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“There are ways to help Syria achieve peace”
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“There are ways to help Syria achieve peace”

Ariela St Pierre-Collins 2

The use of chemical weapons in Syria has world leaders pondering a military response, writes Ariela St. Pierre-Collins, 15, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Barbados. But she argues that education offers a better option.

The global community was taken by storm when graphic photos were posted featuring the human rights-defying deaths of people mere hours after an apparent gas attack. 

 In the early hours of the morning of the 21st of August 2013, the city of Damascus was struck with a handful of rockets, which upon hitting the historical ground released poisonous sarin gas, killing up to 1,429 innocent citizens.  

This was the worst attack in the Arab world using chemical weaponry since Saddam Hussein poison-gassed thousands in his attack on the town of Halabja in 1988.  

United Nations officials have been investigating ingredients of the gas used in the August attack, and trying to ascertain who is to blame for its release on innocent citizens.  Syrian civil activists say that the gas attack was government-backed, and that President Bashar al-Assad is entirely to blame. But Syria has said that the activists’ accusation was ‘disillusioned and fabricated, with the objective to deviate and mislead’, regarding the United Nation’s mission to uncover the culprit. 

This act of cowardice on Assad’s part is sickening, and there is a terrible delay in reaction from the rest of the world.  After signing the Paris Peace Treaties in 1947, the world vowed that there would never be another terrible war like that again, so why are the world leaders taking so long to come to a decision?  There are peacekeeping efforts in Cyprus and Afghanistan, so why not in Syria? Foreign entities such as the United States, France and the European Union have debated action, and as of 4th September 2013, the United States and France have both voted ‘yes’ for sending in military intervention.  

I believe that exporting troops to Syria to intervene without proof of Assad’s guilt would send both nations down the path of another war instead of offering a peaceful solution. But as the United State’s President Barack Obama said, the use of chemical weaponry crosses a line, the line that says you’ve gone too far.  Gasses like sarin are an abominable use of modern science and should be banned.  

If powerful countries and entities such as the United Nations or World Bank cannot intervene to end an inhumane civil war that shows no sign of termination, then how can we help Syria achieve peace and become a functioning society once more?  My opinion echoes that of Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, an Iraqi man and a friend who lived through the Iraqi war. The founder of the ‘Global Secular Humanist Movement’, he has this to say on the topic: ”What too many people fail to understand is true peace and prosperity can not be forced upon a populace by outside groups.  The Middle East is filled with hatred, ignorance and bigotry, most of that is a result of religion, tribalism, racism, nationalism, failure of communism, post cold war policies, absence of modern political ideologies etc.  The only way the “civilized” world can help the uncivilized would be through educational programs, protection of human rights activists, funding people who share our values.”

 If we, as persons outside the conflict, wish to help the people of Syria stop fighting and get back on their feet, we should do exactly that.  

My belief is that the funding of educational programs and institutions, the protection of human rights and human rights activists, and the introduction of new ideas and technology are effective ways for external parties to take positive action without getting involved in violence and the killing of innocent civilians.  

By educating the populace, they learn about things like clean and healthy living and how to solve problems democratically rather than violently.  Education will help the citizens of Syria be more worldly and open-minded to new ideas and policies, and teach them new technology. If human rights activists are protected and not persecuted, living standards will drastically improve for everyone.  Institutions such as the World Bank can fund the construction of schools, libraries, universities and other learning institutions, because a more learned populace is exactly what can help Syria rise as a nation once more. 

It’s true that more education means a higher GDP, which leads to more people earning more money therefore creating a larger middle class, but it also does a lot more than that.  Education instills more tolerance for different people and walks of life, and it will reverse a lot of the hatred and stigma that has festered in the Middle East.  By choosing the path of educational programs, as opposed to the path of violence, a much more peaceful society lies just on the horizon.  Let us hope the world leaders make the right choice.    

photo credit: Marc Veraart via photopin cc

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About me:
I am a Barbadian-Canadian and the founder of ‘Youth For Epic Change’, a charity aimed at raising funds for causes both locally and globally and inspiring teens in Barbados to be the catalyst for positive change. View my personal blog at www.unleashthepowerofone.tumblr.com.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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