Syria, or the Syrian Arab Republic, is situated in Western Asia. The country is bordered by Lebanon, the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Israel.
The capital of Syria and its largest city is Damascus, with a population of more than 1.7 million people.
After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was partitioned and centuries of Ottoman control ended. The Mandate for Syria and Lebanon was founded by the League of Nations, allowing France to act as a ‘trustee country’ over Syria and Lebanon until they chose independence. This is how the modern Syrian state was born.
Syria gained independence as a parliamentary republic on 25th October 1945, and Syria became a founding member of the United Nations, officially ending the French Mandate.
Before the civil war, Syria was an ethnically diverse nation, home to vibrant marketplaces, rich in handmade jewellery and textiles, spices, pottery, and traditional crafts.
The Syrian people could be proud of the country’s burgeoning IT industry, and the ancient mosques, castles and Roman ruins that made Syria such a fascinating place to visit. Syria’s Ummayyad mosque is considered one of the most sacred places for Muslims, and is known as the ‘jewel of Damascus’.
The Syrian civil war began in March 2011 and is still ongoing, despite a formal start of the Geneva Syria peace talks announced by the United Nations in February 2016.
Syria today is characterised by suffering and loss for many of its people. The crisis is now entering its sixth year and there are 13.5 million people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. Over half the population of Syria has been forced from their homes, and many people have been displaced several times. Over half of those sheltering in makeshift settlements and refugee camps are children and young people.
Frequent disruptions to the delivery of humanitarian aid mean that those still trapped in besieged or hard to reach areas are running out of time. They lack basic necessities, including food, water and medical care. The UN estimates that 4.8 million people have fled the country, to the neighbouring states of Jordan and Lebanon.
As the winter months drawn in, millions are without adequate shelter, warm clothes, blankets, fuel, nutritious food, or clean water. Syria’s children have been exposed to unimaginable horrors and will continue to suffer the psychological effects of trauma well into adulthood.
Aleppo is a large city in Syria, and the capital of the Aleppo Governorate, the most population-dense governorate in the country.
Aleppo is an ancient city and is believed to have been inhabited since the 6th millennium BC. The old city of Aleppo contains amazing medieval architecture and traditional heritage sites, and was named Islamic Capital of Culture in 2006, after a wave of successful restoration projects targeting historic landmarks.
Unfortunately, the city of Aleppo has been a site of great destruction and human suffering. It is one of the worst-affected cities in the Syrian conflict, ever since the Battle of Aleppo began in 2012.
Opposing forces have struggled for control of the city, leaving hundreds of thousands of people caught in the crossfire. It has been increasingly difficult for humanitarian agencies access the besieged city, meaning that those trapped inside are left food, clean water, warm clothes, and first aid equipment.
We are now one week on from the final battle for Aleppo, and around 50,000 civilians still remain trapped amid the ruins of a city they once called home. Although more people are being evacuated every day, they often have nothing more than the clothes on their back, and they still face homelessness, hunger and persecution even in ‘safer’ areas.
As yet, there is no political solution to the Syrian crisis. Widespread hostilities are likely to continue into 2017, and it is women, young children and the elderly who will bear the heaviest burden of suffering.
However bleak the situation may seem for Syria’s people, there are ways to help. By donating to our Besieged Syrian People fund or our Winter appeal, you can ensure that Syrian families have the basic necessities they need to survive the punishing winter months.
We are currently on the ground in the Aleppo Governorate, providing those fleeing the city with:
Syria is the greatest humanitarian crisis of this decade. We cannot stand by as innocent families undergo such extreme suffering.