Replace each of these faces, in each of these photographs. Replace them with the face of your mother, your father, your little siblings, your loved ones. Watch yourself cry over the corpse of your own mother.
Visualize an infant’s feet, still and noiseless, under the weight of an entire building. It still wears the clothes that just minutes ago, his mother had tenderly dressed him in. The cotton shirt and beige trousers are now packed with white rubble, just like his lungs. His last few moments had been trying to call out for its mother in a weak cry. Its nimble fingers had searched for the warmth and comfort of her breast. This effort drained the last energy out of the now still body. Never able to call for its mother again.
Imagine airstrikes raining down on everything you thought you once knew. It is then that one is able to latch onto the full scope of the Syrian Civil War. 570,000 of such innocent civilian lives have been taken by this ruthless conflict.
In the face of such a crisis, it is imperative to examine the roots of the conflict. The roots of this conflict, however, were not poisonous. In March 2011, they were but pro-democracy demonstrations against the Assad regime of Syria. It was one that followed in the footsteps of the Arab Spring, a movement in response to oppressive regimes that limited the rights of their constituents in Middle Eastern nations. A group of teens decided to partake in this movement by spraying anti-Assad graffiti in their hometown, a town economically weakened by the regime and suffering from famine - just like its sister towns throughout Syria. The regime responded by lashing the boys with wire, shooting into crowds of protesters and inflating the death toll. Around the world, humanity was shocked by the treatment of these peaceful demonstrations in a regime dominated dictatorship.
Bashar al-Assad had ascended into power when his father, Hafez, died in 2000. Elected due to his seemingly progressive agenda, he instead gifted the Syrian people with a collapsing economy. People were shocked at what had just happened, and this unrest spread to other parts of the country. They called on Assad to step down, and he refused. The government (Assad’s forces) started attacking all rebels. Assad justified his killing of the rebels stating that he was just getting rid of the ‘terrorists’.
Today, the fighting is between three main factions: soldiers that support Assad, those known as ‘rebels’ that stand against the Assad regime, and a radical group known as ISIS - all of whom battle over the pummeled Syrian motherland. ISIS had been able to gain power by moving into Eastern Syria during the height of chaotic war. They took over Raqqa and parts of Aleppo. Luckily, a group of Kurdish and Arab fighters (backed with US government) were able to regain Raqqa. Intelligence has recently revealed that ISIS is now losing drastically in Syria.
Many have cited that these struggles were to come anyway: the majority of Sunni Muslim Syrians were destined to conflict with the President’s Alawite Shi’a roots. Others look at the Kurdish struggle to regain parts of Syria and the President’s reaction to the beginning of the Arab Spring - almost threatening - that such a Spring would never take place in Syria.
The conflict reached its height of bloodshed in 2012. Within the eight year span of war, in 2014 Assad’s government had been charged with exposing its population to sarin gas to quell rebel groups. The government was prompted by world leaders to hand over its chemical weapons, especially by Russia and the United States.
Russia and the United States reaching consensus on something regarding the Syrian war was a crucial event when it happened. Russia and Iran had sided with Syria, along with the Lebanese Hezbollah group - while the UK, US, France, Turkey, and the Arab League supported the rebel movement. Syria gave up its chemical weapons, and those UN officials that aided in this project were given the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013.
In April 2017, however, there was reportedly another chemical attack. The Syrian government denied it had happened. Russia supported them. The United States responded by carrying out missile attacks on Syria, an action supported by the UK.
Yet another plan revealed by Assad highlights his methodology to getting back his regime: airstrikes, bombs and fire on his own people in Eastern Ghouta. Assad may claim they are fighting the terrorists, but in reality it is a civilian life that goes off with the tick of each bomb.
Humanity is defined as knowing that you are one of an entire race of humans: “characteristics that belong uniquely to human beings, such as kindness, mercy and sympathy”. It is accepting that we all have the same blood flowing through our veins and the same heart beating in our chests. It is acknowledging that although we may look different on the outside, and come from different social statuses, we have the same feelings on the inside. It takes humanity to put yourselves in the shoes of these suffering people.
I am speechless looking at the leaders who allow their people to be slandered like this. Why are we so enveloped in a world thirsty for power? Why do we live constantly seeking physical gain, unable to cope or come to terms when someone achieves something you wanted? Simply put, we live in a selfish, sickeningly abhorrent world. But in the midst of it all, my eye draws to the children searching for their dead mothers. My eye draws to the injured infant they carry in their arms. My eye draws to the hunger in their stomachs, and their thirst for the water we run freely from our taps.
Everyday people like you and I have no political power to change the world. We cannot simply will a war to stop. But we can give the little we have. If not, the next time we waste things we can at least think about the children who would die everyday in places like Syria for them. Every time we are embarrassed by our parents, we can perhaps think of a lonely, hungry infant crying to awake its dead parents, begging them to feed her a drop of milk.
Replace each of these faces, in each of these photographs. Count your blessings.
How Can You Help?
If you would like to help this grave humanitarian crisis, please visit: https://www.unicefusa.org/mission/emergencies/child-refugees/syria-crisis
Follow these instructions:
Scroll down to the “Help Syrian Children” box and hit “Donate Now”
Enter the amount you can donate, and you may choose to restrict your donations solely to the Syrian children by checking the “Please restrict my gift to helping vulnerable children in Syria” box.
Enter any other necessary information to proceed with your donation (Name, Email, Payment Method