The Syrian Civil War and Humanitarian Crisis

**Please watch this introduction video first!!**


This Vox video discusses how the Syrian civil war started and why it continues today:



Quick Facts:

  • One of the largest refugee crises in history and the largest humanitarian emergency of  “our time”
  • According to the United Nations, an estimated 400,000 Syrians have been killed since 2011
  • As of March 2017, more than 5 million Syrians have fled the country and more than 6.3 million Syrians are displaced internally.

Crimes Against Humanity:

(noun; a deliberate act, typically as part of a systematic campaign, that causes human suffering or death on a large scale)

  • The Syrian government (with Russian support):
    • increased attacks on eastern Aleppo, hitting residences, medical facilities, schools, markets, and mosques
    • use indiscriminate attacks on civilians using aerial bombing artillery
    • maintain lengthy sieges that trap civilians and detained them from access to essential goods and services
    • Arbitrary arrests, detained thousands, unfair trials, torture, mysterious disappearances, extrajudicial executions
    • Chemical Warfare:
      • Chemical weapons have been used most predominantly by the Syrian government throughout the Syrian Civil War. Chlorine gas and sarin gas have been used multiple times against civilians by the Assad regime. Below is a video from February 2017 about recent chlorine attacks against civilians (viewer discretion advised):
      • The most recent chemical attack conducted by the Assad regime was on April 4, 2017. This chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town in Idlib province left nearly 90 people dead and more injured/suffering.
  •  ISIS
    •  besieged civilians
    • numerous unlawful killings
    • women and girls forced into sexual slavery and rape

Limited Humanitarian Access: 

  • Russia vetoed a draft Security Council resolution calling for an end to aerial attacks on Aleppo city and for unimpeded humanitarian access 
  • Humanitarian aid is limited in Syria because Assad dictates which organizations are allowed into his country.
  • Hospitals are targeted by ISIS and Assad’s regime thus furthering humanitarian problems



  • Assad’s government and regime has indiscriminately targeted civilians. His defense is that every rebel group is a “terrorist”. As mentioned earlier in the Vox video, Assad strategically tinged rebel groups with radical leaders. Thus, preventing international powers to heavily support the rebels.
  • Most recently, the United States attacked a base in Syria following the chemical attacks on civilians. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dismissed reports of the April 4 chemical attack saying that photos of children getting medical attention were “fabricated” and “unconvincing”.


  • Russian air strikes appear to be indiscriminate or to amount to direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects (this is considered a war crime)
  • Russia’s support of Assad as an authoritarian ruler stems from their national interests: the economy and their only naval facility in the Mediterranean (Tartus). If Assad’s government collapsed, Russia would most likely lose their only naval facility in the Mediterranean, thus weakening Russian foreign policy and ability.

United States of America:

  • The U.S. prominently focused on destroying ISIS up until President Trump’s direct attack on the Syrian base.
  • There have been many attempts to arm and train rebel groups against Assad in Syria but the lack of unity within the rebellion has led to failure of these missions.
  • Direct involvement against the Russian and Iranian backed Assad regime in Syria could cause a proxy war for the United States. Following the Iraq war, the Obama administration was nervous to get militarily involved in Syria. The majority of American foreign policy has been through soft power and diplomatic strategies.


  • Radical Islamic groups, most prominently ISIS, are gaining power in the midst of chaos in Syria
  • The Syrian civil war provided an opportunity for ISIS to gain and control land in Syria- which helps fulfill their caliphate
  • They have committed numerous crimes against humanity: including systematic torture and rape of women, mass killings, and annihilation of Syrian and Kurdish people


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Scroll down for a clearer picture of this diagram:


1. Raise Awareness

  • Watch “The White Helmets”- a documentary about Syrian volunteer workers that risk their lives to save Syrian civilians following airstrikes and other violent attacks (available on Netflix). This documentary won an Academy Award for the Best Documentary (short subject).
  • Share this page on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to spark awareness in your community.

2. Raise Funds for The White Helmets

  • The White Helmets is a Syrian civilian group of volunteers that are not associated with any faction within Syria. Their motto is: “To save a life is to save all of humanity”. They go into the destruction after barrel bomb attacks or other forms of violence and attempt to save as many lives as possible, no matter what faction they come from. I am applying to our service administration at Westminster to hold a fundraiser that will raise money for equipment such as helmets, knee pads, and gas masks for The White Helmets. I will update this page as the process continues.
  • If you feel inclined to donate, please visit:


Short Clip from “The White Helmets”:



Aleppo: Chlorine Gas Kills Children, Civilians. Human Rights Watch, 2017.

CNN Staff. “Syrian Civil War Fast Facts.” CNN, Cable News Network, Turner Broadcasting System, 9 Apr. 2017.

The Confused Person’s Guide to the Syrian Civil War. The Atlantic Monthly Group, 29 Oct. 2015.

Smith-Spark, Laura. “Assad claims Syria chemical attack was ‘fabrication’, in face of evidence.” CNN, Cable News Network, Turner Broadcasting Company, 13 Apr. 2017.

Syria’s War: Who Is Fighting and Why [Updated]. Produced by Johnny Harris and Max Fisher, Vox, 2017.

“Syria Two Years On: The Failure of International Aid.” Doctors Without Borders, MSF USA, 2013.

White Helmets | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix. Directed by Orlando Von Einsiedel, Netflix, 2016.


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