Missing White Girl Syndrome: Why didn’t the wars in Myanmar, Syria, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Yemen and South Sudan make the headlines like the war in Ukraine? | 13. 4. 2022 | Fabien Golgo

13. 4. 2022 / Fabien Golgo

reading time 9 minutes


The Kremlin’s terrible war against a democratic and peaceful Ukraine has caught our attention like no other. Because we are in Europe and the victims of the Ukrainian war are white, the reason is similar to the so-called missing white syndrome: the press tends to perceive them as “front page stories”, while dark-skinned victims seem to be dismissed as unworthy of our attention. .

The Ukrainians deserve our full support, and Russia certainly poses a very great danger to all of us, not only with its military actions, but also with a hoax factory that is successfully helping to destroy confidence in democracy in the civilized world. Nevertheless, we must not forget that at least six other countries suffer from the horrors of war.

Every day, the lives of dark-skinned people are seen as less important by the media and the public. Not intentionally, but because of an unconsciously higher value that is placed on white people’s lives. White girls, often media-attracted since the last century, from wealthier societies receive our attention and compassion, while low-income women of color are pushed to the margins as if their victimization was natural and anticipated and therefore unworthy of our cares. The continuing interest in the disappearance of British blonde Madeleine McCann is proof of this.

A partial product of this internal rejection of the poorest and darkest victims of all genders is even more apparent when we see how welcome Ukrainian refugees are in countries like Poland, which still do not allow inhuman way Arab refugees fleeing Belarus to safety in Poland. Or how Latinos fleeing gang violence are treated as they attempt to cross the Mexican border into the United States.

Syrians have been bombed for more than a decade, and most Europeans see victims trying to enter Europe as potential terrorists, job thieves and cultural contaminants. The false excuses range from the fact that most of them are men to trying to find refuge in neighboring countries with the same religious traditions, ignoring the fact that Muslim nations do not form a strong brotherly group and are often in cultural or de facto conflict.

Despite the necessary support that we should all give to the poor Ukrainians, who are being brutally attacked militarily by a much stronger nation, we must not forget that the world is currently facing other wars, only that there is less to see and hear.

Kyaw is a 14-year-old Burmese girl who was looted and burned by criminal Min Aun Hlaing’s troops after a coup that overthrew Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi more than a year ago. year. She was raped by a large number of soldiers (she tells me that she does not remember how many there were because she fainted several times during her suffering). Through a mutual friend whose social work was once co-funded by the Czech NGO People in Need, Kyaw spoke to me this week, saying how sorry she was that the situation in her country had made headlines and that the dictatorship continued normal relations with most other countries, despite less harmful sanctions imposed by the United States and ASEAN, which includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Kyaw survived her suffering, but her vagina was destroyed and she had to urinate in an external facility given to her by another foreign NGO, as her country’s government banned doctors and hospitals from providing care. medical assistance to the victims of its military operations.

According to the Acled Conflict Monitoring Group (Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project), there are still daily clashes in Myanmar in all parts of the country, killing an estimated 12,000 people. The groups fighting the government are collectively known as the People’s Defense Force (PDF), an informal network of civilian militias made up mostly of young people whose lives are constantly in danger with no response from the international community in any way. it would be.

Protests against criminal Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 turned into a civil war that has been going on ever since. The confrontation has already left more than 380,000 dead, more than 200,000 missing. Countries like Russia, the United States, Britain and France sided with the conflict and sent money, weapons and fighters. Jihadist organizations such as the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) extremist group and al-Qaeda have also joined. However, the lives of Syrian victims seem to matter less to most Europeans than the lives of Ukrainian victims. It is clear that the reason for this inhuman imbalance in empathy has to do with racial and religious prejudice.

Yemen is another stark example of a war that clearly scares neither the media nor the public. The conflict was driven by the failure of political transformation after the Arab Spring, which forced former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Salih to cede power to his deputy Abdrabbah Mansour Hadi in 2011. The United Nations classifies Yemen as the country with the worst humanitarian situation in the world. The war has so far claimed 233,000 lives, 130,000 of them due to lack of food, healthcare and infrastructure. Over 10,000 children have died as a direct result of the fighting.

South Sudan is the youngest country in the world. It was recognized in 2011 after the secession of Sudan. However, the new state has been in a civil war since 2013 and is in a state of ethnic and political violence and chronic instability. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, of South Africa’s 12 million people, 6 million are starving and in need of food aid. The peace accord signed by enemies of Riek Machar and Salva Kiir in 2018 remains largely unenforceable. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than two million people in South Sudan have fled the country, making it “the largest refugee crisis in Africa”.

The war, which has lasted for more than a year, has claimed thousands of lives in Ethiopia. Pro-government forces and insurgents from the Tigray region have been fighting in the north of the country since November 2020, when Prime Minister Abij Ahmed sent a federal army to evict the population from the TPFL (Tigray Liberation Front) area. ), which challenged his authority. . The TPLF troops were defeated, but in 2021 the rebels took control of the region and have since advanced to places near Amhara and Afar. In March this year, the Ethiopian government and insurgents in the Tigray region announced a ceasefire. However, despite the ceasefire, a new battlefront in the Afar region led to continued fighting in two of the six districts occupied by Tigraya fighters. Women are raped and children are orphaned without any help, and the world doesn’t watch.

After the fall of Islamic State in the Middle East in 2017, Islamic militant groups are increasingly turning to Africa, where fragile governments lack the strength to fight their troops. These jihadist groups seek to dominate various regions in countries such as Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Somalia, Congo and Mozambique.

In Mozambique, the Ministry of Defense sent troops to the northern city of Palma to halt the advance in the region. In this locality there are rich reserves of natural gas, which are used in cooperation with multinational energy companies.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the government accuses militias known as the Allied Democratic Forces of killing at least 23 civilians in recent days. The United States considers the group an ally of the Islamic State.

So why not pay attention to it too?

The answer is not hard to find. In addition to the natural human limits of selective focus – the survivability that our ancestors developed in the jungles over thousands of years to survive the dangers posed to them by wild animals – our discriminatory attention choices partly excuse the The media, however, has the power to bring these conflicts to the fore and isn’t doing enough due to the aforementioned missing white girl syndrome. And we’re all complicit in it.


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