Wednesday, October 17, 2012

US Presidential Debates: Why hearing a Hummingbird could help

Obama vs Romney: Both have got it wrong on Syria.  (photo courtesy: Reuters)
So, the second round of US presidential debates is over. Now there's only one round to go. According to CNN, this one will be a 'cliffhanger'. And this suddenly makes me  wish the pundits in both Barak Obama and Mitt Romney camp had heard Hummingbird.

First thing's first: Hummingbird isn't a bird, but a pro-democracy woman activist and blogger from Syria. As a  minority Kurd, she runs twice the risk of being persecuted by Bashar Assad government (which hates all Kurdis) and therefore she uses this alias 'Hummingbird'.

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But why am I thinking of Hummingbird? Well, firstly because, the final presidential debate will be fought on the ground of US foreign policy and in all likeliness,  Syria is going to rule the debate. And secondly, Hummingbird, who was recently in the US and spoke at 18 events across the country about her country, feels that none of the candidates has got it right on Syria, or what her people really want.

First, here's what she thinks of the current president: the policy of US on Syria, under Obama's leadership: Obama's policy has been sketchy, weak and absolutely ineffective in either stopping the bloodbath, or the shipments of arms from Russia and China. 'Obama has just not shown enough courage to stop Russia and China. Its either this, or maybe that he just doesn't care enough,' she says.

Now, if Obama's policy is weak, Mitt Romney, the challenger, has got a horribly wrong one.

On October 8, hours before Hummingbird was interviewed by CNN's Suzanne Malveaux on her Newsroom International (the interview lasted only 3 minutes which in itself indicates the little seriousness the US media has been attaching to Syria). Romney had also spoken on Syria, attacking Obama for not doing enough on Syria. But,  when Hummingbird heard that Romney was in favor of a military intervention, she shouted, 'No! Syrians will never favor that..'

So, what is it that Syrians really want? According to Hummingbird, whose family lives in northern Syria and is displaced since the uprising started, there are five specific actions that US needs to take:

1. Help declare a no-fly zone. No foreign cargo aircrafts must be allowed to fly over Syria, except those carrying the much needed food supply.

2.No military intervention  either unilaterally by the US or by the UN/NATO. Also, no supply of arms either to the government or to the rebels. ('we don't want any US weapons to kill more people; the soldiers working for Assad are also Syrians")

3. Strictly monitor the aid effectiveness in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and other middle-eastern countries: the countries are taking money in the name of refugees, but are not serving them well. (Hummingbird has visited refugee camps within Jordan and has filmed their conditions).

4. File cases against Assad in the International Criminal Court for the large-scale war crimes (torture, rape) committed especially against children under fourteen.

5.Take more soft measures such as more media coverage  of pro-democracy leaders. ("There are many women pro-democracy activists within Syria doing great work, but none of them are ever interviewed by international media. If they were interviewed, it would help a lot"), plight of refugees ("the media is entirely mum on this") within and roles of Russian mercenaries ("they are hired as sniper shooters for target killing of  civilians") in Syria.

Unfortunately, none of these suggestions could be aired on CNN simply because a 3-min, anchored show gets over before one even finishes introducing herself. But being a co-speaker on the eighteen events, and having spent over three weeks with Hummingbird I  know she is speaking on behalf of those Syrians who have suffered the worst since the uprising began: Holms, Aleppo and the millions of displaced ones.In fact, she has been blogging about it on World Pulse for over an year now.

Now, as Americans - and also the world citizens in general - gear up for the final battle of words between their two candidates this Monday, I wonder if anyone was ready to hear the voice of reality (and sanity) that are rising out of Syria like Hummingbird. Its not difficult to do that, provided we care enough!.


Kim Ayers said...

This is just what we need. I will put this on my Twitter, Facebook and of course tune in to watch the debates as always.
Meeting the 3 of you in NYC last month was one of the highlights of my life so far!
With sisterly love,
Kim Ayers
Spark 540°

Stella Paul said...

Thanks very much Kim. The entire middle east is a mess which, unfortunately only makes it difficult for common Americans who, by the way, have little to do with politics and are simple, peace loving folks. To add to this mess by sending in arms into Syria (as Romney proposes) would be a great injustice to these people. At the same time, the present inaction would only embolden the dictator and its allies who already. Listening to local voices would surely help American government in taking firm, yet positive steps to assert its leadership.
Thanks so much for reading and it was nice meeting you too!