Idlib has been the subject of a military campaign since 30 April this year. There have been over 800 deaths and the UN said it could become the ‘worst humanitarian disaster’ of the century
The Independent Voices
The other day I saw a report of an airstrike hitting a medical facility in Idlib, killing a paramedic and an ambulance driver. Not a legitimate military target, but a medical facility. Then, shortly after, an airstrike hit again. Charles Lister from the Middle East Institute described it as a “double tap … designed specifically to target rescue workers”. Then I checked the news for the outrage. There was none. Then I checked social media for the outrage. None there either.
We have just commissioned a YouGov poll which found that nearly one in four people in the UK didn’t know that the Syrian conflict was still happening or they thought it had ended. This apathy towards the conflict is a tragedy, because we need the world’s attention and scrutiny on Syria now as much as ever.
The governorate of Idlib has been the subject of a military campaign since 30 April this year. There have been over 800 deaths, including 200 children, which the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, Mark Lowcock, has warned could create the “worst humanitarian disaster” of the century. Civilians and their schools, hospitals and homes are increasingly being targeted by the violence. Four of the 53 schools that we run in Syria have been hit by an airstrike in the space of three
So, despite the raging carnage in Idlib, which has seen 450,000 people displaced, why is the UK less aware than ever about this conflict? Why do 20 per cent of us not know if the conflict is still going on or not in Syria and why do 3 per cent think it is over and done with?
Firstly, there’s Brexit. The political upheaval is taking up so much of the national bandwidth that other issues are not being focused on. Syria has also had to compete with Yemen, Iran, the Rohingya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Ebola crisis, as well as issues surrounding the US, Russia and China. Concern in foreign affairs is traditionally driven by the British left – however, Syria has been a cause the left has been comparatively reluctant to take up, with confusion on “whose side” leading figures in the British left are on – the regime or the rebels?
We found that awareness of the conflict in Syria was at its highest during the refugee crisis in 2015, following the heartbreaking scenes of the body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach and at the time when the UK had an existential discussion about how or if we should accept refugees, given that a symptom of the conflict was arriving on our doorsteps.