Seeing Red: Humanitarian Efforts in Syria

Beginning in March 2011, a group of protesters in the southern section of Syria sparked a nationwide opposition movement intent on removing President Bashar Al-Assad from power. The results have been largely tragic, as more than 7,500 people have been killed by Assad’s repressive and brutal regime; opposition fighters, restive towns, and even journalists have been targeted victims of an administration clinging desperately to power. Numerous countries and organizations have condemned Assad and his government, pressuring him to peacefully step down and put an end to violence; unfortunately, Assad has yet to show any signs of complying. Much of the recent Syria coverage has circled around the debate of whether foreign countries should directly intervene or at least provide arms for a severely undermanned opposition force. A separate yet crucial issue does not receive as much press: the humanitarian needs of Syrians embroiled in a war-torn nation.


In a conflict that is so violent and deadly, humanitarian relief is extremely important and integral in saving lives. Leading the charge in this critical area is the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, forming a partnership in an effort to abate the humanitarian crisis in the region. The two work primarily to provide basic needs such as food and water to war ravaged areas, as well as to administer first aid to the injured. The Red Cross and Red Crescent groups have also initiated a series of daring rescue missions in areas of active fighting to rescue civilians and journalists. Continue reading


Internet Petitions: Activism or “Slacktivism”?

Recently, the tragic events in Syria have dominated international attention. Most people watch with horror as Bashar al-Assad brutally represses his people and commits countless human rights abuses. Many members of the opposition have been viciously tortured, generating a self-righteous outrage and a rhetorical call to action. A sentiment common to this issue, however, is helplessness. Other than physically going to Syria, what can a concerned citizen possibly do about the issue of Syrian torture, while being removed from the actual events? Actually, the answer is: quite a lot.


Enter the online petition. A relatively new practice, the concept has its roots in the age-old activity of collecting signatures to call for some kind of action— a tool for the masses to put pressure on those in power. These petitions can range from the serious (for example, a call for the UN to declare crimes against humanity against Syrian torturers) to the less pressing (such as a push for the construction of a local skate park).  Instead of collecting actual John Hancocks, however, an online petition accumulates virtual pledges that serve the same purpose. One simply needs an Internet connection and a clickable mouse in order to support and enact change. Continue reading