By Lara Kajs
The stories of Alan Kurdi and Omran Daqneesh take two different paths. One story is the tragic death of a young toddler trying to escape war-torn Syria, and the second is the life of another child; spared from death, but left to endure horrific conditions, trapped in a country of violence and conflict.
One year ago, the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, washed ashore and the world mourned. We mourned the loss of an innocent child, who drowned while fleeing conflict. We mourned for his parents trying to make a better life for their children. Images of Alan being carried away by relief workers and images of a young boy with angel wings continued to flood social media posts for weeks, even months.
A few weeks ago, less than a year after Alan’s drowning, another image of a young Syrian boy from the town of Aleppo was shown around the world. This time, five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, sat in the back of an ambulance, bloodied and stunned and the world was reminded once again of the horrors of war.
The Syrian civil war is now in its sixth year and has cost the lives of more than 400,000 people, some 4,500 of them children according to statistics from the U.N. In addition to the casualties of the conflict, more than 13.5 million people are internally displaced in the country and another 4.8 million have fled the conflict and are now refugees. The number of persons affected by the crisis in Syria has grown into the worst humanitarian crisis in our time, quite possibly in history.
The continued violence throughout the country has prevented humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in besieged towns including Aleppo, Madaya, Al-Mleiha and Daraya, to name a few. Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. envoy for Syria said that for more than a month, not a single convoy had reached any of the humanitarian besieged areas. The reason, de Mistura said, was because of fighting. Although a few aid convoys were allowed passage in August, the vast majority of towns are starving and without resources.
Reality for the 13.5 million people trapped in the country and in desperate need of aid, is hellish. Daily offenses include snipers, airstrikes, barrel bombs, chemical weapon attacks such as chlorine gas, mortars, rockets, cannons, and suicide bombers, and instill fear into the populations cutting them off from food, water and medical supplies.
Sadly, outside of Syria, millions of refugees who have risked their lives in the hope of making a better life in another country are subjected to accusations of being associated with terrorism, rejected at borders and held in deplorable conditions, almost as dire as those within the boundaries of their home country. Many have said that they should have taken their chances with Assad. Remember, this is a leader who has cut his own people off from humanitarian aid and uses chemical weapons against them, including women and children.
While the images of Alan and Omran shock us to our core and bring us back to the reality of the millions impacted by the Syrian civil war, it should motivate our leaders to do all they can to influence and change the situation.
For Syrian refugees to have a chance at rebuilding their lives there has to be compassion and mercy. Their plight is through no fault of their own. To make it so difficult for them that they would rather go back to the hellish conditions of war, to a dictator who does not seem to care whether they live or die, is the polar opposite of compassion and mercy. And it is something that should be outright rejected by humanity. These people – these millions of people – need our help.
What Syria needs – for the millions still inside the country and for those wanting to return home – are serious and committed efforts to restore peace. While there have been several attempts, no real solution has materialized, but we can still hope for peace, for the children, if no one else.
Featured Image: Five-year-old Omran Daqneesh sits in the back of an ambulance after his apartment building was bombed in Aleppo. Eight people were killed in the airstrike, five were children. Photo/Mahmoud Raslan/Aleppo Media Center.