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The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

The Standard

Syria: More than politics

Syria: More than politics

When I first saw the image of Aylan, the Syrian Kurdish boy who washed up on a Turkish beach, I thought it was Photoshopped. I thought a humanitarian activist organization fabricated the image to show the international community the dire situation that Syrians are facing.

My hope that the photo had been contrived was false as headlines confirmed that his body had really washed up on the shore.

This is the reality for the millions of Syrians who don’t have homes and are trying to reach safety. An astonishing number are putting themselves on boats to cross the rough Mediterranean, in hopes of reaching what is thought to be a safe haven. This only emphasizes how terrible the conditions in Syria are.

Why has it taken five years for the West’s eyes and hearts to open? It should not have taken this long, nor a photo of a dead child, for the international community and politicians to be jolted by the circumstances in Syria. Western politicians have known the severity of the situation for a while, but only decided to act when the media showed shocking images and the public cried out in horror.

It is deplorable that it took this long for the international media to take notice of the thousands fleeing war. Few western countries, until recently, have taken in refugees to help ease the burden of Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. These countries are aiding these refugees, but they are completely  full and can’t support more people. Refugees are now looking to Europe to open their borders for them. These people see Europe as the place where they can rebuild their lives. But the xenophobia of western Europeans is both shocking and disturbing.

In no way was Aylan a terrorist, nor are any of the thousands of children like him, fleeing for their lives. The fear of terrorism and lack of space in countries are naïve answers to why we aren’t helping resettle these refugees.

Resettling these refugees is currently a political issue, but it shouldn’t be. This is a humanitarian crisis, and we as an international community need to solve it together. So, why aren’t we helping them?

Granted, there has been incredible progress, such as Germany taking in over 800,000 refugees, and the Pope hosting two families at the Vatican. Yet, the media is picking and choosing what parts of the conflict they want to portray, and how they want to portray it.

Article after article calls these people “migrants”, a word that is being used incorrectly. These people aren’t migrants; they are not leaving their country to find work. They are fleeing bombs and bullets being fired at them. They are fleeing war; they are refugees.

According to The Syria Campaign, a global advocacy group, the Bashar al-Assad regime has killed seven times more civilians than the Islamic State has. This fact is not widely known because the media  hasn’t presented it widely. The public’s knowledge of the conflict in Syria is being skewed by what the media presents to them.

But at the same time, we need to address the root of this problem: The war. It has been five years now, and according to the BBC, there have been over 300,000 people killed and 4 million people displaced as a result, one-sixth of the Syrian population. These are numbers that I can’t even begin to fathom.

There has been little action from the international community, even when it has been dubbed “the worst humanitarian crisis of our era” by the U.N. According to the U.N., they only have 37 percent of humanitarian aid that is needed, a considerable deficit.

We need to tackle the problem that we have the power to solve: Helping the refugees. We need to put pressure on the politicians to open our borders.

I walked in an oragnized march from Marble Arch to 10 Downing Street on Saturday, September 12, which attracted thousands of people. Marching alongside so many people and standing in solidarity calling on the government to take in more refugees was inspiring and gave me hope.

We need to stand up and give what we have to refugees. The U.K. needs to take in more than just 5,000 refugees a year, a miniscule number in comparison to Germany who took in 20,000 in one day. We need to quash the xenophobia and realize that these are people in need. We need to donate clothing, raise money in communities and help these refugees. We need to do all of this before even more children end up like Aylan.

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