It has been five years since the beginning of the Syrian war. In that time, 4.8 million Syrian refugees have become displaced around the world, with an additional 6.6 million people displaced within the country itself. Due to the ongoing conflict, many Syrians have lacked basic necessities like food, shelter and health care. But they also lack the ability to return home — the one thing many of those displaced want most.
Over five years, the mass displacement of Syrians has become an international conversation — and, at times, a fiery debate. Yet the debate over whether to aid refugees often glosses over something essential: humanity.
The statistics, after all, aren’t merely numbers. They represent lives in crisis.
A new campaign called #IamSyrian hopes to reframe the current narrative around the crisis, shifting the focus on those who need it most — Syrians themselves.
The campaign, launched by the World Food Programme at the London Syria conference in February, encourages social media users to use the hashtag #IamSyrian to draw attention to the stories and struggles of those who have been living through war.
The campaign also hopes to encourage a global conversation about what all nations and people can do to help end the crisis.
Gregory Barrow, head of the World Food Programme liaison office in London, said:
“We are now five years into the crisis in Syria, and we have to work harder to keep the world engaged with the issues behind the conflict and the basic needs of the millions of Syrians whose lives have been turned upside-down,”
“#IamSyrian provides an opportunity for people to show solidarity by sharing the stories of ordinary men, women and children who have been affected by war and, by doing this, demonstrating that the world still cares.”
The campaign will roll out new content and rally participation every month leading up to the U.N. General Assembly in September. For the first stage of the campaign, the World Food Programme has released photos and stories of those most impacted by the conflict.
Four years ago, Aliye heard the sound of rain in the middle of the night, so she asked one of her four daughters to gather the laundry hanging outside.
But her daughter responded, “No, it is not raining. They are dropping bombs.”
Two days later, Aliye’s family had to leave their home.
Displaced as a refugee for four years, Aliye still longs for the life she had in the city of Raqqa before the war — the stability, the familiarity, the community. Now, she says she can’t help but cry when she thinks of Syria and what she’s lost.
“If I had the choice, I would go back to Syria today,” Aliye says. “My tears won’t end until I go back home.”