The Syrian civil war began nearly six years ago, as frustrated citizens rose up against the heavy-handed control of President Bashar al-Assad. The rebellion came as part of the wider Arab Spring movement that toppled several authoritarian regimes, from Egypt to Libya. The results of these revolutions, and others, vary from country to country. But no place has seen more suffering, unmitigated cruelty, and violence than Syria, and in particular, the rebel-held city of Aleppo. And during this devastating time, there are ways you can offer help to Syrians, even if you're located in the United States.
Over the past week, Syrian government forces have moved significantly closer to overtaking Aleppo's last strongholds from the rebel army that has had control of the city for several years. Consequently, the violence put civilian evacuation plans on hold, putting countless innocent people in danger. The number of civilians now trapped numbers in the tens of thousands, and many have used Twitter and other forms of social media to document the horrors they've experienced, and in some cases, to say goodbye. The messages out of Aleppo are harrowing and heartbreaking, and necessarily compel the question: what can we do to help Aleppo? Here are a few possibilities.
1. Give To The White Helmets
This group of extraordinary volunteers could have justifiably won the Nobel Peace Prize. As civilians, these Syrians have devoted their lives now to rushing in after bombings to try and rescue those trapped inside and under the rubble. To date, they have saved approximately 60,000 lives. They are known by the white helmets they wear, hence their name. If I could recommend only one organization to donate to, it would be The White Helmets.
2. Call Your Representatives
Fellow millennials, reposting articles is simply not enough. The atrocities in Syria demand more than keyboard activism, so pick up that iPhone and dial a number. Start at the United States House of Representatives finder page, enter your zip code, and then click on the link to your Representative's webpage. And then call them. The Senate has a finder page for you too, so after you finish telling your House representative to make Syria a priority, call both your state senators. At the very least, write an email.
The gut-wrenching truth is that Syria has not been a top issue for most of our politicians — and that goes for both sides of the aisle. The unthinkable tragedy in Aleppo must change that.
3. Help Syrians Return To Their Homes
CNN contributor S.E. Cupp has been one of the few consistent, outspoken voices on the need for intervention in Syria, especially as it pertains to the lives and safety of children. Tragically, 50,000 kids have already died. The organization Help Me Go Home advocates for the creation of safe zones, so Syrians are not forced into dangerous and sometimes fatal escape attempts. Everyone should also take the time to watch her powerful and heartbreaking call to action.
4. Medical Professionals & Arabic Speakers Are Needed
The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) has been a working partnership between American and Syrian medical professionals since 1998. But during the current crisis, SAMS has used "innovative telemedicine strategies" to connect the expertise of U.S. doctors with those working to save lives in Syria. If you're a medical professional, or an Arabic speaker, you can volunteer with SAMS. For the rest of us, there's the Donate button.
5. Remember Who & What Aleppo Was Before The Destruction
No one wants to be remembered only as a nameless victim in somebody else's cruel war. The people of Aleppo deserve to be seen for who they are: individuals with names, personalities, and futures that have been stolen. Do not forget them, and do not forget that what was once a beautiful and peaceful city has been aerial bombed out of recognition. When the time comes for those responsible to be held accountable, be a part of the demand for justice. That will be easier to do if you know what Aleppo looked like before the carnage, if you understand the particulars of this war's ineffable loss.
If you're still looking for a charity, there are several others listed at Charity Navigator. Both your time and monetary gifts can help bring an end to the suffering in Aleppo, and there is no better or more worthy way to spend either.