Every victim of war merits compassion we show to Ukraine – Annie Brown

The war in Ukraine has gripped us, seeing into bus stop chat with rolling news supplanting Netflix in living rooms across Britain.

It says a lot about us, that this conflict touches us in a way that all the others playing out across the world have not.

This war matters to the ordinary citizens of Europe, because the fabric of a Ukrainian life feels so similar to most of our own.

Countries like Poland, which barely two months ago allowed refugees to die in the cold at their border rather than let them cross, are providing safety to thousands of Ukrainians.

It is heartening to see Europe’s humanitarian response but it does beg the question, what makes one life more worthy of saving than another?

Some refugees are seen as people, others are reduced to a problem and what determines their category is race and whether we are on the side of the invader or invaded.

The geographical proximity of this war makes it genuinely threatening to us, given we are a sliver in history away from two world wars in Europe and the bloody sacrifice they entailed.

But let’s be honest, we can relate to the Ukrainian refugees because they look like most of us who are white in this country – their skin, their hair, their eyes, their layers of jackets and jumpers, their little kids in padded onsies, bobble hats and boots.

As they flee, trudging, weighed down by possessions, sadness and fear, we think, “that could be me”.

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Drape the mothers clutching a child’s hand in the long cloak of an Arab abaya and the reaction would be different. But Britain is not a “white country” and our nation and our citizens are reflected in wars in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. It’s just that we are not united in our outrage.

As western media commentators have been keen to emphasise, the Ukrainian refugees are from a “civilised” European country and by default, comes the inference they are more deserving than those from “uncivilised” corners of conflict.

Already there are reports of black refugees, who lived in Ukraine as citizens and workers, being told they can’t get on buses to the border because of their colour.

I have witnessed first hand such apartheid of refugees.

Reporting from the Kosovo war in the 90s, in the refugee camps there was outrage when tents and asylum were being offered to “gypsies”, an ethnic group spat out and spat upon across Europe.

The damaged headquarters of the Kharkiv administration hit by shelling.
The damaged headquarters of the Kharkiv administration hit by shelling.

In Iraq, the mortars raining down on British troops were launched by a “monstrous enemy”, not “freedom fighters” like the Ukrainians our foreign secretary has deified. On the Greek island of Lesbos, I saw Syrian refugees contained in the relatively civilized camp of Kara Tepe while two miles away the “others” from Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa were thrown into the skid row of Moria camp, where children slept outside in the dirt.

And we should see the actions of our past governments reflected in the megalomania and war-mongering of Putin.

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The crusades waged by George Bush and Tony Blair in Afghanistan and Iraq unleashed the same terror on the people of those nations as Putin has on the Ukrainians.

In those wars lies our guilt in a refugee crisis which has seen dinghies of the desperate landing on our beaches.

The UK supply of £1.39billion missiles and bombs to the Saudis has maimed and slaughtered Yemen civilians with the same cruel efficiency as the Russian weaponry killing Ukrainians.

And every day, we turn a blind eye as our Israeli allies starve, brutalize and land grab from the Palestinians.

This distinction we make to favor or forsake victims of conflict is our collective shame.

As we deal with the immediacy of this crisis, we should store for future this onset of empathy and outrage and use it on behalf of all those suffering the same fate as the Ukrainians.

We must help the Ukrainians with every fiber but they should not be the only ones and it shouldn’t matter whether they seem just like us or not.


YouTube is blocking channels connected to Russian state-backed media outlets RT and Sputnik across Europe in protest over the Ukraine invasion.

The ban effectively immediately tells us YouTube’s owners Google must have searched “conscience” on the web and realized they should pretend to have one.

Russia Today (RT) is a nasty little propaganda outlet and YouTube’s decision to ban it is all about the PR and absolutely nothing to do with a responsible approach.

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YouTube has provided a voice to a hellish array of unsavory characters who throughout the pandemic have embedded potentially lethal Covid conspiracy theories into our culture.

It is also the platform the alt-right uses to great effect by funnelling viewers to their hate-filled videos.

So while you’re at it Google, do a search for “hypocritical, reckless purveyors of hate and misinformation”, and YouTube should be top of the list.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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