Murderers of the Syrian people include the weather, hunger, homelessness, and looting, as well as the Russians, Iranians, Assad’s forces, Daesh, and Jabhat Al-Nusra. Those who have not had their houses demolished around them, did not suffocate, and were not killed deliberately in the war may die in camps or on their escape routes out of the country.
That we are unable to stand up to the forces of evil killing the Syrian people every day does not mean we should not rescue refugees, which is at the heart of our responsibility to them. It is our duty to help millions of Syrians who are suffering tragic conditions in camps and shelters, especially in this harsh weather. Thousands of refugees are enduring mud, rain, and snow in camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and inside Syria itself.
It was not enough for terrorist groups to hijack the Syrian revolution, but they also abused charitable activities and exploited charity groups, forcing many institutions to discontinue their charity work, adding to the refugees’ suffering.
Our societies are fond of charity work and helping those in need, and it is necessary to revive this spirit of volunteering through charities governed by transparency and accountability so as to let everyone know where their money is going and how it was spent.
During the civil war in Syria, preceded by the wars in Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and others, charity work became an object of suspicion for international security services, especially when there was terrorist infiltration and the involvement of suspicious organizations.
The tragic and avoidable deaths of Syrian refugees remind us of our common humanity, and our obligations to those who are suffering.
Many charities were forced to discontinue their work because of harassment, and governments have restricted many fundraising activities so that no one abuses them. Unfortunately, this has negatively affected the helpless refugees. All they can do now is wait for aid provided by international organizations, which are overwhelmed by the large numbers of refugees and the sheer scale of the crisis zones.
Delivering food, clothing, tents and medical aid to refugee centers is a difficult task. This aid is coveted by governments. Some of the region’s governments — or individuals in these governments — exploit aids and the refugees’ needs. This has caused international organizations to suffer the abuse of some powerful people in the governments of host or transit countries.
It is sad to witness how some of the region’s states are justifying their idleness by blaming one another in order to avoid the responsibility of helping afflicted people.
Not only is volunteering and donating part of our values and morals, but they are also part of the network of social and humanitarian solidarity that protects the region’s countries from the worst that could happen in the future. Wars and tragedies are a constant threat to the whole region, so reviving these good practices is a guarantee for everyone, including those who are enjoying prosperity today.
The people of Syria, Yemen and other countries plagued by wars suffer harsh conditions every day, and their lives depend on what international and regional organizations and philanthropists give them. Everyone who works in the charity sector deserves our appreciation for their continuous support and help for refugees. Most of them are volunteers who come from around the world and may not have anything in common with those to whom they provide aid, except humanity.
It pains us to hear of those who die of starvation or cold, and we feel as if we contributed to their tragedies because we could have helped them. We are not helpless, and a dollar is enough to help a refugee survive for a day.
Collective action, volunteering and charitable activities are a sign of civilization and development. When we succeed in relief and humanitarian work, we can be confident that our nation is progressing and is on the right path.
• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.