A recent article in the New York Times about Syrian youth and the existing hatred between Sunnis and Alawites was disturbing, but also an accurate portrayal of life in the Middle East. Many Americans have no knowledge that unfortunately much of the world still carries deep-seated religious or tribal hatred. Civil wars are especially efficient at bringing these issues out in the open since both sides will usually use whatever they can to emotionally charge their supporters. What is so sad is that it is still being taught to the next generation.
Unfortunately it is not just Syria that is breeding another generation of hatred for different groups. The entire region has the same problem. Its neighbors – Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Israel and Turkey – all have religious or tribal issues. Iraq has ongoing Sunni versus Shia versus Kurd killings. Iran fuels anti-Sunni sentiments in Bahrain, Iraq, and Lebanon. Iran fuels anti-Sunni sentiments in Bahrain, Iraq, and Lebanon. Lebanon has ongoing Sunni, Shia, Christian violence that is now being exacerbated by the civil war in Syria. Israel and Palestine still have not resolved the issue of Palestine, which means both states have extreme members who promote violence and death. Turkey has a permanent issue with its Kurdish population and a movement amongst some Kurds to have a separate nation. And those are just the closest neighbors to Syria.
Certain organizations, such as Save the Children, are trying to teach children a new vision of the future but they cannot do this all by themselves. The entire world needs to pay attention. We should have learned our lesson in Serbia. Before its civil war, Muslims and Christians lived side-by-side in Sarajevo where they held an amazing Olympic Games. Soon after, they were slaughtering each other.
Americans were shocked at the carnage then. Now many are shocked with what is happening in Syria. Unfortunately, we should know by now that when this type of hatred exists – often brought about by generations of mistreatment of minority groups or by false borders established in the past – this type of slaughter occurs.
American policy makers have yet to find a way to get our allies to deal with the issue of ethnic, tribal, or religious extremes. Some of our allies still legally discriminate against religious sects in their own countries. If we don’t have a close relationship – such as with Syria or Iran – there is very little we can do other than to support international groups. The more journalists write about this and promote the knowledge of the underlying stresses in countries where these problems exist, the more this comes under international scrutiny and, hopefully, some day for a change in attitude.
It is also true that as long as the next generation is being taught hatred by their institutions, governments, and families there will be not only the potential for mass killings in civil wars but also terrorism will continue to breed. That is good for my character, Alex Garfield, but it is not good for the real world.