*Warning: Contains graphic images.
Do you remember the boy?
Do you still want to hear about the boy?
Do you still care about the boy?
Are you still thinking about the boy?
Are you still sharing a photo of the boy?
Are you still crying about the boy?
The boy that I am talking about is Aylan Kurdi.
Aylan Kurdi is known all over the world as the three year old Syrian boy who washed up dead, on a beach in Turkey this September. Aylan was attempting to flee Syria with his five year old brother, father and mother, along with almost two dozen other refugees. The group of Syrians boarded two small boats headed across a 13-mile canal to the Greek island of Kos. Less than 10 minutes into the voyage, both boats capsized, causing 12 of the passengers to drown, including the five children aboard. This group of refugees was among over 20 million Syrians who have been displaced from the war and turmoil in their country.
Before the photograph of Aylan emerged, knowledge and understanding of the Syrian war wasn’t widely spread. The conflict in Syria has been ongoing since 2011, when peaceful protests against the regime lead to violent attacks from the government. In the four years since the war began, multiple different groups have emerged, divided by their ethnicities, religions and political views.
Over 220,000 people have been killed due to the fighting, half of which are believed to be innocent civilians. The war has also lead to inhumane living conditions, where basic necessities like food and medical care are sparse. Civilians are on constant alert for bombings and raids that could end in horrific human rights violations. Air strikes are not only from Syrian enemies, but also from Russia, who began bombing ISIS targets in Syria this October.
Children are being targeted by radical Syrian groups to act as fighters and human shields in a war that they have no part in. Their access to education has also been widely diminished, unravelling the ten years of progress the UN made in the Syrian educational system. The lack of food and medicine leaves many vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. Some families are forced to use their children as a source of income, either sending them to work or sending young daughters off to get married.
The humanitarian crisis in Syria will have a lasting effect on the country’s economy and educational system, which would take years to rectify. The refugees are fleeing in search of countries that will offer basic human necessities, clean water, a safe environment for children, and shelter from winter. Turkey has taken in almost two million refugees, Iraq is housing about 250,000 in the midst of their own armed conflict, Lebanon accepted over a million and Jordan took in about 630,000 Syrians.
According to a press briefing in September, the United States is prepared to take in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016. This issue is the topic of intense debate in our country, even though our contribution would be substantially less than other countries. The fear among Americans is that allowing refugees into our country would leave us vulnerable to their terrorist attacks.
However, since 9/11, 80% of all terror attacks have been committed by United States citizens. And out of every domestic terror attacks, 65% were by right-wing extremists. Coincidentally, out of the 31 state governors attempting to deny Syrian refugees, 30 are Republican.
Truthfully, the fear of Syrians posing as refugees to enter our country and commit acts of terror does stem from past incidents. There have been three cases of Syrian refugees charged with plotting terrorist acts, out of the 784,000 refugees admitted into the US since 9/11. One man who was convicted of possessing explosives and supporting a terrorist organization, and two other men who were indicted and jailed for plotting to ship weapons to terrorist organizations in Iraq. However, none of which posed an immediate threat to the United States.
Due to these past instances, the United States government is prepared to ask for extra screening of Syrian refugees before they are admitted into our country. Refugees must go through the United Nations, complete 21 steps and wait 3 years before ever stepping foot on US soil. Giving the government an abundant amount of time to vet and research each individual coming in.
Although state governors are attempting to block Syrian refugees from residing in their states, their legal authority to do so is nonexistent. But their cooperation would help thousands of Syrians escape dangerous living conditions more quickly. And out of those refugees, over three quarters happen to be women and children, a majority of which are under the age of 12.
Over 75 years ago, our United States government was met with a very similar choice regarding German refugees fleeing the Holocaust. Almost one thousand passengers, most of which Jewish, attempted to enter the United States but the government denied their entry and sent them back. The Holocaust is now considered one of the greatest humanitarian failures in the planet’s history.
The United States now has the opportunity to protect innocent Syrians from a conflict that is ravaging their country. Over half of our states are denying men, women, and children basic human necessities and safety. Hopefully in 75 years, we will look back and think of all the lives we saved, rather than adding the Syrian Crisis to a list, along with the Holocaust, of unnecessary and preventable losses of life.