“I watched a baby die today”

by Harriette Douglas


“I watched a little baby die today… his little tummy just kept heaving until he died.”  These were the words in Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin’s final report from Homs in Syria.

She went on to say:  “No one here can understand how the Western community can let this happen.”  This was the report from the only British journalist in Homs, and less than twenty-four hours later she was dead.

The Western world has now gone into mourning over the loss of Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik.  Rightly so, as surely no-one would deny that these brave men and women were trying to deliver the truth about the actions of the Syrian government.

They were among the very few journalists who managed to gain access to Homs.

Marie Colvin, in particular, was renowned for her fearlessness when it came to her reports.

In 2001 she lost an eye from a shrapnel injury while reporting in Sri Lanka.

Despite her injury she continued to work up until her death this week in dangerous war-zones around the world.

The situation in Syria has deteriorated in recent weeks, but the reporting on political protests in the Arab Springs as a whole has died down.

Bahrain continues to experience violent repression with little consequence for the perpetrators, yet it seems to have almost disappeared from the news.

Up until now little has been done to successfully call Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to account for the possible war crimes that he has ordered.

Even those trying to provide humanitarian aid and medical care have been denied entry to the country.  The International Committee of the Red Cross and Crescent are currently trying to negotiate a daily two hour ceasefire allowing them to get relief to those who are in great need.  The talks are on-going.

At present, veterinary surgeons are having to act as doctors in an attempt to provide basic care to the wounded.

There is no doubt that access to Syria is seriously hindered by the government, meaning that the West lacks many detailed reports on these incidents.

However, this is not an excuse for inaction, as some information is available.

Reports such as that of a cloth worker from Dera’a city, who reportedly had his hand destroyed by dynamite during a torture session by Syrian security forces, are not uncommon.

Amnesty International has been calling on Western governments to take a firm stance in support of the civilian population for many months.  They ask a justified question: ‘How much blood before the world helps Syria?’

The current bombing of Homs shows the indiscriminate way in which the government is punishing its population, for demanding the most basic rights.

There are still several wounded journalists who are trapped in Syria who are pleading for the West to act to ‘get them out’.

Unfortunately, the people of Syria do not have the same pull.

Britain has summoned the Syrian ambassador to lodge a complaint about the deaths of the two Western journalists and demand the return of their bodies.

It is not clear what else will have been said concerning the level of violence in Syria in general.

In a statement released after the news of Colvin’s death Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “Governments around the world have the responsibility to act upon that truth – and to redouble our efforts to stop [President Bashar] Assad regime’s despicable campaign of terror in Syria.”

In the last hours of her life Marie Colvin said that the people in Homs were living “in fear of a massacre”.  Now in the wake of her death Hilary Clinton, among others, is claiming it is time to take ‘concrete’ action.

It is more than just a great shame that Colvin had to die for this sort of positive statement to be made concerning the situation in Syria.

Many have been left wondering whether if more had been done sooner, she would not have died at all.

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