GUEST BLOG: Lachlan Forsyth – Why The Syrian Conflict Is Ours To Care About

Yahya, age 15 months. Domiz Refugee Camp, Iraq.

How to comprehend the brutal conflict that has enveloped Syria for almost seven years?

A small but heavily populated country on the other side of the world, that few of us will ever visit, with many competing sides and interests, and seemingly little in common with Aotearoa.

Perhaps the easiest way is to consider the people being affected by it. Mums and dads, children and grandparents. Farmers, and cafe workers, and nurses, and neighbours. They are just like us. They are people who were happily going about daily life, until that life was torn apart by conflict and chaos.

As a reporter on sadly-defunct currents affairs programme, Campbell Live, many moons ago, I’d regularly hear the lazy assertion: “we don’t have poverty in NZ.” Or, “children here aren’t starving or freezing to death.” Or, “there’s no need in NZ, not compared to overseas.”

Now, besides the fact that, generally speaking, it’s a terrible argument, in Syria there’s a humanitarian crisis that fits all those criteria. Yet we now have people saying “we need to worry about our own backyard first.”

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Why do people say this stuff? Is it mischief-making? Willful ignorance? Or just utter disdain?

These are not mutually exclusive arguments. It is possible to strive to improve conditions for at-risk children living in New Zealand, and to also provide urgent and life-saving support to at-risk children living overseas.

New Zealand has issues, but New Zealand also has systems, support, government and infrastructure that can be used to address those issues. Granted, they may not always work as well as they could, but they’re a hell of a lot better than what millions of Syrian children currently have access to.

For almost seven years now, millions of Syrian children have lived with utter chaos. They’ve been exposed to unimaginable levels of violence and disruption. Their homes and communities have been destroyed, their friends and family killed, their lives turned upside down.

Over recent months the conflict has eased, but parts of Syria remain besieged. Mortars are still being fired into the old city of Damascus. Communities are still subjected to military air-strikes. Recently the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that almost 1000 civilians were killed – in September alone.

More than five million people have fled Syria. Around 2.5m Syrian children are registered as refugees in surrounding countries. Within Syria, there are another six million children affected by the fighting.

Passing national exams is a gateway to higher education and a better future, but right now one in three schools is out of service and an estimated 1.75m children are out of school.

And with winter approaching, millions more children are at risk. Food in besieged areas is both scarce and expensive. Children are suffering from malnutrition. Last winter, babies and children froze to death because they had no access to aid. That cannot be allowed to happen again.

Recently, Unicef NZ travelled with NewsHub’s Mike McRoberts to Syria. We visited the ruined cities of Homs, and Hama, and saw many other communities that had been utterly devastated. Mike says one of the things that struck him was the impact the conflict has had on children – he could see it upon their faces. But he also heard about their dreams, and aspirations. It seems that six brutal years of conflict have not killed their hope.

What we are seeing from those children is a desire to return to normality.

We are seeing children eager to get back into school, and young people wanting to prepare for work.

We hear from children who wants to be doctors, or teachers, or social workers – children who want to grow up to help those who have been harmed themselves.

Isn’t that a wonderful thing?

Despite everything they have experienced, the children of Syria are hoping that conditions will get better, that their lives will improve, and that they can achieve their dreams, whatever those dreams may be.

UNICEF is there to ensure that those dreams can happen.

To support Unicef’s work with Syrian children, please visit


  1. Thank you. I can’t read online about the children of Syria without crying. For most of them, their lives are too damaged to ever be okay.

    Late 2005, shortly after flying over Pakistan, the horrific Pakistan earthquake occurred coming up into winter, virtually wiping out a whole generation of children, and all habitats. In my ghastly Wgtn govt dept workplace I suggested that we contribute to the earthquake appeal instead of our usual Christmas gifting to each other. It was raised at a floor meeting and not one person agreed.I faced a sea of blank faces.

    I was later told that God had a purpose in inflicting that earthquake on Pakistan and that we should not interfere with God’s purpose.

  2. My question is why the author of this article is quoting the” Syrian Observatory of Human Rights ” who is one man running a grocer shop in Coventry U.K., and who is linked to Al Nusra/ Syria.Presumably Lachlan Forsyth has also encouraging things to say about the White Helmets, who have been shown by Independent investigative reporters to be created by the U.K. Secret Service to help bring about regime change in Syria. The impact of U.S. Empire contributions to U.N. funds has had an unfortunate impact in shaping what the U.N. does.And how did Mark Oldershaw, your Trustee, enjoy his time as the General Manager of the New Zealand National Party? I guess He probably used his time to try and prevent child poverty in N.Z. How marvellous!!

