Thursday, December 1, 2022

Syria, a Dutch perspective

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DIPLOMAT MAGAZINE “For diplomats, by diplomats” Reaching out the world from the European Union First diplomatic publication based in The Netherlands Founded by members of the diplomatic corps on June 19th, 2013. Diplomat Magazine is inspiring diplomats, civil servants and academics to contribute to a free flow of ideas through an extremely rich diplomatic life, full of exclusive events and cultural exchanges, as well as by exposing profound ideas and political debates in our printed and online editions.

By Peter Knoope.

The situation in Syria is one of these regular items that has slowly become a constant factor in our daily news diet. Such even that we would almost come to ignore it, and maybe we should to a certain extend. The Dutch press especially impresses me with its coverage of the issue. More specifically the fighters that leave their own quite village, like Gouda and Delft (you should go and see these places, really nice quite places where nothing really exciting ever happens) to go and join one of the dirtiest and confusing conflicts in recent history.

Every single traveling fighter has been interviewed and has talked to several journalists. We now know these people and their personal stories. So much for “one minute of fame”. This week there was even the result of a research into the opinion of Muslims compared to non-Muslims about these brave young people going to war. And (surprise surprise) our Muslim youngsters feel more sympathy for them than our non Muslim population. This is lesson number -1- from the book on “how to effectively divide a country into two opposing groups: the “us” and the “them”. And all this press coverage almost creates the idea that Syria is invaded by the Dutch. That without the Dutch fighters the conflict would soon be over and done with. Nothing of that kind is the case obviously.

The reality is that most of the active foreign fighters are not made in Holland; on the contrary. Only a rough ten percent of the total number of foreign fighters in Syria are European; out of this ten percent few are Dutch. The majority are from the region itself and from Northern Africa. Recently Hezbollah announced officially that they have people on the ground. But Hezbollah is not the only faction involved. We know for a fact that many fighters come from Tunisia and Libya, to mention just two countries of origin of these self-proclaimed heroes. And here is the real issue: Syria has become the attraction of the decade. The place to be for heroic action and some real life violence.

Even though the FSA has asked not to come, even though war is a dirty business, even though the presence of the fighters is not contributing to the solution but rather aggravating and adding to the issues. The Dutch press may want to make us believe that this is a bolder issue. One would even almost start to hope so. But the reality is that Syria has become a playground for many and that at least part of the attraction is the attraction itself.
The real questions remain to be answered. Why do individuals want to lose their life in vain? What do they think they contribute to peace and reduction of human suffering. And may be for the press to contemplate on: why make it look as if this is a Dutch issue instead of picturing the full reality? Syria is an international top attraction for youngsters looking for instant fame and a cause to live and die for. May be, just may be, because “most people do what most people do”. Which means that the more we give it a platform and expose it, the more it happens. Which implicates that we should consider to reduce the talk and pay as little attention to it as possible. We know that our press can do it, since they have no radar when it comes to the majority of the foreign fighters in Syria: the non Dutch.

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