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When war bursts in via Skype

While the analysts weigh up the forces at play in Syria, in a conflict that has now become regional, the serious risk is to forget between one dossier and another, that we are not dealing with anonymous forces, but with people. Like the friend who appeared on Skype this morning for the first time in months. He is trapped in Aleppo and waited all night to be able to tell his story. Before the war he worked for a Franco-Syrian export company, most of all soap and typical oriental products. A house like any other, in quite a well-off quarter. After the break-out of the hostilities they continued to export products by plane, then everything was blocked and he has been without work for six months. In the meantime the exchange of the euro has gone up from 60 to 195 Syrian lira, and that of the dollar has increased fourfold and bread has gone up from 5-10 lira to 100. Sami – this is not his real name – is Christian. He does not want to say whose responsibility it is (anyway he would not do it via Skype), but he says that the humanitarian situation has become very serious, above all now that new clashes in the area are envisaged and he explicitly asks for help.


At international level the most reliable evidence that the Syrian conflict has entered into a new phase is to be found in the comments, bitter to say the least, of the Gulf States following the admission by Hezbollah of its direct involvement in the battle of Qusayr. Following the defeats of the last months, Assad’s troops have once again gained ground, but they do it above all with the support of Lebanese Shiite militiamen and the growing backing of Iran and Russia. The United States assess the supply of arms to the rebels. The spectre of chemical weapons hangs over all this, while the peace conference has been postponed until after June.



The parallels with the Lebanese case (during the civil war period 1975-1990) are impressive. In this case too the involvement of the regional forces had increased more and more, in a gigantic ‘zero sum game’ (the expression is Georges Corm’s, in his book on the history of contemporary Lebanon) which at its bloodiest had involved, besides the Lebanese factions and the Palestinians, Israel, Syria, United States and the multinational interposition forces. But if the parallel is founded, it can be considered that the possible removal of Assad would not in itself change the situation on the ground, just as it was not the political assassins in Lebanon that brought about the end of the conflict but the gradual wearing out of the parties involved.



Sami’s tone is calm and kind (at the end he ventures a ‘let’s hope that peace comes back so that we can have you as our guests again’), but with his simple account he expresses the burden of a civil war in its awful reality, where one risks being trapped between two fires, blocked in one’s quarter looking at the ceiling.



For this very reason, as Pope Francis reminded us when speaking at a coordination meeting on Syria promoted by Cor Unum, ‘to help the Syrian population, ethnic or religious belonging aside, is the most direct way to offer a contribution to pacification and the building of a society open to all the different components’.



The Pope’s speech