By Marina Souliman
In 2011, the Syrian population took to the streets in a series of peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorial regime. Inspired by the Arab Spring, a series of protests and demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa, Syrian protesters voiced their dissatisfaction with the stagnant political process and advocated for democratic reforms.
In response, al-Assad’s government responded by kidnapping, torturing, and killing protesters. This led rebel forces to organize retaliation efforts and arm themselves.
Due to the civil war, millions of civilians face displacement and hardship as their homes and towns are destroyed. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) September report revealed that 9 million civilians were displaced, half of them being children.
Moreover, World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, stated that at least 7.6 million people have been displaced from their homes and temporarily relocated within Syria. Almost 4 million have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.
However, more refugees are attempting to reach the European Nations and America to gain asylum. Due to long waiting periods for asylum papers, Syrians have also attempted to reach Europe through dangerous means. Many refugees cross the Aegean sea from Turkey to Greece, a trip that may have deadly consequences due to drowning, as seen so tragically with the three year old boy who made headlines for washing up on shore.
In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR), a Syrian refugee under the pseudonym of Kamal revealed the harsh truth of the refugee life and discussed his journey to Houston, Texas.
“I [was] arrested four times. And the first time, February 15, 2011 and next time, April 2011, and [they] took [out] my kidney. [The] next time military Assad regime [came] into to my house in Damascus, [they pushed] my son, my son, [at] this time, he’s [only] 6 years [old],” Kamal said.
Kamal’s account demonstrates the harsh reality that many Syrian refugees face and displays the motivation for their attempts to escape this bloodshed. Despite calls for refugee acceptance, many European countries have maintained a strict policy due to fear of Jihadist infiltration.
“We don’t know, are these refugees? Are some of them immigrants? We don’t have an obligation to just open our doors,” politician Mike Huckabee stated to Newsmax television.
However, many offer a different view on the situation, ranging from the common citizen to the Pope. In a historic speech to Congress the Pope addressed many issues, one of them condoning the acceptance of refugees into our homes.
“Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities,” Pope Francis said when he addressed Congress.
Living conditions for refugees have been improving slightly due to many humanitarian aid organizations such as Children of Syria and Mercy Corps.
Unfortunately, recent UNHCR studies show that there is still a rapid deterioration in living conditions for Syrian refugees.