Contrary to what we usually believe about peace in the world, since the end of World War II, more than 260 conflicts1 have erupted in 159 different locations around the world, leaving behind millions of dead -civilians and soldiers- destroyed cities, and ravaged lives. 

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Copyright: Daphne Tolis

The news barely reach us, unless war gets close to our doorstep. A telling example is the case of the war in Yemen2, considered as one of the news story with the less given airtime in the media. The situation in Yemen is quite extraordinary, if one takes a look at the numbers: out of a population of 26.7 million, 21 million are in need of humanitarian aid, with 20 million of them not having access to drinking water and sanitation – an uncontestable violation of human rights under the terms of the 2010 UN Resolution3 according to which the access to clean and safe drinking water is recognized in International Law. In stark comparison to what is happening in Syria, in Yemen fleeing the country is almost impossible. The neighboring Saudi Arabia is currently completing the construction of a wall of 1,500 km in its borderline with Yemen, while the route to Oman is under the control of Al-Qaeda.

Furthermore, there are cases (beyond the 260+ recognized conflicts mentioned above) where people are leaving their homes and countries due to oppressive regimes. This is the case of Eritrea4. Following a series of devastating wars with Ethiopia and other countries, Eritrea is governed under emergency rule since 1998, and its regime has been accused for crimes against humanity according to the UN, “targeting its own population, including torture, mass surveillance and indefinite military conscription that amounts to a form of slavery”. According to the International Organization of Migration, these are news which barely ever makes the headlines due to the indifference of the Media and the censorship imposed by the oppressive regimes.

Still, within the turmoil of war, mankind is witnessing great social experiments, like the one currently unfolding in Rojava, the three Kurdish cantons in Northern Syria, where Kobane is also located, the now famous birthplace of little Aylan whose picture has become the symbol of the refugee tragedy in the Aegean Sea. In Rojava, local assemblies represented by people of all ages, religion, gender, and background are participating in decision-making on an equal basis.   According to the Financial Times5, this decentralized, non-hierarchical, participatory self-government, inspired by the writings of anarchist ideologists, is a modern experiment of direct democracy which gives the power back to the people. The Kurdish struggle has been characterized in this sense as a model for a movement towards genuine democracy, co-operative economy, and the gradual dissolution of the bureaucratic nation-state6.

As wars continue unabated, often financed by big weapons manufacturing companies7 and by states who directly or indirectly support its endurance -for whatever reasons-, the responsibility to stop this vicious circle falls upon us.

  1. Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden
    UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Dataset v.4-2015, 1946 – 2014 (link)
  2. Yemen Conflict, BBC NEWS, 25 Σεπ. 2015 (link)
  3. UN General Assembly adopts Resolution recognizing access to clean water, sanitation as Human Right (link)
  4. Thousands flee isolated Eritrea to escape life of conscription and poverty, 2 Φεβ. 2016 (link)
  5. Power to the people: A Syrian experiment in democracy, Financial Times, 23 Οκτ. 2015 (link)
  6. Why is the world ignoring the revolutionary Kurds in Syria?, The Guardian, 8 Οκτ. 2014 (link)
  7. Έμποροι των Συνόρων, Αποστόλης Φωτιάδης, εκδ. Ποταμός, 2015