OPINION | Ukraine highlights hypocrisy in humanitarian efforts

Thamidul Alam, Staff Columnist

Hailie Goldthorpe

Right now in Europe, millions of Ukrainians seek safety as the largest refugee crisis since World War II takes place. Two and a half million people flee as a demoralized Russia escalates its aggressive tactics in Ukraine, with rumors of war crimes against civilians and threats of nuclear attacks. Many have lost everything as Russia attempts to adhere to an outdated empire-building strategy in a globalized modern world.

As a result, billions of dollars have poured into Ukraine to avert a global crisis, with the United States Congress recently approving $13.6 billion of aid. But as most of us know, the Russian violation of a sovereign nation is not the only calamity happening in the world right now. Millions of Palestinians are living under what the Humans’ Right Watch calls “crimes against humanity of apartheid.” In China, the government is persecuting millions of Uyghur Muslims in a blatant act of ethnic cleansing. And in Yemen, a brutal civil war started in 2015 is still ravaging the nation, with known incidents of the Saudi-backed coalition using weapons obtained in U.S. and British arms sales to target civilian refugee camps. While we seemingly live in a world united against war and violence, the truth could not be farther from this.

It seems everywhere one looks, Ukraine surrounds them. An elusive “Ghost of Kyiv” who shoots down Russian air power with ease, an unwavering president who has survived three assassination attempts and a global outpouring of sympathy against war. It seems anytime a crisis occurs in Europe, the whole world feels the need to intervene. But when these wars and outbreaks of violence occur elsewhere, the world just stops and stares. Observing this phenomenon brings to mind the question of why. Why did Ukraine receive such a sudden and strong system of global support when long-term ethnic violence in other countries has worsened? A double standard exists when it comes to how much aid and sympathy countries are willing to give when war knocks on their doors. In 2015, memories of how Syrian refugees were refused entry and abused by European border officers sharply contrast with the willingness of European nations’ current willingness to accept Ukrainians. In situations where the victims bear a resemblance to their protectors, acts of assistance are disproportionately stronger. 

Even in the aforementioned crises, when compared to what Ukraine has received in a much shorter period of time, it almost seems that the world is not afraid to broadcast its own hypocrisy. Support for non-white victims is little and fleeting. Remember when people changed their profile pictures on social media to blue for Sudan? And although most people moved on with their lives, the country still faces humanitarian complications

The goal of this is not to denounce the world for helping Ukraine. A genuine threat to democracy and flagrant violation of human rights by a desperate dictator should be met by a unionized global resistance. But we should also keep that same energy for groups that do not look like us. After World War II, the world made a promise to never let something as horrible as the Holocaust ever happen again. The world made a promise to never lay idle while injustice occurs, to intervene when necessary and to provide aid regardless of race or religion. We created organizations such as the United Nations and North Atlantic Treaty Organization. We promoted a belief in the protection of human rights and promised to maintain a global order. And in some aspects, we kept that promise. But we should not be selective with our help. We should not be swayed by political or racial bias. By being apathetic, we fail to learn from our mistakes and subjugate groups of innocent people to incredible suffering all while maintaining the hypocrisy of global peace. 

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