Chris Hicke doesn’t want the 6 million Syrian refugees to be forgotten.
As I’m sure most are well aware, recent events in Syria brought the Middle East, if not the world, the closest to World War III than it’s been since the Cold War. America seemed poised to strike Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons in the midst of their now two-year-long civil war (why is it that we only care about genocide after chemical weapons get involved, anyway?), which brought about a slew of threats from Syria and its allies, namely Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah. The whole region was poised to light up until Vice President Biden, in what appears to be his usual comically unintentional style, suggested that Syria might not get bombed if Assad surrendered his chemical weapons stockpiles to the UN.
Much to the relief of many such as myself, President Assad and Prime Minister Putin leapt at the opportunity for a diplomatic, nonviolent end to rising tensions. For reasons I cannot fathom, this fortuitous turn of events has been hailed by many as one of President Obama’s greatest political blunders. Or military defeats. The point is, somehow the peaceful outcome nobody expected to work, worked, and America is somehow weaker for allowing it to happen. If that makes sense to someone, please explain it to me in simple English; I would love to know how not bombing another country is a bad thing. Now, with this part of the conflict seemingly behind us, we should divide our attention to a greatly underscored aspect of the Syrian Civil War: the refugees.
In what has been a much less covered aspect of the Syrian Civil war, over two million civilian refugees have fled Syria for the relative safety of other countries in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, leaving another 4 million within Syria’s borders. While all countries have been as accommodating as possible, many of Syria’s neighbors, such as Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, have found their resources stretched to their very limits in attempting to provide food and shelter for these people in their time of need. Syria’s neighbors are providing all the aid they can muster, and require copious aid from international relief agencies to provide food and water to the refugees, half of which are children.
European nations, while far less inundated with refugees than the Middle East, is still doing all they can to provide for the Syrian people in their time of need. Sweden has even gone as far as to offer full citizenship to all refugees within its borders, including family members who may not have made their way to the northern nation. While the 8,000 refugees within Sweden’s borders are few compared to the estimated 700,000 within Lebanon, the offer of full citizenship is nonetheless an incredibly generous offer to those whose homes may well have been destroyed in the battle between Assad and the various rebel factions in Syria.
While the conflict in Syria is the result of a myriad of cultural and economic issues that span decade TK, it is doubtful that the majority of Syrians, especially the displaced, wanted to resolve their grievances with bloodshed and chemical weapons. Given the choice, they would surely prefer to return to their homes and live in peace. While I have few doubts that they will one day be able to do so, that day may be months or years away, and it is the duty of the international community to step up and assist the Syrian people. Syria was the third largest asylum country in the world in 2012, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); it stands to reason that we should reciprocate this kindness for the Syrian people.
Historically, men have been characterized as protectors and providers, and this is one instance where we owe it to ourselves, both as people and as a species, to step up and make sure the innocent victims of the power struggle in Syria are not forgotten as their nation’s tragedy leaves the headlines. The United States has pledged $1.3 billion in aid for Syrian refugees, while the European Union has donated over €358 million as of January 2013. UNHCR has a donations page set up for individuals who would like to contribute directly to seeing that Syrian refugees have adequate food and shelter in these darkened times. Of course, we can and should urge our nations, as well as the international community, to do all they can for those whose lives have been involuntarily uprooted by violence, and I encourage anyone with the means to provide assistance themselves to do so.
A Syrian Kurdish family sits in front of their tent in a refugee camp in Iraq (Photo by Rex Features/AP)