Written by – Elijah J. Magnier:
A 7.8 magnitude earthquake has struck Turkey and Syria, leaving at least sixteen thousand dead and tens of thousands injured, with the death toll expected to rise as countless people are trapped under the rubble. According to emergency services, people trapped under the rubble can survive for between 5 and 7 days from the date of the earthquake, depending on weather conditions and their location. More than 75 countries have flocked to Turkey to offer all kinds of help, including countries such as Armenia, Greece and Sweden, which are deeply at odds with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey, which is theoretically prepared for natural disasters, believes that technical and human assistance is not commensurate with the scale of the disaster. But the West, led by the US and Europe, has not sent any immediate aid to Syria, which has yet to emerge from nearly 12 years of a devastating war, is subject to harsh Western sanctions and lacks even a fraction of Turkey’s capabilities. Have Western leaders abandoned their values and put politics before human solidarity, or have these values always been flexible?
The European continent accumulated its wealth by colonising other countries and continents. The Portuguese, Spanish, British, Italian, Austro-Hungarian, French and German empires plundered countries to steal their natural resources to bring the wealth back to the European continent and build a strong industry and economy.
After the Second World War, the US empire emerged on the European continent. It extended its control and authority over the continent, where it reaped the spoils of war after the defeat of Germany. After the end of the Cold War and the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from the international arena, the US remained unchallenged on the world throne. Europe, with its colonial mentality, decided to join in, hoping to share in the future spoils left by the United States of America for its loyal allies.
The West has set echoing standards, praising human rights and calling to account all those who violate them. It looks like a noble quest, but it turns out to be a cover for declaring war on any country that does not submit to the West’s dictates. Having failed to subjugate “rebellious” nations through military wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya and the attempt to overthrow the Iranian government, the West has turned to punishing the people through harsh sanctions. These sanctions have never toppled a government or changed its actions or policies. The aim is to turn the people against their rulers and replace them with others who are softer – or more obedient – to US policy.
Indeed, when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took office, his department outlined the general instructions to be followed. “We use human rights only against our enemies, such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, not against our friends,” reads a leaked memo sent to Tillerson to guide his policy moves. With these few lines, the Western countries sum up their real policy, which is to wield the heavy stick in the face of rebellious countries and to turn a blind eye to human rights violations in the case of obedient nations.
The leaders of the European continent have followed the same guidelines, as Josep Borrell, the official in charge of foreign relations and vice-president of the High Commission of the European Union, has said. “Europe is the garden, and the rest of the world is the jungle,” said Borrell, revealing the racist-colonial approach of the Europeans. European leaders believe that the continent’s population is superior to that of any other country.
Borrell’s final observation is even more astonishing. He said that ‘Europe’s decision to prevent any Russian media from working on the continent is a protection of freedom of expression’. António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, had alluded to the ‘need to monitor and combat false news on the Internet’. This shows the harmony between the messages of the UN and the Eurocrats. They are telling the world that freedom of expression – which the West has been glorifying for decades and which it claims distinguishes it from another country that does not respect freedom of expression – consists in restricting it.
This is nothing new for Europe and the US, which jailed journalist Julian Assange for a period that could reach 175 years for leaking films and documents relating to US crimes against civilians in the Iraq war. Assange also exposed US national security and political records, just as the journalists did in ‘Watergate’ and many other scoops that journalists have uncovered, helping bring down many Western leaders without prosecution.
Once again, the behaviour and values of Western leaders have been exposed in their handling of the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria. The mainstream media falsely claimed that President Bashar al-Assad was not allowing humanitarian aid to reach the areas of Syria’s north-western provinces under Turkish occupation, including their border crossings. Idlib province, which is under Turkish occupation, and the Syrian government-held provinces of Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Latakia were severely hit by the earthquake. Only last January was the UN allowed to deliver aid to the northern province of Idlib via Turkey, with the agreement of the Damascus government and UN members. The New York Times admitted that the road was blocked from the Turkish side because of the impact of the earthquake and the cross-border rescue operation in the worst-hit area.
