The war that started with protests-turned-violent in March 2011 enters its eighth year tomorrow.
Its eighth year.
Eight years is a long time. And it’s way longer when the threat of bombs, chemical weapons, kidnapping, eviction, and starvation is present every moment.
Sirens and fighter jets are normalized in Syria. I’ll never forget when a Syrian friend of mine told me she had trouble sleeping without the hum and haunt of fighting outside. My friends’ houses were shelled. Their family members were killed. Their schools were destroyed.
At times, Westerners have been compelled to look. The refugee “issue” has, by moments, stirred genuine glances and challenged our hearts and minds. And yet, for the last two years, the Syrian war and its coverage have been in gradual decline.
But no matter the fade, the war is still happening.
ISIS may be mostly “defeated” and Aleppo may be mostly “liberated,” but this is not over. Not by a long shot.
Literally half of Syrians are still displaced, five and a half million outside of Syria and more than six million inside. Cities are wrecked, as are systems, as is any trace of trust.
It’s not just a lingering war. It is an ongoing, sustained, active conflict. In the last year, more than 1.5 million Syrians have been newly displaced. 275,000 of those displacements have happened this year, 2018. In January, nearly as many people were uprooted from their homes as returned to them.
13.1 million people inside Syria are in need of aid. 5.6 million are suffering severe deprivation, facing life-threatening security threats and living conditions. Three million Syrians today live in “hard-to-reach” areas, out of reach of aid workers. Half a million live in areas that are still under siege.
One in three schools are damaged or destroyed. Attacks on health facilities have increased by 25 percent since 2016. Less than half of the country’s hospitals are fully operational.
Child labor is rampant. Girls are getting married off for financial reasons. Education is stifled. 35 percent of Syrians rely on unsafe water sources. Food prices have risen by 800 percent over the course of the war. Nine out of ten Syrian families spend more than half of their income on food.
In the last month, an estimated 1,000 or more civilians have been killed in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus—this despite an alleged ceasefire. In the north of the country, in Afrin, hundreds have died in the last week due to a new theater of the conflict between Turkey and Kurdish and Syrian forces.
The ISIS caliphate is diminished, but it is not gone. The Islamic State still controls actually territory. Al Qaeda is launching new initiatives. Russia started to drawback, but new US involvement has forced a change in strategy. Iran and Hezbollah are still present. The West and now Turkey are upping their ante.
This war is not over.
Syria is still happening, whether we look or not.