Syria is at war. Since early 2011 it has been hard to not pick up a newspaper, watch the news or listen to the radio without a story on the civil bloodshed. An aggressive and violent uprising sparked from peaceful demonstrations. The movements included young people expressing their anger at specific Syrian events. However, since these protests were met with angry and forceful opposition by the government, violence has continued between the regime and the rebels. And all at an ugly cost.
Due to such extensive coverage of Syria’s situation: the videos of shootings, skeletal buildings, dead and injured bodies, I for one (and I am ashamed to admit) have become desensitised to it all. Or rather, I choose to gloss over the image of a man and his gun and tune out the noise of bombings. Fully digesting such images and trying to understand would mean conjuring up feelings of guilt, helplessness and deep sadness – feelings many of us choose to avoid on a daily basis.
But then I watched this video. A video of an eleven-year-old boy named Johannes sitting at a bus stop somewhere in snowy Norway, shivering with only a thin sweatshirt and jeans on. One immediately empathises with this boy. How could one not? As time unfolds, the viewer watches how various strangers at the bus stop express concern for the boy’s well-being and offer coats, scarves and gloves in order to keep him warm. Each clip showing an act of kindness is poignant, these people are giving up their warmth to keep a young child warm instead.
…feelings many of us choose to avoid on a daily basis…
Of course, what we as viewers know and what these strangers do not, is that Johannes is an actor and working on behalf of the Norwegian charity ‘SOS Children’s Villages’. Even though we know he is and will be OK, it is difficult to watch this video without the emotional heartstrings being pulled. The power of social media and campaigning is forever present. The video by the charity is to raise awareness for Syrian children living in desperately poor and inadequate conditions and in refugee camps as a result of the conflict. Its message is simple: give a child a coat. Keep them warm. Save their life.
The power of this video was such that it made me emotionally connect, once again, to the Syrian war. I was now looking at these images of destruction and images of broken, starving families in makeshift homes and refugee camps with feeling. No longer was I allowing myself to disengage with the atrocities and human rights violations these Syrian citizens are facing. The human cost of war is far reaching and increasing daily in Syria. It is believed that 9.3 million Syrians have been affected with around 6.3 million being internally displaced and over 2 million fleeing the country to neighbours such as Jordan, Turkey, Libya and Iraq, or even further afield. These figures are staggering.
…these images of destruction…
For those internally trapped, life is bleak. Most displaced persons come from Damascus, Alep, Homs, Deir Ez-Zor, and Idlib. For areas under siege by the government regime, aid comes in sporadic bursts of often very little amounts. The regime believes those displaced are those fighting against them. As a result, emergency aid has been cut off; electricity and water supply stopped, with little to no medical supplies for those in need, leaving the refugees weak, hungry and desperate.
To make things worse, the NGO’s and charities working around the clock to try and distribute aid cannot do so without authorisation by the regime. They determine which aid goes to which regions and therefore much aid is directed away from the refugees. It has been said 80% of aid that reaches Syria is wasted.
One may hope that those who have been able to flee the country face better prospects. Sadly this has not been the case. Those seeking refuge in Lebanon are now seeing the conflict cross borders due to political and economic stresses. Further, the Lebanese government have avoided setting up any camps, resulting in clandestine camps, which produce new human rights violations. Other countries, such as Jordan, are struggling to even hold such vast numbers of refugees. Many camps that have been set up are swollen with people and conditions are poor.
…We must not become emotionally detached from it all…
How long this civil war will last is unknown. The government regime of Bacher Al Assad has continued to persist whilst the rebels and other anti-government forces have ceased to weaken. The damage and destruction it has caused thus far will not be easily amended even when peace is declared.
We must not become emotionally detatched from it all. We need powerful reminders, like Johannes and Children’s Villages’ video that the innocent are suffering and not all are fighting. The majority do not want this war. While it wages on the aid, food and supplies we can donate will not make life better but life bearable for those displaced Syrians. Every time you find yourself becoming numb to stories of Syria, remember Johanne at the bus stop and the kindness of those strangers. A simple act of donating is all it takes.
Watch Joahnne’s video below: