Would you care if the victims looked like me?

If only being patriotic was enough to stop an attack. Bruno Via Unsplash

The war in Ukraine would have received a different reaction globally if it was taking place in Iraq

It has already been over two weeks since a war in Europe broke out, when Russia invaded Ukraine. Since then, the world has slapped Russia with sanctions and reprimands, and several European nations have decided to step up their military preparations. Most of them are also helping Ukraine by supplying them with weapons and other resources but are yet to be involved any more directly. Probably the biggest reason for this is the very real concern that Vladimir Putin is just unhinged enough, and desperate enough, to use nuclear weapons now that his plan of annexing Ukraine is not going as well as he was hoping it would.

The first several days of this war have also been sprinkled with inspiring anecdotes of brave Ukrainians, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who refused to be rescued and insisted on being at the forefront of the resistance. Before I go on, I want to concede right away, without any reservations, that it is awe-inspiring and worthy of immense respect, seeing the soldiers, politicians, and common people of Ukraine refuse to be bullied by Russia. However, there is still one aspect of this war that leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

My first exposure to this was about a week into the evolving situation in Europe. I was glad to see the help Ukraine was getting, and the sanctions that Russia faced. Then, the problematic news reports began. David Sakvarelidze, Deputy Chief Prosecutor of Ukraine, shared during a BBC interview how hard it was for him personally to watch Europeans with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed. Because, I guess, the South Asians, Arabs, Africans, or I guess anyone with dark hair, dark skin, and dark eyes, are fair game. I am not sure how this person became a prosecutor, and I want to ask him what goes through his mind when Syrian children cry themselves to death. Does he just shrug it off as just another coloured person dying? I also must wonder if at some point in history, his ancestors also just shrugged off the fact that Jewish and Romani people were being killed in Europe. After all, no blue eyes, no blond hair, no service, right? Service is a euphemism for the right to live.

CBS foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata lamented how this terrible injustice was not happening in Iraq or Afghanistan, but rather in a “civilized European” city. Never mind that Iraq had a civilization before most parts of the world had a language. Never mind that Iraq was ripped apart by certain civilized Western nations with an agenda. Never mind that for the last 500 years, the West has not left Afghanistan alone for a single decade. War, famine, and chaos are the lot of third world nations with not a single pair of blue eyes in sight. The true horror is not war in general, it is war in Europe. Of course, I am assuming this person does not know that both World Wars broke out from Europe, not savage backwaters like Iraq or Afghanistan.

I could go on and on about the shock being expressed that Europeans are now refugees, that missiles are being fired in Europe, and that the refugees, to quote one journalist, “look like us.” Part of me wishes to reach out to that person and offer some advice. You see, in nearly every world crisis in the last 50 years, the refugees have looked just like me. Many have spoken my language. Last year, when a Muslim family was run over by a car in Ontario, the photos in media looked like ones on my phone, from when my parents visited my sister in the USA.

Maybe, I can offer some help? Our nations have often seen bombs and death. Our families have been killed by the invading armies. People with names just like mine have found themselves in refugee camps, wondering if they will ever see family or home again. So, I know, it is hard. But also, maybe, just maybe, if you were this sad and outraged when people that look like me lost homes, lives, and family, it would never have happened to people that look like you.


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