The world media is fully absorbed with the events happening between Russia and Ukraine. Hours and hours of TV coverage from all mainline western media and pages and pages filled with tales of the hapless Ukrainians under the onslaught of the mighty Russian military machine. The delivery by the reporters is filled with hurt and anguish as they describe in detail the harrowing effects of war.
In our part of the world, many of us are surprised at the intensity of emotions shown by the western political leaders and media outlets in the ongoing conflict. Surprised, since we had witnessed wars in our regions brought upon us by other parties, and that never elicited the same kind of humane response as we are witnessing today.
Our wars in their eyes were upon brown-skinned folk who needed correction by western intervention. Our conflicts were described as Third World feuds as millions of innocent people in our regions died, some to the shock and awe of US bombardment of Iraq, and others who have suffered in equal misery in Libya, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and elsewhere.
Not to forget the thousands who had drowned in their escape across rough seas from Africa and other ‘Third World’ hotspots. But wait, they were just ‘uncivilised’ Third World citizens, and one needn’t bother with any display of emotions on the number of lives destroyed by those wars.
This conflict is different. It is about blue-eyed blond white people who are under attack. And sure enough, the media of the western world has risen to heights never achieved before in describing personal tragedies in minute details. Politicians and journalists have all come in unison to express their sympathy and alliance with Ukraine in a manner never witnessed in recent times.
All wars are tragic
All wars are tragic, but this one comes with the sardonic dashes of hypocrisy in the reporting of the event.
To get a gauge of reactions from the Saudi street, I asked a few people for their input. Khamis, a trader by profession said that it was a shame as only last summer he was in Ukraine on holiday with his family and was struck by the beauty of some of its cities. His family really enjoyed their time there and hearing of the destruction currently going on he wished peace for the Ukrainians.
Irfan, a businessman was more direct and blamed the west for their intimidatory tactics with the Russians that had led to the conflict. “You have to go back to history several decades ago to understand that there had been a gentlemen’s agreement that had been violated by the West. In 1962, at the request of Cuba’s Fidel Castro, the Soviet Union sent some missiles to be stationed on their soil.
With Cuba next door to the US, the then-president John F Kennedy threatened the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to withdraw or risk the ships carrying the missiles to be destroyed, an act that could have potentially led to a nuclear war and the end of the world.
Khrushchev withdrew with the understanding that the west removes their missiles in eastern Turkey that was on the Soviet border. The matter was settled peacefully and quietly until this recent harassment from the west, goading Vladimir Putin to react in a way that he deemed as necessary for the security of Russia.”
Samir, a Saudi history professor, who was in on our discussion added that during the final days of the Soviet Union, an unwritten agreement between the USSR Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan guaranteed that there would be no encroachment of Nato on previously held republics of the soon to be dissolved Soviet Union. Again, that agreement blew off into the dust, leaving the Russians more nervous than ever.
Nature of coverage
Jafer, a retired businessman is amazed at the nature of coverage in this conflict. “Where was this media when our brothers and sisters were being bombed by the West? Where were they when women and children were mercilessly targeted and killed?
Is it because all the victims are brown and the killers white? Who spoke on their behalf or reported on the human element of their suffering? Such hypocrisy I have never witnessed before. While I feel sorry for all the victims in this current conflict, I can never forget the unreported sufferings of our people.”
Maha, a schoolteacher was disgusted at the Ukrainian official attempts to hold back Africans and Indians from fleeing from the war zones and giving priority to white Ukrainians. “Where is the outrage here when people of colour are downgraded in such situations. Where is the stupid media when these things happen? It is a white man’s war.”
Indeed, if anything has come out of thus far, it is the obvious — disparity of emotional outpourings shown by politicians and media personnel towards their obviously white kinsfolk.
The people of colour may take a back seat.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena