"We're all terrified. It's like living in a mass grave." It's an underground shelter. "No water, no food, no ventilation, no toilets. Explosion after explosion. It never stops."

The civil war in Syria grinds on. Noncombatants are powerless, helpless, living as if dead, if not actually dead. The shelter described above is in Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb under heavy aerial bombardment. An Asahi Shimbun reporter in Istanbul spoke by telephone earlier this month with one of the shelter's inmates, a man in his 40s, who went on to say: "Residents are being bombed indiscriminately. We've lost our homes. Our children are starving. Why are you silent? You should be here instead of us. Your silence is killing us."

"You" is plural. Who is he addressing? The world? Japan? "Why are you silent?" We are not silent — just helpless and powerless, like him.