The Quick and Dirty on Syrian Refugees
The Syrian Society for Humanitarian Aid and Development reported today that the number of refugees since the beginning of the revolution in March 2011 has now reached 485,449, with 76,000 missing people and 48,146 martyrs. 336 people were killed yesterday alone, through attacks in Damascus and the countryside, Aleppo, Homs, Al-Hasakah, Idlib, Deir ez-Zor, Hama and Kenitra.
Here are the statistics on Syrian refugees in the region:
- Turkey: + 135,519
- Lebanon: + 139,142
- Jordan: + 140,477
- Iraq: + 63,496
- North Africa: + 6,815
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai warned that the Arab Spring is now “a winter of violence, war, destruction and killing”.
Supposedly, the UNHCR has developed a winterization plan will bring blankets, stoves, hygiene kits and financial assistance to refugees in need, but only for those Syrian refugees displaced within the country. It’s plan is projected to cost $75 million, with only $13 million funded and received by the UNHCR. There have been activists inside Syria, such as Watan, Local Coordination Committees of Syria and the Foundation to Restore Equality and Education in Syria who have extended their services to offer blankets, infant formula, cooking stoves and canned foods to internally displaced people. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent is an suspicious source, according to aid workers on the ground, as it is perceived to have direct connections with the Assaad regime. Activists from humanitarian aid organizations risk getting captured, shot and/or tortured if found, so strategic routes and elaborate bribing schemes have allowed them to maximize the quantity of supplies they can deliver. Aside from logistical difficulties in tracking refugees amidst conflict, refugees are also resisting registration in the camps out of fear of retaliation from the Assaad regime. Needless to say, the bureaucratic and logistical challenges of aid delivery are a complex configuration of luck and gamble.
The United States has given almost $200 million to help Syrian refugees and Britain almost $65 million. It is not enough. The United Nations and Save the Children, claim that over $500 million is still needed to fund refugee relief programs inside and outside of Syria. Gulf States have openly supported the Syrian Revolution, but instead of putting their money where their mouth is, they are putting money in their mouth and ignoring the refugee crisis.
“Why is the international community silent? Do the Syrian people have tails?… We surprised the world with our revolution. Maybe we will surprise the world with the short time Syria will stay unstable.”– Wassim Sabbagh, a Syrian Christian from the province of Homs in a Turkish refugee camp
Those refugees living in Turkey are in extreme and devastating conditions. The Turkish government will not grant refugee status to Syrians, allowing the government to treat them as “guests” and using loopholes to avoid responsibility of those in the refugee camps. Turkey has refused assistance from humanitarian organizations. Assaad has cracked down on the northern part of Syria, limiting smuggling routes to Turkey who bring supplies into Syria and get the wounded out.
As the refugee crisis intensifies, many are displaced in winter months without access to basic needs, logistics of aid delivery become more complex and risky, aid remains underfunded and refugees are bear the brunt of the Assaad witch hunt. With the recent black out, Syria experienced no power or electricity for days earlier this month. It is typical for certain areas to lose power and electricity when there is a planned military operation there, however this was the first full country black out since the beginning of the revolution 21 months ago. Many believe that this is a hint that Assaad plans to step-up his crack-down, like, now. The new fear of chemical weapons in the international community, not it’s moral conscious of course, is threatening any hope that Assaad may have had for staying in power. Its the wait and see game, for now.
Its hard to imagine what displacement and war feels like. Its hard to imagine for anyone who has not been in war. Within our privilege in the United States, you can learn about this conflict and not feel guilty for your privilege. If you can acknowledge a single refugee, a victim of the revolution, a family – you are honoring the revolutions integrity and legitimacy. Displacement and death will not go unnoticed, if each one of us is willing to learn about one Syrian’s story or one aspect of the conflict. Refugees are more than just numbers.
Anderson Cooper a few nights ago, did a segment on Syria and what McCain thinks about U.S. involvement in the conflict. While I don’t give a crap what McCain thinks about Syria, I do like Anderson Cooper’s analysis on why Americans should pay attention and bear witness to the atrocities and war crimes that Assaad is committing.
Sources in this article include various articles from Foreign Policy by Marc Lynch, David Kenner, Daniel Byman and Justin Vela.