Part of active citizenship means acting locally to improve your neighborhood and community. However, active citizenship also means being informed about the global community and events of importance wherever they occur. As Martin Luther King said “injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.” We wanted to introduce this international series of blog posts to cover the most pressing social justice and human rights issues in our world today and show you how you can make a difference to those in dire need.
There are a lot of challenging things going on in the world right now from hate crimes in our own country to brutal killings in the Philippines. There are always injustices to fight and people to help, and we should continue to be advocates for those more vulnerable than ourselves. However, one part of the world is seeing such unfathomable suffering that it demands an immediate moral response of the highest order: Syria.
What began five years ago as a crackdown on protestors by a repressive regime evolved into a full-blown civil war, and then into a proxy fight with global players committing resources to each side. The conflict has turned an educated and relatively developed nation into a desolate, apocalyptic hell. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed by pro-government forces, their Russian and Iranian allies, ISIS, and a variety of rebel groups. The refugee crisis is the result of the collapse of a nation and a hemorrhaging of humanity.
There are many reasons that ceasefires have fallen through, international action has proven ineffective, and the violence has continued. This is not the place where I will speak about those reasons. Instead, I want to direct you to Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city and a battleground for over three years and a siege for nearly ten months.
All of the hospitals in Aleppo have been destroyed by the fighting. Food and medicines are running out. There is no semblance of normal life for the hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children trapped between the warring sides. Aleppo was once a rebel stronghold, as the Assad government forces and supporters push into the city they are wantonly massacring unarmed civilians, shooting down fleeing families like animals.
Those unfortunate souls in Aleppo have taken to social media to say goodbye to loved ones before bombings, shellings, and gunfire destroy what is left of their homes. This is a tragedy of historic proportions and one that will be judged harshly in the annals of time if we remain silent.
During the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, the world watched as Hutu militias slaughtered 800,000 Tutsis. What is chilling is this quote by Senator Paul Simon that “if every member of the House and Senate had received 100 letters from people back home saying we have to do something about Rwanda, when the crisis was first developing, then I think the response would have been different.”
We said never again after the Holocaust. We said never again after Rwanda. We said never again after Darfur. And now, in the face of the worst humanitarian disaster this decade, we need to stand with the innocents in Syria.
Conflicts like these can feel disempowering due to their scale, their complexity, and their distance. But you can do a few things right now.
Call your local representative each day and tell them “I demand we take action on the situation in Syria. Please condemn Assad and his allies for breaking the ceasefire and support measures to protect civilians in Aleppo”
Give to the United High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which works to help those affected by the violence: UNHCR
Support the White Helmet Heroes, a group of nonpartisan Syrian first responders who have saved countless lives so far in the conflict: White Helmet Heroes
Donate to the International Rescue Committee, which is doing really meaningful work for those trapped in Aleppo: IRC
Your voice matters to those in need. Be an active citizen and #StandwithAleppo.