“What is Aleppo?” A line made famous by previous presidential candidate Gary Johnson in his verbal slip on national television earlier this year revealed the public’s current state of knowledge regarding one of the world’s most dangerous places at the moment. Although his mistake was admittedly an accident, many Americans and others tuning in to American news also found themselves unable to answer the question themselves. So, what is Aleppo and who are the people affected by it?
Aleppo is a city in Syria currently being sieged as a part of the ongoing violent civil war that began in 2011. There are currently around 250,000 people trapped in the city without the aid or supplies they need to survive. Humanitarian assistance has been unable to reach the city since mid-July, rendering all of its inhabitants subject to violent attacks, starvation, and a lack of medical supplies. Clean water resources have also been severely depleted. The city is in dire need of international assistance as people struggle to survive. However, the war is not an isolated event in this city alone.
Violence, inadequate health supplies, and the ongoing war plague the entire country. Many Syrians thus chose to leave their homes to become international refugees, in hope of a better life for themselves and their families. Parents hope to offer their children brighter futures than the situation they have witnessed thus far in their early years, some of them having only ever lived in wartime crisis. In 2015 alone, more than 900 children were killed or severely injured and more than 2.1 million children in the country are deprived of education as a result of the war.
In addition to the physical dangers and academic setbacks these children face, the psychological damage many of them are forced to surmount can be detrimental for years to come. One 8 year old boy named Ibrahim, for example, lost his ability to speak after witnessing a street bombing in front of his own home. Bombings are now a daily occurrence in Aleppo, but they have not lost their power to kill and traumatize. Six-year-old Nidal experienced similar traumatic events when he and his friends were shot at by armed men in 2013. Many young girls have become targets of sexual abuse as well, and a popular solution to prevent this violence is to arrange an early marriage. Some of these girls are as young as 13 years old when they are betrothed as a protective measure. Both sides of the conflict have even gone as far as to recruit children as snipers in the war. Due to these threats, many Syrian parents go to desperate measures to bring their children to safety and provide them with a peaceful life.
However, the peril involved with fleeing the country as a refugee can be daunting, especially to parents with young children. Asylum is not always found by those seeking it, which is why only approximately 10% of refugees endeavour the trip to Europe. In July of this year, ISIS members began to target civilians fleeing from the Syrian crisis. They beheaded or shot upwards of 2,000, including children, since June of 2014. However, the Islamic State isn’t the only obstacle for these families. Environmental conditions and lack of hygiene can be factors that deeply affect an asylum seeker’s ability to safely find refuge. In 2015, the image of a drowned Syrian toddler on the Turkish shoreline brought great attention to the necessity of global aid in the refugee crisis. These occurrences are commonplace as refugees endeavour to cross entire oceans on rafts with little to no safety equipment.
With thousands of families in Syria caught in the the battlegrounds of war and with dismal hope of finding refuge in safer countries after the arduous trek across land and sea, the humanitarian effort necessary to aid the refugee crisis in Syria must be a global endeavour. Urging local, state, or federal politicians to support allowing more refugees into a country can greatly impact the lives of these children, who might otherwise be forced to suffer through war and more tragedy. In addition, many organizations, such as Save the Children, Unicef, and World Vision collect donations specifically to provide Syrian refugees with the necessary supplies to survive. In order to solve the obscenely tragic hardships these children now face on a daily basis, each individual must play his/her part in aiding the international effort to help refugees in much need of assistance. In other words, this time we really have to do it for the children.