We are in the midst of witnessing one of the most disastrous humanitarian issues of our time and most of us don’t even know it. While the world was searching for memes of Miley Cyrus’ dancing bones on the MTV VMAs, Syria has been in the middle of a civil war and refugee crisis that culminated in a chemical weapons attack in August. Over the last two years, Syrians have been suffering through a violent civil war, causing the citizens to fight against government forces, which in turn has killed more 100,000 and created 2 million refugees. Out of all these refugees, at least half of them are children.
This war is the result of protestors fighting back against the government’s violent tactics for submission. Villages are being bombed, groups of people are being shot up, children are being killed to set fear in the hearts of the Syrian people. A chemical weaspong attack authorized by President Bashar al-Assad has prompted President Obama to declare his intent to take military action by sending targeted strikes to Styria (if congress passes the measure). With debates in Congress heating up, many are likening this to 2003 Iraq, and now, of course, the media is having a field day trying to influence public opinion. In case you’ve been feeling completely out of the loop, here some quick facts to get you caught up in the conversation about Syria.
1. People In Syria Are Murdering One Another
In 2011, peaceful protests turned into violent uproars. People were challenging the dictatorship and the government responding with violence, first killing activists (almost without people realizing), then blatantly kidnapping, raping and torturing activists, often leaving their mutilated bodies strewn in the streets. Civilian protestors became moving targets until they starting retaliating against the government…with guns. One thing is certain–the killing will not end because this is how the powers that be in Syria attempt to balance the power struggle in the country.
2. Refugees Are Steadily Increasing
There are nearly 2 million refugees. Just last year, there were 100,000 and in April the number rose to 800,000. By the end of 2013, there will be an estimated 3.5 million refugees. According to Mercy Corps, this is will be the biggest mass departure since Rwanda’s genocide some 20 years ago.
3. There’s Nowhere To Run
Many refugees are escaping to a refugee camp in Jordan called Zaatari, which is surprisingly the first of its kinds in Jordan and it was only opened in 2012. Zaatari now houses 120,000 Syrian refugees. This place was one a desert ghost town, now it hosts hundreds of thousands of misplaced Syrians in tents and makeshift shanty towns. And while many refugees are seeking solace in Jordan and Lebanon, there’s no space left, making them create their own space outside of these awful camps. Mercy Corps in reporting, “Our teams have seen families living in rooms with no heat or running water, in abandoned chicken coops and storage sheds.” People are going to continue to flee Syria in an attempt to stay alive, which will cause continued overcrowding of existing camps.
The U.S. is planning to step in to retaliate against President Bashar al-Assad’s suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians. The Pentagon has expanded their list of military targets, therefore possibly planning a larger attack than anticipated. The Syrians have been moving things around that they think the U.S. has been targeting. U.S. wants to damage Syria’s ability to use chemical weapons again and discourage the Syrian military from thinking their efforts to thwart the U.S., is worth the damage they will suffer from the U.S.’s retaliatory strikes. As of now, the military assets targeted by the U.S. are the ships in the Eastern Mediterranean. We’re only a week away from this strike, so who knows what could happen in these seven days leading up to it.
5. The U.S. Has To Go Around The UN In Order To Help
Earlier this summer, the UN issued the biggest appeal ever, claiming $5 billion dollars is needed to give the Syrian people the support they need. At this point, $1.1 billion has been raised towards those efforts.
As Syria’s biggest ally, Russia blocks United Nations Security Council from passing anything that might hurt the the Syrian president’s regime. Russia helps Syria by sending over weapons, which makes it very easy for Assad to kill the way he has been. The Washington Post is reporting, Russia hates the idea of “international intervention” (which is what we’re trying to do in the U.S.) against countries like Syria because Russia sees it as a threat to them.
When you really think about it–shipping arms to the rebels who are fighting against the Assad regime could be a solution, but how would that work? It would literally take the war to new heights, resulting in an even bigger fight than any of us has anticipated. One thing no one wants is to increase the killing.
President Obama wants to strike a peace deal, but at this point that seems like a fantasy. There’s no way the rebels will stop and violence is the only way the Assad regime knows how to rule.
This civil war in Syria is nothing less than a complicated mess. While there’s not much we can actually do to help, there’s something you can do.
This is how you can help Syria:
Donate! Anything can help these poor people at this point. Your assistance doesn’t have to be monetary. You can provide water, shelter and support to the families who have had their entire lives rocked in this crisis.
Share stories of Syria to your social network. You never know the power that sharing information has if you’re not opening up the dialogue within your own circle. We all need to do more in making sure that people are concerned with these deadly world issues more than they are MIley’s latest dance obsession.
Stay informed on what’s going on with Syria and again, share your knowledge within your circle.
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