    • My thoughts exactly. Any article that quotes the “Syrian Observatory of Human Rights” should be taken with a grain a salt. The ‘White Helmets’ are indeed Western-manufactured agents of regime change founded by this bloke:

      The situation reminds me of an old joke:

      Q: How does a Sunni Jihadi terrorist become a ‘freedom fighter’?
      A: He crosses Euphrates from Iraq into Syria.

  3. Good stuff, the only thing I would take issue with is your reference to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. This has been shown to be a pro regime change, pro western, one man band operating from a flat in Coventry in the UK, hardly a reliable source of accurate information. Though with the coverage he gets in MSM one could be forgiven for thinking it’s the gospel truth according to whichever god presses your buttons.

    “Claims of “massacres”, “campaigns of rape targeting women and girls in predominantly Sunni towns” [10] “torture” and even “child-rape” [11] are reported by the international press based largely on two sources – the British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights and the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCCs) – with minimal additional checking or verification.

    Hiding behind the rubric – “we are not able to verify these statistics” – the lack of integrity in reporting by the Western mainstream media has been starkly apparent since the onset of events in Syria. A decade after the Iraq war, it would seem that no lessons from 2003 – from the demonization of Saddam Hussein and his purported weapons of mass destruction – have been learnt.”

    But otherwise well said.

  4. Thank you Historian Pete and Kaya, was about to reply after reading the blog earlier,when there were no comments, but you have both covered the points i wished to make.

  5. Good article Lachlan, ignore those who try to cover up what is going on in Syria by claiming its all a US conspiracy to kick Assad out.

    If that was the case then the ordinary people who staged peaceful demonstrations in early 2011 only to be cut down by Assad’s army would all be Islamic fanatics.

    Tell that to the family of Hamza Ali Al-Khatteb, the 13 year old Syrian boy who was martyred by the Baathist regime. He went on a protest out of curiosity, wrote a slogan on a wall, was abducted by Assad’s police, tortured, castrated and then returned as a warning to all of Syria’s children to obey their dictator.

    If that was the case why did the popular committees formed by the people to organise their protests agree to four principles: democratic rights, peaceful protests, no outside intervention, and no sectarianism?

    If that was the case, and the threat to Assad was not his peaceful subjects but rather Sunni terrorists, why did many of his military, both officers and ranks, mutiny and join the protests to defend them.

    Tell that to those who tried to defend the protests but were executed by their officers, and tell that to those who began to form the Free Syrian Army to organised an armed resistance to a fascist dictator.

    If the Free Syrian Army was not a genuine expression of arming a popular revolution but rather a front for Islamic radicals or a CIA conspiracy, why did the CIA and Turkey who were looking for ways to replace Assad by funding some of the militias, fail in their efforts, and end up backing Assad anyway?

    If the US was only concerned with removing Assad, then Obama would have enforced his ‘red line’ when Assad used poison gas against his own people. Instead Assad was able to continue to use gas right up to today.

    Tell that to the millions who have fled or died under Assad’s barrel bombs and the bunker bombs of the Russians. Tell that to the militias who hoped for SAMS to counter the aerial attacks, but never got them past the CIA on the Turkish border.

    If the US was really after Assad then why is it that both the US and Russia have directed most of their firepower at the popular revolution and not Assad and not even against ISIS, the supposed supreme terrorist threat.

    Tell that to the millions who have been displaced or killed not because they resulted from some Islamic conspiracy or the CIA, but because the revolution threatened the rule of both US and Russian imperialists and their lackey regimes in the region.

    The reality is that the US and Russia are both intervening against a popular Arab revolution from Morocco to Iraq in the name of fighting Islamic terrorism, when it is they who are the major terrorists, using their military might to stamp out any popular resistance to their policies of making the masses pay for the decline of capitalism.

    Of course it is the weakest, the children, who pay the highest price for this naked imperialist assault on basic democracy – the right to live in peace and freedom.

    But if we want to stop that, Unicef, is like a band aid over a river of blood. The only solution to this genocide is to back the popular Arab revolution, and unite all the struggles as one fight, for the overthrow imperialism and its local dictators.

    Those who scrape the bottom of the barrel to insist that white is black, that the rebels are foreign terrorists when most of Assads forces are recruited form Shia populations outside Syria, that Assad is a democrat when he kills his own people for the most mild criticism, that Russia is not like the US, an imperialist predator, etc etc ad nauseam, are actually engaging in a conspiracy against democracy, against freedom and most telling for the future of humanity, against the innocence of children.

