On Tuesday, April 4th, 2017, planes from Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s military used chemically infused airstrikes on the the northwestern Idlib province in Syria. Sixty-nine citizens, including at least ten children, were killed, with an additional number of deceased citizens who still need to be identified. The Health Department in Idlib claimed at least another thirty deceased citizens still are still in the process of being identified. The airstrike, according to witnesses, is believed to have started roughly before seven in the morning.
The real reason ‘why’ Mr. Assad attacked this area is still unclear, and in fact, Mr. Assad has denied that his military was involved in the airstrike. But countries like the United States and France have strong suspicions that, despite Mr. Assad’s claim of innocence, he and his military were the ones responsible for the airstrike.
The White House called the attack “reprehensible,” and said that a chemical attack on innocent people “cannot be ignored by the civilized world.” President Trump first blamed former president Barack Obama: In 2012, Mr. Obama had said he would take military action if Mr. Assad continued using chemical weapons. But even when there was concrete evidence of Mr. Assad’s violations, Mr. Obama did not act. He believed the US did not want to go to war in Syria, and congress was reticent to approve military action. (It should also be noted that, during that time, Mr. Trump stated several times that he was opposed to US military involvement in Syria. He later changed his position.) Meanwhile, Mr. Obama worked with the Russian government, hoping for a diplomatic solution, since Russia promised to get the Syrian president to destroy his chemical weapons. But it is obvious now that either the Russians did not do what they promised, or Mr. Assad hid some of the forbidden weapons.
Whoever you choose to blame, this fact remains: the Syrian people are suffering needlessly. New York Times claims that this is “one of the worst chemical bombings in Syria.” Bombings in Syria, unfortunately, happen too frequently. In fact, they have become “almost a routine,” according to Times. This airstrike used chlorine at a stronger ‘dosage’, causing a lot more death and injuries. Doctors and volunteers even claimed that the symptoms were different, too. The Times interviewed health workers for their article Worst Chemical Attack in Syria in Years. These workers stated that chlorine gas attacks only harm a small amount of citizens who are trapped in an enclosed space. This time, however, “people collapsed outdoors, and in much larger numbers. [The citizen’s] symptoms included pinpoint pupils that characterize nerve agents and other banned poisons.”
Unfortunately, trying to aid the survivors is also difficult. According to several witnesses interviewed by New York Times, “another airstrike hit one of the clinics treating victims, who had been sent to smaller hospital and maternity wards because the area’s largest hospital was severely damaged by an airstrike two days earlier.” Additionally, health workers were seen hosing off bodies, finding needed resources, searching for citizens, and supplying air masks. Even the workers themselves were getting severely injured from the chemical exposure.
If you are upset, or even outraged, there are ways that you can help. Reliable organizations are out there. Whether it is a donation, promotion, or volunteer work, everyone can get involved. Let’s start with a local organization: the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights. They offer support to refugees from many countries, including those from Syria; BCRHC is often in need of volunteers. Their website is here: http://www.bcrhhr.org/ As for reputable national organizations, I can suggest rescue.org, globalcitizen.org, icrc.org, whitehelmets.org, just to name a few. (Rescue.org will take you to the International Rescue Committee, with a long history of advocacy for human rights; your donations will fund their doctors and other first responders who have gone into Syria to try to help. The Global Citizen site has information about a fundraiser to help provide education to children in countries such as Syria. The ‘ICRC’ is the International Committee of the Red Cross where you can donate, as well. The White Helmets, who were the subject of a recent Netflix documentary, are an organization that also sends trained people into Syria to assist the wounded; your donations provide new and replacement equipment they need to do their life-saving work: safety goggles, gas masks, first aid kits, etc.
Lastly, if you are someone who cannot volunteer or donate right now, it takes roughly a minute to promote an organization. Spread the word on social media, talk to your friends– maybe your neighbors can donate. More importantly, if none of these listed organizations meet your fancy, some quick research on google can help you to find organizations that may suit you better. A few months ago, the Huffington Post even offered a list of ten things you can do from greater Boston to help survivors and refugees: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vicky-kelberer/10-things-you-can-do-from-boston-to-help-refugees_b_8106644.html Given the terrible struggles the Syrian people are going through, we should do our part to help.