It is one of the most harrowing videos you are likely to watch, from the comfort of yours and my safe home. A child who hasn’t eaten in days and will only get weaker and weaker, a baby who eats water and salt because there is no milk left. A new mother helplessly watching her baby starve to death. The computer screen is a horrific barrier between children suffering the most obscene deliberate starvation enforced by adults, and your ability to reach in and pull them out. Indeed, if they tried to escape, and presuming they get through the landmines placed around the town, Hezbollah and Assad’s forces will kill them.
When the debates arose over whether or not to extend British airstrikes against strategic IS positions in Syria, I was swayed by the lack of alternatives. Indeed, it seemed the anti-air strike position rightly called for regional powers and the West to come to a long term peace settlement, whilst refusing to acknowledge that this is a process that takes a long time, and crucially does not aid allies on the ground right here and now. It was a nice sentiment, one that sounded peaceful, but one that inevitably requires more beheadings, more girls taken as slaves, more sex attacks, more gay people thrown from buildings whilst we wait patiently for Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Hezbollah, the US, Israel, Iraq, and President Assad to actually come to a table and settle centuries of differences. And so I was swayed to support air strikes for the simple fact that waiting for political solutions whilst not providing our allies on the ground with much needed air support, is nothing less than abandoning those allies. I supported air strikes on IS targets in Syria, for humanitarian reasons.
For the same humanitarian reasons, I support immediate food drops on the besieged town of Madaya.
Madaya is a small town not too far from Damascus. As we speak, 40,000 citizens of the town are besieged by troops loyal to President Assad and Hezbollah. Those citizens have no food. A kilogram of rice, currently costs £170. Stories have flooded onto social media of children forced to eat leaves, starving people killing their pets for valuable nutrition, and utterly horrific images detailing the horror as President Assad uses a familiar tactic of his, and deliberately starves an entire town.
The siege and starvation tactic, is said to be in retaliation for Jaysh al-Fateh attacking and besieging the two Shia towns of Fua and Kefraya. An appalling excuse. It takes the mentality of a monster to believe you defeat an enemy, by deliberately starving children.
The siege is maintained, by Hezbollah placing landmines all around the town, and setting up checkpoints to prevent anyone from leaving. In the meantime, mothers cannot find milk to feed their babies, babies who cannot speak, they cannot tell you just how starving they are. Babies. Anadolu Agency of Turkey has reported that six children died last month through starvation, with eight people killed after trying to escape and hitting landmines.
The situation emphasises just why President Assad must not be included in any political solution. He must be held accountable for some of the worst human rights abuses the 21st Century has witnessed, he must not be allowed to get away with starvation as a tactic of war. He is not an ally. He is not to be engaged with. He is deliberately and cruelly murdering children. This is not a statesman.
Waiting for a political solution to stop Assad starving his victims does nothing to aid the problem now. And right now, if the Western World can defend our values by dropping bombs on IS, we absolutely and immediately must help those victims starved to death by monsters, by dropping food.