Abdalrhman Ismail / Reuters A general view shows rising smoke from burning tyres, which activists said are used to create smoke cover from warplanes, in Aleppo, Syria August 1, 2016.

A Syrian War By Other Means

The Politicizing of Humanitarian Aid

Never before in this bloody half-decade of fighting have Syrian civilians been so imperiled—and so alone. “I know someone whose kid was shot by a sniper in Salah al-Din [a district of Aleppo] and the girl was only seven years old,” Khokoud Helmi, a founder of the Syrian underground newspaper Enab Baladi, told me. She tracks the conflict on a nearly minute-by-minute basis from southern Turkey, where she sought safety several years ago. She used to have dreams of a peaceful revolution—then of the international community getting involved to help bring peace to Syria and to stop the Assad regime from killing its citizens. But over time, as the killings continued and the world looked away, she has abandoned those ideas. “I have no hope anymore of the world taking any further steps. Things are intensifying; people are dying on a daily basis.”

For years, Waleed and others—citizen journalists, civil society activists, aid workers—wrote, talked, and pleaded with the world to spend more resources and more diplomatic energy on bringing Syria’s conflagration to an end. But “the UN didn't do anything to stop the siege of Aleppo and they haven't said anything about the Russian airstrikes—no one has said anything,” Waleed says. “The people of Aleppo, now they don't care anymore for the UN or the international community.”

Before the fight came to Aleppo this year, the city was home to the largest share of the country’s 6.5 million internally displaced people. People fled to Aleppo for safety. No longer.

“The places that once were safe are no longer safe, the places that people thought would be a last resort are no longer safe,” says Christy Delafield, a communications officer with the NGO Mercy Corps, which is working in Syria. “We’ve worked in an informal settlement on the border with Turkey and displaced people went there and had that settlement bombed and seen civilians die.” Space created for civilians has shrunk throughout the conflict,

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