Crises in Syria, North Korea, Iran… Yet those are just the most visible flashpoints in a world driven by conflict – look beyond them and there are plenty more troubling spots that could escalate globally. Every day, people are fighting to the death for the ideals they believe in. Some are fighting for independence and freedom. Others are dying for their right to be heard, to be treated as human beings. Some even say they are ultimately fighting in the name of peace. But many of the wars and conflicts happening these days have been dismissed, forgotten, ignored and under-reported while the world stays busy looking the other way. Sadly enough, world peace is even further away from reality than you have ever imagined.
In this article, I will try not to give any opinion. Being from a country where the armed conflict is currently taking place, I know for myself that you get extremely sensitive when someone expresses a point of view with regards to your homeland. The University of Amsterdam, in itself, is a diverse community, and I am confident that there are people among our readers who are from the states that I am going to talk about. Therefore, I will try to stay as objective as possible and will only give an overview of a few conflicts that, in my view, are not being talked enough about. If it touches you or at least raises an interest for further investigation on the matters – then my work is done. It is important to increase awareness of the problems that the biggest media channels are not reporting.
I would like to first overlook a conflict which is happening since the Soviet Union collapsed and is being extremely under-reported in the media.
With the attention of EU leaders firmly fixed on Syria’s civil war, the refugee crisis and the menace posed by Islamist terrorism, most of us seem to forget or do not even know about the conflict between Karabakh and Azerbaijan over Karabakh territory. Karabakh is an internationally unrecognized Armenian-dominated enclave inside Azerbaijan. Although Nagorno-Karabakh is not a very large territory – it is home to about 150,000 people. It has long been a flashpoint for great power rivalry, ethnic and religious tensions. The Nagorno-Karabakh unrest is one of the several so-called frozen conflicts, mostly on Europe’s borders, that has the potential to erupt at any time. Because they are so difficult to resolve, the big powers tend to leave them on ice until circumstances force them to act. Why is it important to know? Firstly, there is virtually no room for compromise between the two sides: Azerbaijan refuses to settle for anything less than full control of the entire area, while Armenia supports Karabakh’s attempts to become an independent state. Moreover, a military showdown between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region is highly likely to heighten in the following years, a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) report says. Svante Cornell, who is a Swedish scholar specializing on politics and security issues in Eurasia commented: “Of all Caucasian conflicts, the Karabakh conflict has the greatest strategic and region-wide importance. This conflict is the only one in the territory of the former Soviet Union, in which two independent states are directly involved.” Both Armenia and Azerbaijan professionalized and rearmed their force significantly in the past year. Just like in many conflicts these days, hundreds of people have died in the exchange of fire across the border that always has a possibility of escalation.
Conflict in Ukraine
Around three years ago, Ukraine was all over the news. No matter which news channel you watch or read – there was always a report on the situation in the east of the country. These days, Ukraine is hardly ever mentioned in any media. Does this mean that Ukraine is at peace these days? Unfortunately, it does not. It only means that interest for the conflict itself has diminished among the Western European public. However, the confrontation is still not over. The ceasefire in Donbass Region has been continuously violated. Since the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine has evolved in 2014, 9758 people have died, according to the UN report. Just think about this number once again. Almost 10,000 people died in the east of Europe, in a country which borders with Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, within the last 3 years. This is a terrifying number and more people are dying every day.
Hundreds, thousands of young people are joining armed forces in order to fight for the independence of my homeland. The report of the United Nations Monitoring Mission on Human Rights in Ukraine describes the situation in settlements that are locked in “no-face territory” between checkpoints, where several hundred people are isolated and have no access to basic services: there is no urgent medical care; the nearest grocery store is 7 km away; children have to walk 3km in order to get to school. Families are being separated, sons and husbands are leaving homes to fight and people are surviving but not living in the area of an armed conflict – that is a current situation in Ukraine, and, sadly, there seems to be no conflict resolution in the near future.
Israeli – Palestinian conflict
Another conflict that hasn’t been widely covered in the news in the past years is a conflict between Israel and Palestine. While many believe the conflict is over religious issues, the heart of the conflict is at two groups of people claiming the same land called Gaza. The Israelis believe that they are entitled to this territory now known as Israel, while the Palestinians believe that they are entitled to the land they call Palestine. For religious Jewish Israelis and religious Muslim Palestinians, however, the belief is deeper. Both sides believe that God (called Jehovah by the Jews and Allah by the Muslims) gave them the land and, therefore, giving it away to another people would be considered as a sin. Providing a short background, after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the Holy land was divided into three parts: the State of Izrael, The West Bank of the Jordan River, which contained thousands of Palestinians and the Gaza Strip, which was controlled by Egypt. The conflict was then calmed by the Camp David Accords in 1979, which bound Israel and Egypt in a peace treaty. But then, in 1967, after another war, Israel occupied these Palestinian areas and Israeli troops stayed there for years. Israel finally left Gaza in 2005 but soon after, a Palestinian organization called Hamas won elections and took control there. Much of the world calls Hamas a terrorist organization. It refuses to recognize Israel as a country and wants Palestinians to be able to return to their old home – and will use violence to achieve its aims. Since then, Israel has held Gaza under a blockade, which means it controls its borders and limits who can get in and out.
I happened to visit Israel last winter and I was fascinated by how the territory between the two states is actually divided. Basically, the bordering territories of two countries are being distinguished by the colour of the barrels on the roofs of the houses. The white-colored barrels define Israeli territory, while the black stand for Palestinian. There is a popular view that the conflict between Israel and Palestine is inevitable. Too complicated for a practical solution to be ever found, many political experts expect that it could continue for years and years. However, this view seems way too pessimistic. Hopefully, there can be a two-state solution, so everyone can be recognized. Just like any other war, it eventually will come to an end, but we just don’t know when. Majority of both populations wants peace, extremists don’t. Let’s hope the majority wins.
So what is the bottom line? It is hard to tell. It is difficult to find a universal “pill” for all of the conflicts in the world. However, maybe the citizens of the affected countries should stop waiting for the governments and institutions to solve the problem. After all, war brings money, and actually, instead of being the ones to try to find solutions, governments of different states actually create more problems. We, as a public, need to stop buying into the perpetually told lies and propaganda. Because the first thing that is being affected by war is the truth. People all around the world need to become properly informed, especially in these days, when any type of information could be found online. Those of us who are honest and actually care about the victims of the violence—on both sides of any of the conflicts happening nowadays, need to have a responsibility to educate ourselves and take an active role in sharing knowledge with others. “Sharing is caring”, they say. Sharing knowledge – is caring about nations, caring about the world.