No one could have foreseen that the war in Syria would last this long or that it would have caused so much pain to so many people. 200,000 people have lost their lives, 9.5 million were forced to leave their homes, and 10.8 million are in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria. The nation has been so thoroughly destroyed, it is hard to say that there is even the semblance of a country left; there is only rubble and clashing forces shooting at each other from amongst it.
Since the start of the war, some 1.6 million Syrians fled to Turkey and were welcomed with an admirable hospitality. In Turkey’s high-standard refugee camps, the pain-stricken Syrians found some relief. However, there was only so much a single country can do and the camps – and the funds – quickly became insufficient as the numbers of arrivals increased ever further. The camps were only designed for 220,000 people and the rest had no option but to make their way into metropolitan areas with hopes of finding some sort of shelter; these ‘urban refugees’ face immense difficulties everyday. Most of the time, these are families with vulnerable children and the elderly, and it doesn’t matter if they were wealthy, respected families or lived in affluent neighborhoods before: They are now homeless, jobless and without guidance. Many of them have turned to begging and it is not an uncommon sight to see Syrians with their babies clinging to them, begging for money on Turkish streets.
Turkey has spent $5.2 billion so far on Syrian refugees. Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq are also struggling to deal with the refugee influx. But, as these countries struggle with the consequences of Syrian war, what is the rest of the world doing? Not very much. The Gulf countries didn’t offer to take even a single refugee. Russia and China have also failed to offer any assistance. Except for Germany and Sweden, which accepted only 100,000 asylum applications, the EU has pledged to resettle only 0.17 percent of the total number of refugees.
And Yarmouk, already suffering due to an ongoing blockade by Assad’s forces, is facing even more pain after the capture of the area by IS. As a Palestinian refugee camp since 1957, the site had previously hosted 160,000 people, which dropped to 18,000. The area is completely blockaded by the Assad regime, leaving out much needed food and medical supplies. Scores of people, including babies, died of hunger and cold last year and the situation is called ‘beyond inhumane’ by the officials. As if this is not enough, since the entry of IS, new horrors have been unleashed on the people there as they suffer under IS’ grotesque misinterpretation of religion. In addition to that, Assad’s forces keep shelling the area with barrel bombs.
The UN Security Council urgently called for the evacuation of people and it is reported that 2,000 people have been already evacuated but there are still 16,000 people waiting and thousands of them are children. There is absolutely no time to wait for the world to react. The world is once again being inexplicably indifferent to the ordeal of the innocent civilians.
But it wasn’t like this when other disasters hit: For example, $9 billion was raised for the Haiti earthquake, £19m has been donated by the British public for Syria, compared to £392m raised for the tsunami in Indonesia in 2004. Moreover, the UN recently decided to cut food aid for Syrians due to insufficient funds.
One can’t help but wonder; would the nations of the world be as indifferent if it was them? Would people accept such apathy if it were they and their family running from bombs? Or if it was their baby that was crying for food? Or if it was their families wandering around in a foreign country, trying to find shelter, a warm place and some food?
As human beings, we have to open our minds and hearts and we have to remember that as we go about our comfortable daily routines, perhaps quite unaware of the pains of others, there are millions of innocent people, women, children and the elderly, suffering in every waking hour. Think about the difference one dollar a day from one million people could make for these people. They truly need our help and if we don’t do everything in our power to help them, more children, more women and more innocent people will continue to suffer and die needlessly.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Arabian Gazette & Gulf Daily News: