Under the bombs in Homs

February 29th, 2012,

It happened last Wednesday, February the 22nd. The Syrian army that has been bombing the town of Homs for the past three weeks, opened fire on a press centre in the rebel district of Baba Amro. The American war reporter for the Sunday Times, Marie Colvin, and the talented, young, French photographer Rémi Ochlik, were both killed in the attack. Edith Bouvier, a French journalist, was seriously injured: one of her legs was broken in several places.

A Syrian medical team was able to access the demolished building and provide immediate first aid. Yet the conditions are extremely precarious; there is no electricity, no internet and thus very little means of communication and meagre food supply.
Edith Bouvier and her colleague Paul Convoy, an independent photographer, managed to release a short video online exposing their alarming situation and calling for help. Indeed, Edith needs to be operated on as soon as possible. She required the necessity of a medical transport that could drive her to Lebanon where she could receive further care.

Yet, despite the massive broadcasting of her video and the endeavour of the French government to undertake negotiations with the Syrian authorities, Edith Bouvier is still blocked in Homs. According to the President of the Syrian humanitarian organisation the Arab Red Crescent, Edith Bouvier refused evacuation this Monday because her requirements were not met. It seems that the journalist felt safer in the damaged building than with the Syrian organisation.
The French President Nicolas Sarkozy has described the attack on the Press Centre as a “deliberate murder” and strengthens his call for an intervention of the UN. Edith Bouvier’s story is used as an example and argument in favour of the step in of the International Community. If the protection of journalists and reporters in such circumstances prevails, there is something disturbing about the equal if not greater visibility of one case in comparison to the thousands of casualties of weeks of bombing.
The story of one woman becomes for a short moment the story of a people. But in the end who is going to make it out of there? In spite of the insecurity of her position, Edith will not be abandoned by the French government. In this period of presidential campaign, Sarkozy can’t allow himself to fail to repatriate a citizen whose story dominates the spectrum of the International scene. But what about those people, still as alive as Edith, waiting in the corridor of death?

Bachar Al-Assad’s clinging to power and enforcement of violent and tyrannical policies have been condemned by the International Community from the start of the events. However, from the idea of a possible international intervention to today, no progress has been done. On the contrary, it seems that any hope to help the Syrians population has faded away. National interests in the complex contemporary geopolitic and the inertia of the bureaucracy constitute an armoured obstacle to the protection of civilians.
Russia and China have opposed all resolutions of the Security Council so far for an intervention in Syria. A new proposal for a ceasefire for exclusive humanitarian purposes is currently discussed by the five members of the Council. Without the intention of being too dramatic, it appears that the fate of Edith and hundreds of civilian depend on the decision of a bunch of bureaucrats, sitting in Russian and Chinese offices.
Although the impossibility of an agreement on a rapid plan of action is denounced by the majority of the International community, bureaucracies of the world seem to accept the situation.
Alain Juppé, the French minister of Foreign Affairs, understands that the pre-election climate in Russia is bound to push the authorities to undertake more nationalist policies. As such, he believes there will be a relaxing of Moscow’s position after the election that are to be hold on the 4th of March.
If Mr. Juppé can wait until the 4th of March who else can? Can someone then explain to Edith that she might need to hold on for another five days until the end of the Russian election? Unfortunately, it really wasn’t the right time in the Russian political calendar for a French journalist to get wounded somewhere in violent Syria!
The International Community has come to a crossroad between ideology and means of actions. Or has it? The meanders of bureaucracies, organisations and summits appear to legitimise the cause of human rights. Yet, its complex functioning enables the international community to guarantee the protection of national interests. Inaction is justified for the sake of management and control and it is unlikely that those benefiting from such authority would forsake it for an idea.
This is not about praising inconsiderate forms of intervention to save the good Syrians from the vile tyrant. It is about bringing back feelings and humanity into our international organisations, to believe for one moment that rationality is not only the product of conventions.

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