    • I used to think there was some hope for you Dave , but you are a lost cause. Your knowledge of what actually happened in Syria is abysmal. Your errors in fact are too lengthy to bother to rebut. Suffice it to say you are a water carrier for the U.S.State Department/CIA , and you have swallowed every propaganda construct from the aforementioned like a rabid rat in a cheese factory.I met your ilk back in the sixties ,dribbling their pseudo marxist theories like they were back in 1880.Marx would have considered you as useful as a door stop.But fear not. A retirement home beckons, whence you can organise the inhabitants,especially from the Dementia unit, into the last battle of the Proletariat !!!

    • It might help to extend your knowledge of the Syrian catastrophe if you read what the previous Indian ambassador to Syria(with first hand knowledge)
      had to say on the origins of the conflict
      rest assured, this is in plain English and flies in the face of cooked up intelligence

      You could also try the previous UK ambassador to Syria,Peter Ford

      plus Max Blumenthal

      Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, acclaimed ME journalists from way back, and John Pilger , anti imperialist journo and film maker have all declared the reporting out of Syria to be the worst and least reliable in living memory
      Seymour Hersh, who broke the My Lai story and many others refutes the 2013 Ghouta gas attack blamed on Assad, and also the Khan Sheikhoun attack. The OPCW breached its own rules on chain of custody in that investigation
      The continued policy of regime change in sovereign countries is wearing awfully thin, in fact its become transparent
      I suggest you read more widely

  6. Most people don’t know the Truth about Syria, because the worlds Media lies about it, constantly.

    I used to support UNICEF, until I discovered that they are just another Multinational Corporation…exploiting/milking public’s sympathy & $$$ in order to justify their existence /pay their huge salaries.

    Please Prove me Wrong.

    I wish to know
    1) how much does the CEO(s) for UNICEF in NZ earn ?
    2) what is the Total income of the Next Layer…. of salary earners for UNICEF in NZ?
    3) What total is left…….. after this?

    4)How much of “donations” directly benefits “victims” …
    5) . and HOW?


    • The conflict in Syria was born out of tactical failings leading to strategic consequences. Almost all combatants were veterans of the Iraq war and used IED’s and AK’s. But for a rag tag bunch trying to take and hold ground require conventional weapons such as Mortars, Anti Tank Guided Weapons, and Man Portable Air Defence Systems are essential. As well as the logistics ie ammo, food and petrol and so on. With out these key aspects transitioning from guerrilla warfare with no industrial base to conventional warfare with domestic capabilities vs the combined industrial output of America and Russia was. Well, shall we just say a curb stomp.

      Taking a rag tag bunch of poor farmers with different weapons ranging from hunting rifles to AK47’s or AR15’s lacks the universality of training. This is why we’ve seen the industrialisation of terrorism were ISIS begs steals and borrows industrial quantities of materials mainly around the oil rigs that they acquired, molds, fabricating equipments and the knowledge to stand up and industrial base of there own.

      So the Syrian Civil War has entered a new stage were restricting veto powers in favour of futures commands with the ability to innovate and solve these new military problems, and nimble reallocate resources and turns resource inputs into capability outputs with speed and efficiencies that can not be matched by threats to Syria and the Middle East as they evolve over time from the industrialization of terrorism.

    • I thank Dave for the link to Redrave.blogspot.Without it I would not have re-entered a world of foaming at the mouth boggle eyed Trotskyist/Leninist permanent Revolutionaries.I strongly urge all Daily Blog readers to peruse it, so you are very clear the direction we are not to take if we wish for a Socialist State! This time around we have to convince people that socialism is the most sensible and intelligent way of running a society, and get them to vote for it.What you will read on Redrave is similar to what was current in 1967 in the N.Z. Communist Party[Maoist Line], N.Z Communist Party[Soviet Union Line],N.Z.Trotskyist League and sundry other factions.Its like opening up a time capsule. I know, because I was there ! They haven’t moved on, they are still stuck in the past . They are something that only the medication tray in the Rest Home will cure!!

  7. I’m sorry Dave,
    that link is not helping your cause. Its the most blatant form of simplistic ideological shoehorning I’ve ever come across.
    Something like the ugly sister cutting her toes off to fit the glass slipper .

  8. OK what about cutting the personal bullshit and going back to Lachlan’s article.

    He refers to Homs among other things.

    Here are photos of the destruction of Homs just to take one example of the many other cities reduced to rubble including Ghouta.

    Leave aside the reference to the SHRO and the estimates of the numbers killed in this war.

    How did peaceful protests in March 2011 cause this level of destruction?

    Lets have some facts on the ground?

    • There’s been plenty of information published that explains how peaceful protests became violent. Its colour revolution 101.Outside meddling from imperialist nations with their own agenda applying a formula thats worked extremely well in the past, but is now faltering
      So you think the Americans, the Sauds,,Qataris and all the international fanatics from Uzbekistan and Libya and the UK supported the “rebels” because they had democracy and freedom in mind?
      Overlaying a world view thats become part of your identity on Syria may make you feel pleasantly outraged but it aint helping
      The destruction in Syria proves once again that war is a crime, and those who call for it are criminally insane

      • Colour Revolution 101!?!?!

