Starving, Displaced Civilians: Ongoing Tragedy of War in Syria


The iconic photo above, provided by the UN and showing hungry refugees in Yarmouk Camp lining up to receive food, has helped to raise awareness of the plight of millions of displaced civilians from Syria who are now facing a fourth year of war. Despite the spate of publicity over the photo (and plans for even more exposure, see below), the UN is now warning that with the world’s focus possibly shifting to the Crimean situation, these starving refugees are at risk of being forgotten again:

The head of the United Nation’s refugee agency said on Tuesday it must be ready in case Ukraine’s crisis causes refugees to flee Crimea, but his biggest worry is that “a total disaster” could occur if the international community diverts its attention away from Syria’s conflict.

Antonio Guterres, the head of the U.N.’s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), said in an interview that little progress was being made in efforts by the United States and Russia, now at loggerheads over Ukraine, to bring Syria’s warring sides together after the collapse of talks in Geneva last month.


With the Syrian conflict now heading toward a fourth year this week and more people fleeing the war, the UN has warned that Syrians are about to replace Afghans as the world’s largest refugee population.

There are currently more than 2.5 million Syrian registered by the U.N. in neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, but Guterres said it is believed more than 3 million have fled the conflict.

“It is absolutely essential that the international community mobilizes massively to support Lebanon, to support Jordan, to support all the other neighboring countries to make sure that they are able to cope with the challenge and to preserve the stability of the region,” he said.

The photo was taken in the Yarmouk refugee camp. From the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA):

Our spokesperson Chris Gunness has the following to say on the situation in Yarmouk Camp

“UNRWA has received credible reports that clashes and shelling intensified in Yarmouk during the night of 9 March and continued throughout the day of 11 March. Ongoing hostilities have now prevented UNRWA from distributing humanitarian assistance in Yarmouk for eleven consecutive days.

UNRWA remains deeply concerned about the desperate humanitarian situation in Yarmouk and the fact that repeated resort to armed force has, over the previous eleven days, disrupted its efforts to alleviate the desperate plight of civilians. UNRWA reiterates its strong demands that all parties cease hostilities and seek to resolve their differences exclusively by peaceful means. UNRWA also urges all concerned parties to immediately allow and facilitate the resumption of food distribution to civilians inside Yarmouk.”

Think about that. The very site where this photo was taken has been shelled as recently as yesterday and no food supplies have reached the camp in eleven days. Sadly, even the photo itself has been subject to attack, with the New York Times today providing information from photography experts confirming its authenticity:

Digital photography experts said they believed that the image was real.

Hany Farid, a computer science professor at Dartmouth College who specializes in image forensics, said a relatively simple “clone test” — an examination to reveal whether individuals in the crowd looked alike and would thus be evidence of alteration — showed no such duplications.

He also said the consistency of light and shadow in the photograph would have been enormously difficult to fabricate. More persuasive, he said, was a video of the Yarmouk camp shot at the same time that corroborated the scene.

“There is no evidence that photo is fake,” Mr. Farid said in a telephone interview. “So now everybody should shut up about it.”

Here is the video Farid mentions, and the opening scenes do indeed match the photo in location and crowd size. Further, we get multiple vantage points in the video, making it quite clear the crowd was real:

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UNRWA is carrying out a huge public awareness campaign to aid those who are starving in Syria:

The global humanitarian community has released a joint “Thunderclap” statement demanding “immediate, secure, substantial and permanent humanitarian access for all civilians in Syria, including countless children. The statement, which comes a week after the UN was last able to deliver food to Yarmouk camp in Damascus, is signed by 130 organisations, including major United Nations agencies and International Non Governmental organizations along with smaller, grassroots groups with deep reach into local communities.

The statement urges “all parties on the ground to listen to the voice of the international community as expressed unanimously through the Security Council and to act now to halt the march of death, injury, hunger and suffering.” It makes a call to world leaders on the third anniversary of the start of the conflict;  “Don’t let the people in Syria, children and families, lose another year to bloodshed and suffering, violating the most fundamental laws of war.”

Explaining the campaign, UNRWA Spokesperson, Chris Gunness said, “This is part of a Thunderclap social media campaign which aims to reach 23 million people with the hashtag “LetUsThrough. The “Thunderclap” itself will be at noon Yarmouk time on 18th March, when a tweet with our campaign hashtag will be released to millions of people who will have signed up for the campaign. Anyone can join the campaign, individuals and organizations. Once we reach 23 million, the iconic campaign image (attached) of thousands of civilians waiting for food in Yarmouk Camp will appear on the world famous electronic billboard in New York’s Times Square, sending a powerful signal to the global diplomatic community in UN Headquarters nearby.”

Gunness added, “ We will then photograph the image in Times Square and tweet it back to the 23 million who supported the campaign, including the people of Syria. So it is a campaign bringing together humanitarians all round the world, sending a powerful diplomatic message but also sending a signal of solidarity  with all civilians in Syria, who have suffered enough because of this pitiless conflict. We also hope that diplomats at the UN and members of the public will take “selfies” with the image as a backdrop and send them round the world as an act of solidarity.”

The Thunderclap campaign can be joined here.

12 replies
  1. chronicle says:

    I submit, instead of vaporizing a Yemeni wedding party with a few Hellfire missiles via one of
    General Atomic’s best profit machines, why not target Assaud’s iphone. After all, if this insidious sub-human cockroach isn’t a terrorist…they don’t exist.

