Jasmine Agha

Junior, York School
This essay is one of four winners of the 2020 High School Essay Contest of the World Affairs Council of the Monterey Bay Area

Fear and Hopelessness in the Unknown

Nine years ago to this date, a “day of rage” erupted across Syria as activists took to the streets, facing arrests and violence at the hands of security forces in the first widespread, peaceful uprisings against president and oppressor Bashar al-Assad. Today, as the conflict in Syria rolls into its tenth year, the single worst humanitarian catastrophe of the century continues to unfold. This war has served as an arena for myriad combatants to assert their power flagrantly and without consequence, at the injustice of Syrian civilians. A precedent for future human rights violations becomes more unavoidable each day this continues. I believe that the international community needs to embrace diplomatic strategy and their humanitarian sides to ease the suffering of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons, and to pave a path forward for all civilians.

After facing near-apocalyptic devastation and mass casualties, millions of Syrians in exodus along the Turkish border are in need of immediate relocation. This situation could be significantly remedied by the U.S. accepting greater numbers of refugees. In additional to traditional methods of integrating small numbers of refugees throughout communities, non-urban areas can be urbanized with sustainable planning. Former or declining urban areas (e.g. Detroit) would also provide support to many refugees and vice versa as regions are revitalized and repopulated with motivated youth, countering America’s aging population.

Syrian citizens face frequent and egregious infringements on inalienable rights from numerous fronts. Russian-backed Syrian forces launch nighttime sarin gas attacks, chlorine barrel bombs, and maiming cluster munition, frequently targeting hospitals and schools in their campaign of indiscriminate, terrifying psychological warfare. The only feasible way to end these atrocities is a deescalation through diplomatic means, not military intervention or short term aid. True security in Syria may take decades to achieve, but immediate action should maintain a ceasefire and joint patrols in Idlib. The ICC is poised to investigate possible crimes against humanity, legal teams can pursue jurisdictional openings to hold belligerents accountable for war crimes, and political retribution can serve as deterrent. Eventually a nationwide ceasefire, in align with UNSC Resolution 2254, and a UN peacekeeping mission redeployed to Syria would provide stabilization prior to rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. In the wake of other global challenges, it seems increasingly simple to overlook the Syrian people as only the victims of regional strife and hopelessness, but the civilian’s battle must not be forgotten.