My “uncivilized” opinion of the Ukraine-Russia conflict

Zaynab Kouatli, Opinion Editor

If you turn on the news, it is no surprise that the topic of conversation is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, the news coverage of these events has been disgustingly pivoted into a rhetoric that is prejudiced and racist.  

ITV News correspondent, Lucy Watson, said in a live report, “Now the unthinkable has happened to them. And this is not a developing third world nation. This is Europe.” So, the public should only care about Ukraine because the population is white? Sympathy is not granted to countries that are primarily brown because they are seen as “uncivilized.” 

We see this harmful rhetoric repeated when CBS correspondent, Charlie D’Agata states, “This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades — this is a relatively civilized, relatively European [country]… where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.” 

I watch as news outlets call my people “uncivilized” when our ancestors quite literally invented modern civilization. Have we forgotten the cradle of civilization? Mesopotamia, the location between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, in modern day Iraq, is the first civilization to have ever emerged.   

Syrian activist and refugee, Hassan Al Kontar, rightfully criticized D’Agata’s message by tweeting, “A refugee message to @CBSNews and their anchor.. We are equal! Like Ukraine we have a crying mother, starving kids, people being killed and civilization being destroyed. With all due respect!” 

“Countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are the oldest civilizations on Earth,” Al Kontar said in a video he attached to his tweet. I watch as fleeing Ukrainians are being embraced with open arm by European leaders who simultaneously reject refugees from Nigeria, Syria, India and Lebanon. 

 It has become abundantly clear that the western world does not care about the lives of Black and Brown people. In a TV interview with the BBC, Ukraine’s deputy chief prosecutor David Sakvarelidze said, “It’s very emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed, children being killed every day by [Russian President] Putin’s missiles, helicopters and rockets.”  

The message that news anchors and guests have been preaching is that the outbreak of the war is especially disturbing because it is happening in Europe as opposed to “uncivilized” countries in the Middle East or Africa. A correspondent on BFM TV claims, “It’s an important question. We’re not talking here about Syrians fleeing…We’re talking about Europeans.” On the same news outlet, a guest speaker states, “We are in the 21st century, we are in a European city and we have cruise missile fire as though we were in Iraq or Afghanistan, can you imagine!?” 

Another racist remark is made on Spanish TV news channel La Sexta,”These aren’t like the other children that we’ve become accustomed to see suffer on TV, these children are blond with blue eyes, [so] this is very important” 

I argue that not only are predominantly white nations capable of violence, but also are the ones who have and continue to demonstrate this brutality quite often. Where was World War I and II? Europe. Where did the Holocaust occur? Europe. After all the man responsible for the Holocaust was named Adolf Hitler and not Abdel.  

The responses curated by the media has exhibited a false racist ignorance that I am baffled by. Contrary to public belief, Ukraine does in fact have a long history of violence deriving from its pursuit for independence. That is the motivation behind its current conflict with Russia.  

Historically people who are from majority-white countries are not strangers to violence and war. Additionally, people who are from predominantly nonwhite countries do not have violence naturally follow them just because they are brown. In fact it is usually white people who wage hostility on brown people.  

Empathy and support absolutely should be displayed to the people of Ukraine because their lives are at risk. This sympathy should not be demonstrated just because they are white. People who are fighting against oppression and colonization should always be encouraged despite if they are European or not.