    Of course, the USG would have to ask the MIC for permission first.

    God I despise these bastards.

        • bevin says:

          No it’s not simple. And if this were a Turkish, Qatari or Saudi based blog the approach would have to be different.
          But it is simple enough. This is from Simon “Mr Establishment” Tisdall in The Guardian:
          “After months of battlefield stalemate in Syria, a flurry of reports from Washington, Jerusalem, Amman and the Gulf suggests a major new clandestine effort is under way to open up a “southern front” against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.” “Detailed media reports claim the operational plans, supply routes and tactics for the new push are being overseen by a secret international operations command centre in Amman staffed by military officials from 14 countries, including the US, Britain, Israel and Arab states opposed to the Assad regime.”

  2. Don Bacon says:

    The usual MSM suspects, NYTimes, Reuters, etc. with help from Amnesty International have taken to charging Syria (yet again) with atrocities against Palestinians with its “siege” at Yarmouk.

    Actually, Syria with UN assistance has historically looked after Palestinian refugees from Zionist terror who migrated to Yarmouk in Syria.

    news report: Living conditions in Yarmouk appear to be better than in Palestinian refugee camps in Syria and residents of the camp are made up of many professionals, such as doctors, engineers and civil servants, as well as many who are employed as casual laborers and street vendors. There are four hospitals and a number of government-run secondary schools. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) operates 20 elementary schools and eight preparatory schools in the camp and sponsors two women’s program centers.

    But in Dec 2012: The opposition forces fighting to topple Assad’s regime [supported by the US] have made significant tactical advances in the past weeks. Their offensive in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in southern Damascus, which began last Friday, is aimed at driving the pro-government Palestinian gunmen out of the camp, which would be another blow to Assad and his loyalists.

    And the US propaganda effort, with help recently from Amnesty International.
    The Amnesty International Report refers to a “horror story of war crimes, starvation and death.”
    — what is its basis?
    from the Report:
    “This report draws on information provided to Amnesty International by six current residents of Yarmouk and 12 former residents, now either internally displaced within Syria or living as refugees abroad and who remain in contact sporadically, and with great difficulty, with family members and others who remain in Yarmouk. Amnesty International’s interviews with all of these individuals have been conducted via the internet.”

    Interviews conducted via the internet.

    albawaba news, Mar 9

    The return of militants from the rebel groups al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [US-supported] to Yarmouk camp in Damascus has brought back tension and “chaos,” a Palestine Liberation Organization official said on Saturday.

    PLO Executive Committee member in charge of refugees affairs Zakariyya al-Agha said in a statement on Saturday that the return of the rebel armed groups was in violation of an agreement reached with PLO factions had brought the besieged refugee camp back to chaos and conflict.

  3. bevin says:

    “… why not target Assaud’s iphone.”

    Another candidate for “Hitler of the Month”, eh?

    The situation in Syria is complex but the outstanding reality is that the bloodshed is largely attributable to the mercenary terrorist “jihadi” groups inserted into the country through the offices of, inter alia, the United States.

  4. bell says:

    the next time some gov’t talks about regime change, maybe someone can share this picture to show the pain inflicted on ordinary citizens that results from attempts at regime change.. friggin morons in the white house need to be thrown out on the street.

  5. Don Bacon says:

    (Reuters) – The United States recently sent a small number of special forces soldiers to Jordan to train with counterparts from Iraq and Jordan, a new step in the Obama administration’s effort to help Baghdad stamp out a resurgent al Qaeda threat, a U.S. defense official said on Friday.//
    –Perhaps the US snake-eaters will also train Syrian counterparts to help Damascas stamp out its al Qaeda threat? hah
    That would be a little difficult, given that the US supports al Qaeda in Syria, which is linked to AQ in Iraq.
    It’s so hard to keep the propaganda straight.
    How do they do it?

  6. spongebrain says:

    “…sending a signal of solidarity with all civilians in Syria, who have suffered enough because of this pitiless conflict.” Pitiless it is. The civilian to soldier/mercenary suffering ratio is, by most if not substantially all accounts, beyond exceptionalist imagination. That’s very sad.

    My wife tells me this is a once proud people. This can happen anywhere.

  7. john francis lee says:

    The CIA runs the executive. Obama is their front man. The program is to destroy any and all nations which do not knuckle their brows to the USA. The same program the Dulles boys installed … sixty or seventy years ago.

    The CIA is now engineering a coup in the Senate. Some people think (hope) that the Russians will be able to (forced to) bring about economic retaliation against the dollar that finally pulls the (now imaginary) rug out from underneath the USA imperial delerium. I see no hope from within … witness the debacle in the Senate documented in such excruciating detail by M.T. elsewhere. And the catatonic state of the American electorate.

    The CIA are literally going for broke. Broke is better than the alternative, in my view.

  8. Les says:

    Much about the foreign involvement in Syria won’t be known from the mainstream press until the government there is defeated. The Brits were so excited after the defeat of Gaddafi that their papers went into great detail about the leading role that British SAS special forces soldiers and ex-SAS mercenaries played in the rebel forces. They published photos of their soldiers embedded in the ‘Al Qaeda’ cells. Just google “British SAS Libya”.

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