Eighty-three percent of all the lights in Syria have gone out since the start of the conflict there, a global coalition of humanitarian and human rights organisations has revealed ahead of the fourth anniversary on March 15.
Analysing satellite images, scientists based at Wuhan University in China and the University of Maryland, in co-operation with the #withSyria coalition of 130 non-governmental organisations, have shown that the number of lights visible over Syria at night has fallen by 83% since March 2011.
“Four years since this crisis began, Syria’s people have been plunged into the dark: destitute, fearful, and grieving for the friends they have lost and the country they once knew,” said David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. “Four years since the crisis began, there is at present very little light in this tunnel. Over two hundred thousand people have been killed and a staggering eleven million have been forced to flee their homes. Syrians deserve much better from the international community - it is past time to show that we have not given up and will work with them to turn the lights back on.”
“Satellite imagery is the most objective source of data showing the devastation of Syria on a national scale,” said Dr Xi Li, lead researcher on the project. “Taken from 500 miles above the earth, these images help us understand the suffering and fear experienced by ordinary Syrians every day, as their country is destroyed around them. In the worst-affected areas, like Aleppo, a staggering 97% of the lights have gone out. The exceptions are the provinces of Damascus and Quneitra, near the Israeli border, where the decline in light has been 35% and 47% respectively.”
The #withSyria coalition also today released a hard-hitting film and launched a global petition at withsyria.com that calls on world leaders to ‘turn the lights back on in Syria’ by:
Prioritising a political solution with human rights at its heart;
Boosting the humanitarian response both for those inside Syria and refugees, including through increased resettlement;
Insisting that all parties put an end to attacks on civilians and stop blocking aid
Dr Zaher Sahloul, President of the Syrian American Medical Society, said: “The rise of terrorist groups crossing borders has spread fear and focused the world's attention on Syria - but it has distracted governments from the suffering of ordinary Syrians and the abuses committed by all sides in this conflict. Every day Syrian medics, aid workers and teachers are taking enormous risks to help their neighbours and loved ones, while the international community continuously fails to pursue a political solution and an end to the violence and suffering.”
In late 2014, the EU imposed a ban on the export of jet fuel and fuel additives to Syria to weaken the Syrian government’s ability to carry out attacks from the air against civilians, notably by dropping barrel bombs from helicopters. On 7 March 2015, the EU sanctioned more individuals and entities supporting the Syrian regime, furthering pressure on the regime to come to seek a peaceful resolution. These actions have come on the back of three UN Security Council resolutions adopted in 2014 that demanded action to secure protection and assistance for civilians in Syria.
Since then, thousands of Syrians have been killed, and more people have been displaced or are in need of help than ever before. A new report 'Failing Syria' released today accuses warring parties and powerful states of failing to achieve what these resolutions set out to do.
Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council and former United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said: “2014 was the darkest year yet in this horrific war. Civilians are not protected as the Security Council promised they would be, their access to relief has not improved and humanitarian funding is declining compared to the needs. It is an outrage how we are failing Syrians.”