It was since March 2011 that Syria has been slowly sinking into the turmoil of civil war. Millions have been rendered homeless in the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. The estimated number of the displaced is 11 million. A part of this population has fled to Europe and to other parts of the world, primarily to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
But they are not home.
Families have been separated and left to make perilous journeys without adequate resources. An entire generation of children has been irrevocably scarred with the ravages of war. They have no access to proper basic necessities, protection and education.
As the entire planet stands on shaky grounds with the epicenter of the Syrian crisis, we are staring at a big blank space regarding the collective future of humanity.
The link takes you to a Google lookalike page where you are asked to “Type here a question about your future” and hit the “Predict my future button”.
However, when you attempt to write anything, the page automatically writes “Where can I find a safe place?” in the search box. Among similar searches comes up questions such as “Will I be reunited with my family?” and “Is there a place where I can give my children a safe future?”
The website betagoogle.com, which is actually not connected to Google, was created to generate awareness on the condition of the Syrian refugees and makes us open our eyes to the fact that in a time when millions aren’t sure of their future, we click on a site thinking it will give some fun fortunetelling experience.
The site then takes us to a separate page and pleads us to “take a moment to think of their future” and do whatever little was possible for them.
“With this project we want to create awareness. We need structural solutions on political level for this growing European problem. Please feel free to donate your time, money or love and spread the word,” the webpage reads.
The page gives us the options to share the campaign on Facebook and Twitter and also provides links to images and videos of refugees. You can even donate to charity or check out local initiatives on the issue.
A ‘crystal ball’ on the right shows the number of refugees increasing the more time you spend on the site to emphasize how horrifying the present situation is.
Thousands of civilians who fled the city of Afrin are enduring dire conditions after they reached Syrian-controlled areas south of the Afrin district.
“More than 2,000 people reached the towns of Nubl and Zahraa from Afrin in the past 24 hours, raising the number of total civilians in the two towns to 16,000. Many are suffering from tragic conditions,” according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights website.
Turkish media announced the control of Afrin on Sunday, after the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) withdrew from the city and thousands of civilians were evacuated — 59 days after the launch of Operation Olive Branch, the Turkish military operation in Afrin.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement on Monday expressing deep concern about reports coming from the predominantly Kurdish city in the past 48 hours.
“It appears the majority of the population of the city … evacuated under threat of attack from Turkish military forces and Turkish-backed opposition forces. This adds to the already concerning humanitarian situation in the area, with United Nations agencies reporting a displaced population in or from Afrin district in the hundreds of thousands, who now require immediate shelter and other assistance to meet basic needs,” the statement said.
Destruction and looting
A number of reports circulated in the media said Turkish-backed forces were destroying and looting public and private properties after they entered the city.
The Afrin media center said once the Turkish-backed fighters reached the town center, they destroyed a statue placed in the center of the city that represents Kurdish cultural figure Kawa the Ironsmith.
“Kawa the Ironsmith is a major historical symbol for the Kurdish people, as it is linked to the most important Middle Eastern holiday, the Nawruz,” Afrin Media Center said.
Footage coming from Afrin also showed Turkish-backed fighters pillaging homes, shops and military sites amidst chaos. They were seen carrying food, electronic devices, civilian cars, farmers’ tractors and livestock.
Members of the Syrian opposition condemned the looting and destruction of the city and called for holding the looters responsible for their acts.
The General Military Staff of the Syrian Interim Government, an alternative government of the Syrian opposition, issued a statement Monday calling for the Turkey-backed Syrian rebels to protect civilians and their properties, and to respect religious and ethnic installations in Afrin.
In a comment to CNN, Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Erdogan, did not deny the reports of looting but said the actions were committed by some groups who disobeyed their commanders. He said reports were being investigated.
On Sunday, Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim told ANF, the Kurdish News Agency, that the fight in Afrin entered a new phase, where the YPG and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) will continue to resist in the district.
Muslim added that the civilians had to leave the city for their own protection and vowed to step up the fight.
“The existence of civilians in the city will impose a challenge for our fighters. Our enemy kills civilians and strikes hospitals, and since the Turkish offensive started, civilians were targeted. Now, the war will continue in a different way after civilians left the city,” Muslim said.
A number of humanitarian organizations and civil society groups working north and east of Syria, including the Kurdish Red Crescent, issued a joint statement calling on the international community to act.
“We plea to the international community to intervene immediately to stop these attacks and let the refugees return to their homes, protect their possessions and civil rights, and deliver aid to thousands of people [who] fled this war,” the statement said Monday. VOA