About the Syrian Crisis
We could hardly begin to justly describe the physical and psychological torment that Syrians have endured over the last seven years since this civil war began. This war has been far deadlier for the citizenry than would be expected in the course of soldier to soldier combat. Civilians are not mere casualties in Syria’s civil war. Instead, innocent populations are strategically targeted by government forces. Since the onset of the war, hospitals, mosques, schools, and even humanitarian food lines have been directly and purposefully attacked.
The Assad regime’s policy is referred to as “starve, siege, and surrender” and hundreds of thousands of Syrians have become the unwitting victims of these tactics. The means have been gruesome, including the systemic and widespread use of chemical weapons (including the nerve gas sarin) on civilians, including children.
Families struggle to survive as they endure the unpredictable and unending onslaught of snipers, machine guns, missiles, grenades, roadside bombs, and aerial bombs. Many have been forced into underground shelters or basements without access to food, medical care, or even drinkable water. Essential humanitarian aid is restricted from some of the areas in most desperate need. As each day passes, conditions deteriorate creating cramped and squalid conditions. Residents face the choice of staying in such conditions or risking their lives as the sounds of bombs blast relentlessly overhead. There are currently more than half a million people in besieged areas, at imminent risk of death or injury.
Countless human rights violations have been reported, and many more individual atrocities remain entirely unaccounted for given the lack of access to large swaths of the country. There have been thousands of arbitrary arrests and some 80,000 people are officially considered “disappeared” according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights.
Rape has been used as a widescale weapon of war against all ages and sexes, though women and girls have been disproportionately impacted. Tortuous sexual assaults have been perpetrated by the thousands in home raids, at checkpoints, and in detention centers across the country. According to a recent United Nations report, government forces have used sexual violence to force confessions, extract information, punish, and terrorize opposition communities. ISIL stoned women to death based on claims of adultery.
As a direct result of this conflict, more than 6.1 million Syrians are internally displaced and 5.5 million have sought refuge outside of Syria. Unfortunately, many neighboring countries have restricted the movement of Syrians seeking safety through logistical restrictions or physical force, including border agents shooting at fleeing refugees. Many are turned back to the very violence from which they fled.
Over the course of the now war, more than 400,000 people have died. Approximately one in four of those deaths has been the death of a child. Nearly three million children have lived their entire lives in the midst of this war and, according to UNICEF, this war has left 8.4 million children in need of aid.
The violence is only worsening. As recently as February and March of this year, 670 civilians were killed in a matter of 13 days in eastern Ghouta. Although the UN Security Council adopted a resolution demanding a 30 day ceasefire in response to this recent surge in violence, it appears that humanitarian aid is still not being allowed into the area.