By now, plenty of pundits have had their say about the ongoing bloodshed and chaos in Syria and Iran’s role in fomenting and perpetuating it. But what about Syrians themselves, those multitudes young and old, displaced first by the civil war and then the merciless march of ISIS through their erstwhile home towns – who do they hold responsible for their plight (as well as the refugee crisis whose echoes are felt all across the world)?
Lately, more and more fingers are being openly pointed at Iran. With Iranian President Hassan Rouhani embarking on a highly publicized European tour, Syrian activists have made their voices heard to protest Iran’s continued interference in their country, as well as the warm welcome Rouhani received from European politicians and faith leaders.
In Aleppo, it was children – with dirty fingernails, disheveled hair, and barely a glimmer of hope left in their eyes – who held up signs bearing the recently-trending hashtag #No2Rouhani, warning that Tehran’s interference in Syria has only increased since the election of the “moderate” Rouhani. The children’s photos and pleas were published in the German Bild and the British *Independent, which juxtaposed (in the headline as well as in the report itself) Rouhani’s Europe visit with the ongoing Iranian involvement in the crisis in Syria. The photos also received coverage from pro-rebel quarters.
There has been no lack of other indications of the depths of Iran’s involvement and stakes in the Syrian conflict. For example, Vox this week cited Iran’s direct involvement in “propping up” the pro-Assad camp as part of its “proxy war” with Saudi Arabia as one of the factors that “doomed” the Syrian peace talks, writing that both sides are fighting “to the last Syrian” and “more than willing to see this country burn in order to keep it from the other’s influence.”
While in the past Iran claimed that they were only sending “military advisors”, with the body bags mounting up, and with a change of interests, Tehran now boasts – while duplicitously advocating “diplomacy” at the same time – that unlike Riyadh, it “dared” to send ground troops to Syria. The question remains whether the call of the children of Aleppo will be heard, and whether Iran’s deep involvement in perpetuating the conflict there will become more widely recognized and condemned.