We have often written about the war in Syria, pointing to the fact that for the past three years this country has been devastated due to the greed for power of some and the inaction of others. Taking into account all of the consequences of the war, human casualties are definitely the biggest horror. Apart from the death toll of at least 140 000 people, there are more than 2 million Syrian refugees shattered around the world, in particular in neighboring countries (Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq…).
In the latest two months we have witnessed the failure of the Geneva II peace talks, which aimed at finding a peaceful and favorable outcome for the Syrian war. As once again the international community displays its lack of an unique voice, today we focus on refugee camps. These latter are often the stage of terrible living conditions, amounting to yet another humanitarian emergency apart from the war.
In Lebanon, there are very different camps, but some of them host hundreds of refugees in outside tents. The severe winter cold that has lasted since early November is life-threatening for many people who, in general, don’t have proper and hot clothes. Food and health relief lack in many camps, in which the population is ultimately living in isolation from the rest of the country in which the camp may be located. The living conditions of refugee children are, rightly, a source of preoccupation for human rights advocates, since they represent Syria’s future generation and Syria’s hope.
In Jordan, the Zaatari refugee camp is considered one of the biggest in the world. In that country, refugees account for around 10% of the current population. But this comes with problems. Some jordanians accuse refugees of being responsible for a rise in criminality and for making prices of basic goods rise. Another dramatic consequence of these displacements is featured in The Guardian’s recent piece “Syrian women in Jordan at risk of sexual exploitation at refugee camps”. It seems that one tragedy never comes alone…
From a totally different perspective, one can look at the Palestinian camps that are located in Syria. Once, they represented a safe-harbor for hundreds of palestinians escaping their own conflicts with Israel. Today, they are engulfed in the middle of a war which is not theirs, but which affects and harms them everyday. Indeed, many of these camps such as Yarmouk, are plagued by hunger and cut off from the rest of the world due to the war.
It is sometimes hard to believe that the simple will of our politicians is not able to fix everything. There is not a perfect solution for the Syrian conflict and there is a lack of political braveness and attitude. Nonetheless, this means that there is a big space for the civil society to act in the international arena.
If there is not a political or popular mobilization at the international level to help Syrians, will we not bear a collective responsibility for our inaction in the future? As Stephen Hawking recently wrote,
“What’s happening in Syria is an abomination, one that the world is watching coldly from a distance. Where is our emotional intelligence, our sense of collective justice?”
The injustice of this Syrian conflict is monstrous.
Still, as we do not want to leave our question unanswered, we thought about possible solutions to help Syrian civilians.
Writing about it is one way. People are not allowed to get tired of reading about Syria. How many times have we, part of the global civil society, closed our eyes before major atrocities? If we keep on writing, on reading, on sharing, on posting about it, maybe, and just maybe, for the first time in our collective History, civil society might be able to pressure world leaders.
On another note, and although, personally, we are not major fans of defending a cause through giving money, this and the donation of some specific goods (CNN has a pretty fair list of different structures for you to donate), remain one of the best means to help the people on the ground in Syria. For instance, we could even think about organizing fundraisings in our communities.
As Samantha Nutt, founder of the aid group War Child, puts it, there is a risk that we progressively forget how to help as the war drags on. But the war is far from over and there is still a lot that we can do as individuals.