Thoughts on Ukraine, non-intervention and refugees

Right after I wrote about what was going on with Ukraine and Russia, the « will they/won’t they » situation came to a terrible conclusion: full-on war on Ukraine by Russia under bogus reasons (drugs? nazism? like, really?) started last week and I can’t stop thinking about the poor people thrown under the bus on both sides. No one freaking deserves that.

I won’t be describing the events unfolding right now because there are many talented journalists and experts in all languages already doing a great job at it, sometimes under very hard circumstances.

The New York Times, for example

Now, I keep having some thoughts I needed to put on « paper », or here, otherwise my little brain will explode. First, the financial and diplomatic measures taken by the rest of Europe and the Western world seem to be already affecting Russians, but their impact can only be seen on the long-term if Putin persists on making this war last. It is also something that will affect primarily Russians themselves, civilians who are also hostage of the situation and don’t necessarily agree with their leader despite following a heavy propaganda. In the long-run, I really hope that it will push people to ask for real change and accountability, despite rebellion being a very dangerous business in mother Russia.

The European Union has also started the process of admission for Ukraine, but that’s not that simple even if symbolically, it’s quite strong. Many countries have frozen Russian assets and cut trade connections, are sending weapons to Ukraine, its minor army and its many volunteers, and soldiers but only on the outside borders in case the situation evolves. I am not prone to violence-based responses, but in here I think it’s quite clear: Putin needs a strong and radical answer to his clear « fuck you » to the rest of the world. There are limits to everything, and it can’t go on like this. Ukraine needs trained soldiers whose job is to fight, not civilians with the rage to fight for their life and country and young men forced to enroll. We’re talking here about a whole generation who might lose their life to an absolutely stupid terror action. Why can’t the United Nations, the European Union or just countries on their own send forces, instead of letting that happen? Ukraine, despite all its people’s strength and bravery, can’t face this attack alone.

Illustration by SMS

Let’s also not forget that Russia has developed and perfected its weapons and strategies for years in Syria alongside its president Bashar al-Assaad. Remember Syria? I see everywhere that Ukraine is the first important conflict since the beginning of the 21st century, but that’s hardly true. There is Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Sudan, to just mention the most atrocious ones, and many others. But it seems that because it’s happening in already considered « dangerous » areas of the world, it doesn’t matter as much. The truth is that most Western media and people can better identify with white educated people coming from a country nearby than with unknown dark-skinned poor people simply identified with their religion, or just not acknowledged at all despite the constant efforts of journalists and organisations who see the realities on the ground. Empathy has limits, clearly.

To give you an example, try to think about how a Syrian civilian who wants a change of regime is perceived when he throws a Molotov cocktail, compared to how an Ukrainian civilian is. Imagine how a Yemeni man using a weapon in self-defense is perceived, compared to how an Ukrainian doing exactly the same is.

And there is a part of the crisis that sums it up perfectly: the refugees. Europe has decided to open its arms, all the neighboring countries are gathering brilliant efforts to welcome those who make it to the border. Suddenly, after over a decade of asylum seekers dying at sea and on land, pushed back into danger without a second thought, harassed by national polices and border controllers, stuck in administrative limbo and in barely decent shelters, it looks like we have resources to take care of people flying war, scared, tired and in need of help and empathy.

Illustration by The Art of Boo

Journalists, politicians and media experts all over the world have actually blatantly made that distinction, and it’s quite awful and a spit in the face of all who have suffered exile because of war and terror. It also applies to people from outside of Ukraine but living there and seeking shelter, especially Black and Arab people. They are facing clear discrimination in the access to help and papers.

I’m not saying Ukrainians shouldn’t be considered in this crisis. I’m saying that it should never matter where you’re from, which religion or social class or so-called « culture » you are associated with, or which color is your skin, to be treated with decency in a war destroying your home, your hopes and your future.

In the meantime, please watch the latest address of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to the European Parliament. Let’s hope the rest of us privileged people will be able to step up and do better.

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