In 2011, the Syrian Civil War arose out of the unrest of the Arab Spring, heightening to armed conflict following President Bashar al-Assad’s government violently conquering the protests that urged for his removal. Ever since, the Syrian government has refused to reach a bargain with those opposing the regime.
The war came to a devastating head this week, as forces loyal to the Syrian government invaded Aleppo in order to take back areas of the city from the rebels. Bashar al-Assad urged that reclaiming Aleppo would be a key move in swinging the nearly six-year civil war in his favor. But at what cost?
The United Nations human rights office announced that pro-government Syrian troops, with support from Russia, had executed at least 82 civilians, many of whom were women and children. Further massacres are expected in order to fully recapture the city. Of those executed, many were in makeshift medical facilities or trying to flee. Activists and civilians ultimately began tweeting their goodbyes. In the words of Jens Laerke, a UN humanitarian spokesperson, the events have proven to be “a complete meltdown of humanity.”
Thousands of people are currently trapped in the remaining rebel-besieged neighbourhoods of Aleppo. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, put out a statement saying:
“The crushing of Aleppo, the immeasurably terrifying toll on its people, the bloodshed, the wanton slaughter of men, women and children, the destruction — and we are nowhere near the end of this cruel conflict. . . . What can happen next, if the international community continues to collectively wring its hands, can be much more dangerous.
And U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power addressed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies directly, saying:
Your barrel bombs and mortars and airstrikes have allowed the militia in Aleppo to encircle tens of thousands of civilians in your ever-tightening noose. It is your noose. Three Member States of the UN contributing to a noose around civilians. It should shame you. Instead, by all appearances, it is emboldening you. You are plotting your next assault. Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there literally nothing that can shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin, that just creeps you out a little bit? Is there nothing you will not lie about or justify?
Despite the immediate outcry from people across the globe, however, civilians and rebels are prevented from leaving the once booming city as shelling resumes, regardless of the ceasefire deal organized by Turkey and Russia.
It is a genocide that cannot be ignored. We must pay attention. Activists and civilians trapped in the city, which has been reduced to two square kilometers, are, at this point, not fearing for their lives, but awaiting their imminent murder.
Has the world failed Aleppo? Many believe so. Syrians in Aleppo cried for the West to step in and help when Assad butchered protestors. When the Russians joined the bombings, they again cried for help. And then, they asked the West to provide humanitarian aid. Despite the many opportunities for the West to step in, they haven’t. The free world has looked away. And so, our social media feeds are ridden with last words; with anguish; with rage. Ignorance is not bliss for all. And so what do we do now? Help.
- Give to the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, where every $1 given delivers about $10 in medicine. If you pledge $200 or more in a month, you can sponsor a medical worker in the field.
- Send money here, which gives directly to the UN human rights office. They help an estimated 85,000 people each year whose rights have been violated.
- Support the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, which has been distributing relief items to the thousands of people displaced from Aleppo.
- Give to Mercy-USA, which is building a health clinic outside of Aleppo “in the very near future,” and is currently giving stoves and eco-fuel to internally displaced families.
- And if you’re nearby, you can donate goods to student groups, like the one at Marmara University in Istanbul, which sent 250,000 outfits and 125 packages of food in a three-truck convoy to Aleppo just this week.
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