The footage was extremely difficult to watch; images of men, women and small children writhing in agony, gasping for air and in the last throes of their lives. They were deprived of the sanctity, privacy and dignity of death by helpers pulling and yanking off their clothes and showering them with water. Each and every gasp of air, foaming at the mouth, desperation and agony to survive, was captured on video for posterity. Not only were these people denied their lives, but also the ultimate sanctity: the right to a death with dignity. These videos were taken to show the world the brutality, barbarity and ultimately the criminality of the Assad regime. The regime not only took their lives, but stripped these Muslim lives of their human dignity and honour.
However, what use will this footage be if it merely becomes the latest episode of the ‘internationally acclaimed’ seven-year series from Syria? We have been there before and in fact ‘bought the t-shirt’. It goes something like this: regime use of chemical weapons; denials from the regime; support from the Russians; international condemnation; UN pontification followed by failure to agree a resolution; and then the world continues as though nothing ever happened. Will we ever break this cycle of inhumanity?
Sarin is classed as a chemical weapon of mass destruction. The use of chemical weapons is a war crime under international law and its use on a civilian population is a crime against humanity. Sarin is a nerve agent which attacks the central nervous system. Its effects on humans is devastating. Exposure to sarin causes immediate dysfunction of the human nervous system resulting in the nose to run, eyes to cry, the mouth to drool, vomiting, and bowels and bladder to evacuate themselves. This then moves on to convulsions, paralysis, and death within 1 to 10 minutes.
But what is so special about chemical weapons that they provoke righteous indignation from those very states that have been killing innocents for decades, if not centuries? Why single out chemical attacks when this population has faced all types of indiscriminate terror for years? It does not take a genius to read “agenda” when faced with selective outrage and caveats when condemning the bombs dropped on civilians on a daily basis.
The attack in Khan Sheikhoun in northern Syria close to Idlib, killed more than 70 people including 20 children. This northern area of Syria around Idlib has become the final major area controlled by the rebels. Many of the citizens living in Idlib province have themselves been displaced escaping violence from other areas, such as Aleppo. However, there is no escaping the death and destruction, because if it is not bombing and chemical weapons from the regime and Russia, then it is the deliberate targeting by the likes of Americans whilst running away from your local mosque being bombed. It really does beg the question: who on earth is on the side of the Syrian people? Evidently, no one.
Bashar’s faithful servants came out in full force trying to blame others for the carnage, with Russia claiming that the chemicals were released when “rebel storehouses” were bombed. Experts did not let them get away with such a story, however. The director of Doctors Under Fire and former commanding officer of the UK Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Regiment, said this claim was “completely untrue,” since “axiomatically, if you blow up sarin, you destroy it.”
But many have entertained the argument that it makes no “rational sense” for the regime to use chemical weapons, since Russia has been helping it suppress the Syrian people’s wishes for self-determination and dignity, with its previous critics including the US and UK before the attack fading away into silence. But this forgets one important maxim known by anyone who has followed this revolution: Bashar al-Assad’s worshippers are anything but rational. Who could ignore the hours of video evidence littering the internet of Syrians being buried alive or shot by Bashar’s thugs for refusing to prostrate to or kiss a picture of their satanic deity?
So once again the infamous ‘red line’ has been crossed, and the truth is, Assad and his regime will continue to cross the ‘red line’, because no such line actually exists. Sadly the international powers will do little more than condemn, moralise and wait for the next ‘thrilling’ instalment from Syria.
However, as for us, we will condemn chemical attacks on innocent civilians, just as we condemned barrel boms, chlorine, napalm, cluster, phosphorus and bunker-busting attacks before them. We will even condemn the deliberate targeting of homes, markets, mosques, schools and hospitals. However, more importantly, we will help the people of Shām through supporting charitable causes and through our duʿās.
As such we pray that the Almighty alleviates their suffering and recompenses them appropriately for the injustice and persecution that they continue to face. And that He forgives all of us for our negligence and shameful shortcomings.
 On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme 5th April 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/04/syria-chemical-attack-idlib-province
Mukhtar Master has a BSc (Hons) in Business Information Technology and has worked in Local Government as a manager for over 20 years. He has been active for many years in the local political scene and also the anti-war movement in the UK.