The Syrian war is old news. Wasn’t Aleppo retaken? Isn’t ISIS defeated? Didn’t Russia finish the job?
And, perhaps more importantly, haven’t we moved on to North Korea, talks of collusion, Iran, trade and tariffs, and the World Cup?
It may surprise you to learn that 2018, which marks the seventh year of the war in Syria, has seen the most displacement of any year so far.
According to humanitarian coordinators in the country, 920,000 Syrians have been newly displaced inside Syria in the first four months of this year.
“This was the highest displacement in that short period of time we have seen since the conflict started,” said Panos Moumtzis, a UN regional coordinator.
The War Is Not Over
It is true that the US and its allies, both in the West and the Middle East, has mostly stepped out of the conflict, giving the reins fully to the Assad regime, Russia, and Iran. It is true that Russia and Iran have largely had their way in the Syrian heartland. And it is true that the Islamic State and the “rebels” who initially rose against tyranny have been mostly quieted.
But such does not mean the end of war.
Turkey is throwing elbows in the country’s north.
Israel and Iran are battling in the country’s southwest.
A blend of “rebels” and terrorists—the labels will be decided by the prejudices of men and the hindsight of history—are active in various pockets around the broken state.
What was a fight in Eastern Ghouta and some cities around Syria has now turned to Idlib and Afrin.
All of this means the people of Syria continue to suffer. Rather than returning to their homes, hundreds of thousands more are fleeing.
Since 2011, when the war began, at least 400,000 have been killed. In terms of displacement, there are five million Syrian refugees outside of Syria and more than six million internally displaced people.
As of 2016, the entire population of Syria was barely 18 million people. In Syria’s Humanitarian Needs Overview for 2018, some 13.1 million Syrians required some form of humanitarian assistance. That’s nearly 75 percent of the population.
And in all of it, aid is not being given at nearly the rate required. Convoys are not getting through. Budgets are not being met. Not even close.
More must be done. But what? But how? But who?
Answers to those questions are at once simple and impossible. For hopefulness does not always align with political pragmatism. Realism and idealism are not only different—they are sometimes at odds. We find, in the seventh year of this terrible war, a growing, looming difference between the will and the ought.