“It is ironic and counterproductive for us to approach a (Syrian) government that has brutalised its people for 12 years,” said State Department spokesman Ted Price. A Western diplomat confirmed that “the goal is to get the Syrian people to blame their president for Western countries’ refusal to provide aid. Again, the US and EU blaming the Syrian government for the lack of humanitarian assistance is a misinformation campaign to cover up European leaders’ lack of respect for fundamental values. These leaders need to misinform the European people, who have been brought up with human rights values and who have a considerable gap between themselves and their leaders.
These European officials need to understand that in the event of war or natural disasters, people’s focus and attention is first directed towards reassuring their physical and personal condition. Then those still alive in the most affected area search for their immediate family members, including children, wives and parents who lived with them in the exact same place and were probably buried under the rubble. The next step is to search for what remains of their personal belongings and see if it is possible to salvage any valuable items, as the earthquake hit people in the middle of the night, at 3:30 a.m., without warning. Then the survivors will need to be directed to a suitable heated shelter and overnight accommodation or a place to wait out the next few weeks. The next step is to find food for surviving family members and then to find out the fate of the rest, including siblings and relatives, to check on their condition if they live far away. After the initial shock and the realisation that their temporary stay in a tent or selected shelter is not temporary, it is likely to take a very long time for the government to find a proper solution to rebuild their homes.
Because of the scale of the destruction, it could be many weeks before the rubble is cleared. No one will be paying attention to national or international politics. Attention will be focused on the state’s social support for rebuilding or trying to absorb the disaster and find solutions for those who have survived. Many families have been torn apart, some have been killed or injured, minors left alone must be cared for, and tens of thousands of people will need ongoing medical care. The burden on both the Turkish and Syrian governments will be enormous.
People will not think of blaming their leaders for the consequences of a natural disaster but will have plenty of anger towards others who have the opportunity to help but choose not to. In the case of Syria, a country exhausted by years of EU and US sanctions, the consequences are more painful for the population than for the Turkish government, which receives aid from all over the world.
In theory, sanctions exclude medical aid and medicines. However, Europe and the US have prevented medical aid from reaching several sanctioned countries, including during the Covid-19. They are preventing humanitarian aid from reaching Syria, accusing the Syrian government of the West’s lack of humanity. Even after the United Nations acknowledged that the road to northern Syria had been cut off by Turkey, which was damaged at this particular border crossing, the West is still distancing itself from the devastating consequences of the earthquake in Syria.
However, the Syrian government has appealed to all friends and foes alike to help the Syrian people. The airports of Aleppo and Damascus are open to anyone wishing to deliver humanitarian aid. The United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Russia, China, Algeria and Tunisia have sent many planes, and several countries such as Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan have agreed to help. But Syria needs more than $800 billion to rebuild the war-torn country. Syria’s oil and gas wealth is being stolen by the US, which is stationed in north-eastern Syria, controlled by the Kurds, who refuse to help their fellow citizens without US approval. Several hundred earthquake aftershocks (1058 so far) have been recorded in Turkey and Syria, causing damage to already damaged buildings.
The humanity praised by Western leaders is absent in the darkest catastrophic circumstances of a natural disaster. Dozens of hospitals have been destroyed, thousands of people have lost their lives, family members and belongings, and have been left without shelter. This is not enough to move Western leaders, who sent $100 billion worth of weapons to support a war in Ukraine but prevented crumbs from supporting the survival of those who did not lose their lives in the earthquake. This is a dangerous sign that Western leaders have lost their core values and that double standards are the new absolute values revealed by recent events. Western leaders are disconnected from the values that Europeans and Westerners believe in.
Countries that do not claim to be democratic have shown themselves to be more humane than Western countries when it comes to helping countries facing natural disasters. Actions reveal the true values of nations and that double standards are the true motto of countries that claim civilisation, humanity, democracy, freedom and concern for human rights.
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