Although their country was once one that hosted the second largest number of refugees, Syrians are expected to become the largest refugee group in the world by the end of 2014.
The number of Syrian refugees is expected to increase by more than 4 million by the end of this year, compared to 2.6 million registered Afghan refugees, according to The Associated Press. Afghans currently represent the world’s largest refugee population.
Now that is perspective. Think about it. For many it seems like a crisis far away that cannot impact us, so why should we care?
For some Ohio State students however, the war and constant killings have become a continuous worry and struggle in their lives.
Abd Al-Rahman Traboulsi, a first-year in biomedical engineering, was able to experience first-hand the situation in Syria when he assisted in a medical clinic refugee camp in Turkey and in a hospital on the border between Syria and Turkey, which is known as Bab El-Hawa, during the summers of 2012 and 2013.
“In Bab El-Hawa, that’s the biggest hospital in the area, so whenever there was a war-related injury, that’s where the civilians went to get treated,” Traboulsi said.
Traboulsi said he became desensitized to seeing patients coming in with various injuries.
“People would come in and you can just look at them and know that there honestly wasn’t really chance. And there was people that would come in on the verge who you wouldn’t know would live or die and they would be rushed into surgery, and things would go from there,” Traboulsi said.
Eyad Hamza, a third-year in economics, who has family that lives in Aleppo, Syria, said the war has caused his family to live in endless worry.
“People have become desensitized to the topic. I mean hundreds are dying each day and we have become so numb to those numbers we don’t even feel anymore,” Hamza said.
The constant reporting from the media has caused the topic to become fatigued, which has left many people wary about the situation, Hamza added.
Government forces who have recently strengthened blockades in neighborhoods have forced Syrian rebels to turn in their weapons and defense artillery in exchange for food, water and medical supplies, according to the AP.
The crisis has stretched over a period of four years leaving families broken, cities destroyed and more than 100,000 dead.
The chemical attacks that led to the death of at least 1,429 people including 400 children were the worst human rights violations of 2013, according to the AP.
“Syria has been a 40-plus year crisis in life in terms (of) human rights and just the way the government is set up,” said Ahmed Daboul, a second-year in environmental public health.
Daboul’s family, who previously lived in the suburbs of Damascus, the capital of Syria, were forced to relocate to Egypt because of the rising violence in the city.
“There was a 15-day siege that really crippled the city and a lot of the structure. The Free Syrian Army set up there, and the official Syrian Army put a pretty strong offensive on the city,” Daboul said.
The situation in Syria originally began as protests escalated to the involvement of extremists groups that have related their views to al-Qaida’s ideologies, according to the AP.
Daboul said lack of support from the international community has led to extremists’ involvement.
“Honestly I feel like the reason why there are terrorist involved in Syria now is because of how silent we have been for over two years,” Daboul said.
Daboul said the lack of support from the international community and the involvement of extremists groups who are fighting against Assad, have led some Syrians to rely on those groups.
“It’s really not an ideological thing. They have shifted Syria to this cesspool of just bad people. You have extremists on one side and (Syrian President) Bashar Al-Assad on the other side,” Daboul said.
Daboul’s emphasis on the fact the crisis in Syria is not an ideological matter ought to be a narrative for us as an international community to adopt.
“The cousins that I have that have been involved with the revolution and the Free Syria army — they were not terrorists, they were just college students and activist who wanted a free Syria where we could have Democracy and where human rights could be upheld,” Daboul said.
The media has pinned the situation as no longer having a resounding hero causing the voices that are demanding their freedom to be washed away by these extremist groups.
This has led to extreme injustice, which inadvertently has caused more than hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes or die fleeing from the violence that has destroyed their lives.
There is something heartbreaking knowing that many Syrians who have not been able to escape the violence are forced to adapt to the environment and continue their lives.
Traboulsi was also able to travel into Aleppo where he experienced first-hand what many Syrians face on a daily basis.
“There was a mortar that landed next to us, and it shook the whole area and for me, it was the first time I encountered anything like that, so I was shocked. But for people that live there, it’s a constant thing that happened all the time,” Traboulsi said.
The situation has escalated to the point where Daboul said all he could do was pray there will be a turnaround in the future.
“For me to sit here and tell you what I feel and what I think about Syria is speechless, I really don’t know what to say. It is beyond comprehension. It’s one of those things where at the end of the day, you say ‘I am leaving this up to God,’” Daboul said.
The things these students experienced are only a glimpse in the situation that has destroyed the lives of many Syrians.
The crisis that has left a majority of citizens homeless and forced into other countries should not be about ideology or about the war hero, but rather about standing for humanitarian rights.
No family, child or even a college student should be neglected or silenced and left to the hands of a merciless government.
Everyone deserves the right to freedom and to live a life without oppression. That itself ought to be a justified reason for us to stand up with the Syrian people and assist them in way so they may obtain their freedom.