After 3 Years of Brutal War Syria is Still Burning, but the World’s Attention Seems to Have Moved On.
“All is empty words. We have heard a lot of words and promises but after three years of meetings and talks nothing has happened and nothing has changed,” said Aum Ahmad, 27, a Syrian and mother of two children. She dashed out the room sobbing, leaving me with my notebook sitting on a light mattress on the floor. An empty wood stove stood in the middle of the confined room; Syrian refugees cannot afford to pay for the cost of heating in Turkey.
The conflict in Syria is entering its fourth year. What began with anti-government protests has become a brutal civil war that has killed almost 150,000 Syrians since it began and created a population of internally displaced people that now numbers 6.5 million. Nearly 2.5 million Syrians have in neighboring nations, exiled from their own country.
In a rough neighborhood in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees, who escaped their country’s nightmare now live. There are currently between 700,000 and 800,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey. Living without any resources, many of them struggle with poverty and a crushing sense that as the war consumes their country and Syrians continue dying by the thousands, the world’s attention has moved on and with it perhaps the chance to end the slaughter.
Inisde Aum Ahmad’s house a three-year old child with long blond hair appeared at the door. He rubbed his eyes, which wandered, looking for comfort from his weeping mother. In the room’s corner an old TV ran scenes of the fighting and devastation in the family hometown of Aleppo, less than an hour drive from their new home in Gaziantep. In a few minutes Abu Ahmad, the husband, 32, showed up. “Do you think what you are doing will change anything,” he asked. “Don’t come with your notebook again, my wife can’t stand it anymore,” he told me choking back tears. I shut my notebook and stood speechless.
The uprising-turned-conflict has, from the beginning, put much focus on the power of media, particularly social media, to make the world aware of what’s taking place in Syria. In the Revolution’s early days, countless YouTube videos were uploaded to show peaceful, reform minded protests. Since then, an army of Facebook pages has been created to spread news about what’s going on inside the war-torn country. However, as the conflict worsens, Syrians now experience media fatigue and loss of hope for any international support.
The daily killing and displacement of civilians have not led to an international agreement to stop the conflict. Every time one of my countrymen asks me: “When do you think this war will finish?” I fall silent—avoiding the heart-breaking reality of what could be an endless conflict. And every time I ask my fellow Syrians when the war will end, they painfully say: “Forget about something called Syria.”
Three years of war have turned Syria into the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. The human cost of the past three years of the conflict includes:
More than 146,000 dead (The UN stopped counting the death toll figure since July 2013.)
9.3 million Syrians—almost half the population—in need of humanitarian assistance.
More than 2.5 million refugees. Syrians are now set to replace Afghans as the world’s largest refugee population.
6.5 million internally displaced Syrians, more than half of them children.
During the past three years I have spent writing about the conflict, I have noticed an increased frustration caused by the silence of the international community. Many Syrians have grown cynical, wondering if the international community cares for them at all. They have started to use phrases that describe their disappointment and frustration such as: “Human rights is a lie.” “The destruction of Syria is the goal.” And, “All the world conspires against Syrians.”
There are several factors for this rising resentment. Not long ago, in March 2011, the Security Council authorized taking ‘all necessary measures’ to protect civilians in Libya. However, the very same Security Council has failed to protect Syrian civilians. Many Syrians see the vetoes used to block a robust resolution as an excuse for inaction. Though the Security Council Resolutions have effectively been blocked by Russia, whose government supports the Assad regime, “there is no oil in Syria like there is in Libya,” has become a frequent refrain among Syrians.
Furthermore, the strict entry visa restrictions to Europe, the Gulf countries, and the United States, has made immigration difficult and separated families, increasing the feeling of injustice amongst Syrian refugees.
The Syrian people, even those who have escaped the fighting within the country, feel abandoned by the world powers, which they believe have the ability to end the carnage.
When I left Abu Ahmad’s apartment that evening, he shook his head and told me: “Nobody feels for us, if people cared, this all wouldn’t have happened.” Perhaps Abu Ahmad is right. And perhaps if we all repeated “no more,” we could at least change his mind and thousands like him, even if we couldn’t alleviate, with our support alone, the tragic reality of their daily lives.
When the political leadership of the international community fails to take action, the task falls to individual citizens of the world. If enough of us repeated “no more” aloud, perhaps our voices could gain the attention of those key actors who seem to have lost interest.