hit the Qaterji district, in the part of the city controlled by the insurgents, hence a target of the government.
Perhaps the overwhelming power of these images is one of the reasons why a few hours later the UN special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, raised his voice again, asking at least 48 hours of truce to allow humanitarian convoys to reach civilians throughout the country. Russia, Damascus’ ally, said it was ready to accept this request starting next week.
Forty-eight hours. As if the fate of a people could be defined in the tame it takes to resupply planes with bombs and refuel for the next blitz.
The gallery of horrors of this conflict has been enriched with further evidence collected in an Amnesty International report on government prisons, where over 17,000 inmates have died since the beginning of the 2011 protests, which transformed into a civil war later on. Amnesty cites 65 survivors who talk about torture methods such as electric shocks, sexual violence, nail removal, cigarette or even boiling water burns. Some people say they were left for several days in the same cell with a dead comrade. But for now, says De Mistura, their top priority is to end fighting.
To draw international attention on the tragedy that devastates civilians, the UN envoy went so far as to suspend a meeting of the Humanitarian Task Force for Syria, putting it off till next week. It “makes no sense” to keep arguing in the present situation, De Mistura said in a rather irritated way.
“What we hear and see in Syria, day by day – he added – are fighting, offensives, counter attacks, rockets, barrels bomb, mortars, cannons, napalm, chlorine, snipers, bombings, and suicide attacks. Not a single convoy has reached an area under siege this month.” The only exception is the aid dropped for the population of Deir az Zor, in the east, in the hands of government, but besieged by Isis.
Russia has said it is ready to accept the request to cease fire, joined also by Federica Mogherini, High Representative for EU foreign policy, and by the Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni. But a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, stressed that humanitarian convoys will have to reach, following two directions, the besieged areas in the hands of the insurgents and those controlled by the loyalists.
Sad to say, but it is true: they are not stopping fighting with determination, there is no desire to stop the bombs. It did not happen after Aylan, and it is unlikely to happen after Omran. Dacia Maraini wrote the following words about Omran in Corriere della Sera: “A child born from rubble, despite all hatred, indifference, irresponsibility, and murderous obsession, shows his little, which is battered, but sound, to remind us that life is more important than death and that only life can generate more life and more hope.” In the darkness of a global war, the key word remains hope. Although it is hard to pronounce it.