        Whose doing the ideological shoehorning here?

        You think the world revolves around the Washington axis?
        The Syrian people staged an uprising but uncle Sam has to be pulling the strings?

        Don’t you think Syrians are capable of protesting and then resisting when violently repressed by a fascist dictator?

        Assad made the claim that the revolution was imported.
        Was it foreign jihardis who formed the FSA? Total rubbish.

        If you want to see the foreigners in Syria, they are everywhere but the rebels.

        IS began in Iraq for reasons you and I probably agree on.
        Al Nusra began as an AQ franchise but is now HTS which is a changing coalition of mainly Syrian nationals. After some clashes with civilian population early on, HTS now cooperates with the local civilian administrations.

        Assad’s forces are now overwhelmingly foreign sourced.

        They became so depleted that they are had to be supplied by foreigners from Iraq and Afghanistan to Russia to Pakistan (even Chinese recently). Most are Iranians rewarded with the stolen properties of displaced citizens as part of the plan to permanently settle Iranian in Syria.

        As I said in an earlier comment, the outside help for the rebels had their own national interests to push. Principally what are now a bunch of Russian satellites – Turkey and Qatar who have both stopped as they switched sides and are now aligned to Russia and Iran and against the US/Kurd bloc.

        But even that combined influence was puny and more than cancelled out by the CIA interdicting heavy weapons from reaching the rebels.

        Yes the US is responsible more than any country for what is happening in Syria. The invasion of Iraq in 1991 kicked if off and the second invasion in 2003 destroyed the country and set the scene for what is happening today.

        Yes the US also used their proxy RSA and Turkey to supply some rebels with small arms. Most of the small arms they supplied, ended up on groups that rejected external interference. The bulk of the rebels arms were taken from the regime forces.

        The US is second only to Assad in killing opposition fighters and civilians.

        The photos of Homs from 2013 show a destroyed city. This process has happened to all the cities occupied by the opposition since 2011 and is now happening to Ghouta.

        Some color revolution when the US is bombing the opposition and turning a blind eye to Assad’s atrocities.

        If I am angry it is because I have been following the civil war for nearly 7 years, and have documented the struggle over that period. I follow the reports from the opposition on the ground rather than relying on outside reports.

        I would never put my political convictions ahead of the lives of more than 100,000 dead children. No just cause bombs schools and hospitals and uses poison gas indiscriminately. That is why these are universally held as war crimes.

        And I resent your supercilious, patronising method of debate where you characterise me according to your dogmatic conspiracy theory where anyone opposed to the US willy nilly is an anti-imperialist.

        I don’t resort to labels such as the criminally insane. This reduces what is a civil war between the masses and a fascist regime to the personalities leading both sides.

        I do not refer to Assad as criminally insane despite being responsible for a genocide of the Syrian people. Assad is acting rationally leading a client regime that functions to serve imperialism by repressing all popular resistance.

        I characterise Assad as one of the Arab dictators who are the agents of imperialism. They are only as loyal as the rewards offered. What we are witnessing is a massive shift of loyalty away from the US towards Russia and China because they can offer both economic rewards and military backing.

        The days of the unipolar hegemonic US are running out as Russia and China along with their rapidly growing bloc of regional powers weaken its position. This is evident in the switch of Turkey and Qatar to Russia so that the US has no support left for a new Kurdish state.

        If the US influence is ‘faltering’ it is no thanks to the intervention of Russia and China as some progressive anti-imperialist stand against the US.

        It is faltering because its imperialist hegemony is being challenged by the upstarts Russia and China, not for any progressive reasons but because they are challenging the US lead.

        This can only end in world war 111 and the antidote to that is not for workers to line up behind Russia and China against the US but against EVERY and ALL imperialist powers by refusing to fight their wars and by turning their guns on the imperialist ruling classes.

        Victory to the Syrian revolution!
        For a federation of socialist republics of MENA!

        • There arev3 stages of protest.

          1) appoint a leader and assemble
          2) brace for impact
          3) you must be prepared for 2 at 1

          And there is a fourth. Open warfare. So when you protest you actually have to be prepared to put your life on the line for what you believe in.

          One of the things that struck me about the TPPA protest in Auckland was that the some 30k involved were so well fed they couldn’t even muster enough emotion to maintain the look being a little angry.

          To bring this back to Syria. The free Syrain army have been attempting to hold ground against the Assad regime which has the logistics to produce and distribute barrel bombs that target fixed positions and the free Syrian army has zero response to that. So they’ve failed at 1, 2 and 3.

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