13 Sep 2015

Syria: A quick reminder

The engine is grinding away bloodily right now over the border in Syria, a couple of hours from where I write from the comforts of Beirut.

Aleppo…Zabadani…Deraa…Douma…Ghouta…the names become by-words for intensified fighting as Syria ceases to exist in Year Five of the war.

Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) say that at least 400 amputations have been carried out in just one suburb of Damascus under siege and under fire, in the past month.

Most of these limbs, they say, would have been saved had proper access been allowed for medical purposes.

13_syria_r_wAbove: fighters in Jobar, a suburb of Damascus

If that’s how it is when your leg is ripped apart by blast injuries – forget getting food getting into these areas.

MSF reckons 600,000 are besieged by Syrian government forces just in one relatively small district of the Damascus suburbs.

Today the UN calculates that there will be one million more internally displaced in Syria by the end of the year ~ 8,600,000 Syrians.

And now this, a UN official speaking from Damascus:

“WFP (World Food Programme) has zero dollars to provide food to 5 million people inside Syria come November 1st.”

That is the engine, the bloody, terrifying engine driving the displaced across Syria and driving wave upon wave of Syrians to leave.

But how to leave? East, across IS-contaminated desert only to reach Iraq and more IS?


North to Turkey which has already taken around two million and has a very shut and very policed border and a war going on with the Kurds?


South into the equally policed border with Jordan and zombie endless existence in a refugee desert camp with little prospect of anything beyond?



Yes – sort of.

It works. But life here is getting ever more unpleasant as the government wants the Syrians out and aid budgets collapse.

Which leaves the boat to Turkey or plane if you are rich. And for Turkey read Europe.

The pitiless Syrian engine of war grinds on. The waves of the displaced seek refuge. The only realistic escape route is Lebanon and Turkey.

It is getting busier, week by week.

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