CW: mentions of suicide, sexual assault
The war crime-laden conflict in Syria has not ended; Saudi Arabia (at the time of writing) continues to drop British-made bombs on Yemen; Israel is once again escalating its policy of state-sanctioned slaughter of Palestinians; the Taliban have taken control of Afghanistan, reducing armed violence, but increasing the risk of persecution and repression; Bosnia is teetering on the edge of a relapse into conflict; violence in the Central African Republic is ongoing; human rights abuses in Eritrea and Ethiopia continue. These are merely a few examples of the conflicts and instabilities which blight the lives of civilians who otherwise simply wish to live a life of safety, health and happiness.
Safe routes of asylum to the UK should be available to all who need them, not least because Britain is complicit in an untold number of conflicts and repressive governments around the globe. Yet of all those who require support and protection, only Ukrainian refugees are deserving of such assistance, according to the Conservative government; one clear demonstration is the introduction of the government’s ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme. Of course, Ukrainians should be welcomed to the UK – or any other country they’d prefer to claim asylum in – but so should refugees from any other context of conflict or persecution. Just as Russia has obliterated parts of Ukraine leaving a trail of war crimes in its wake, so too has it devastated swathes of Syria. Why then, as a nation, are we willing to be so selective as to who we will welcome as refugees?
by Zoe Harding
Nearly every building in east Mostar bears war wounds. Tumbledown ruins stud the streets like broken teeth. The imposing concrete hulk of an abandoned bank juts into the sky over midtown, surrounded by parks and covered in graffiti. The famous Old Bridge over the river Neretva is notable both for its beauty and the fact that these marks are absent. Destroyed in 1993 by Croat tanks, the Old Bridge is one of the few things in this wounded city that has been properly rebuilt.
UNESCO plaques stud Old Town, listing countries that donated money to rebuild the bridge and the surrounding areas. It was a tourist landmark before the war, and it feels like the only part of Mostar the world really cares about — certainly, there doesn’t seem to be any money to clear the minefields on the surrounding hillsides, or to treat Bosnia’s tens of thousands of post-war PTSD victims. Tourists don’t visit them, after all, so it’s not like the spirit of international co-operation applies in the way it does to the pretty scenery in Old Town.Continue Reading
by Zoe Harding
TW: Sexual assault, rape, genocide.
Founded in 1948, the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations is intended to ‘help countries torn by conflict to create the conditions for lasting peace.’ Their role is not as direct military intervention during conflicts; instead, they observe ongoing peace processes and stop ceasefires and peace treaties from collapsing back into armed conflict, while also working to help refugees and the displaced. Peacekeepers aren’t just soldiers- they also employ aid workers, diplomats, medics, engineers and negotiators. They’re the ‘world’s army’, with their distinctive blue helmets and white-painted vehicles, and in their prime they’ve stood up to global superpowers and stabilised seemingly irredeemable trouble spots.
Despite very public failures like the disastrous Somalia mission and the failed attempts to prevent genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda, the United Nations continues to operate peacekeeping missions around the world. They work to protect and improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world – those living in some of the world’s worst war zones.
Unfortunately, that’s the problem.