NPR’s Deborah Amos: Syria faces “humanitarian catastrophe”
The war in Syria is at a stalemate and the two sides are engaged not only in traditional combat but in a battle of social media, according to NPR International Correspondent Deborah Amos, who spoke at CU-Boulder recently.
Amos described the hazardous life Syrians face on a daily basis. The rebels are fighting and their families have fled to southern Turkey for sanctuary; around 100,000 refugees currently live in Turkey. A majority of the refugees are women and children. “More than two-thirds of the children have seen a family member killed,” Amos said.
Amos’ talk was sponsored by the Center for Media, Religion and Culture at CU Journalism & Mass Communication, and by the Hennebach Center for the Humanities at the Colorado School of Mines, where Amos also spoke.
The rebels have claimed northern territories of Syria, where villages are now frequently without food and power and face military strikes daily. Still, she said some normalcy remains, with cultural attractions such as museums still open in some place.
With the villages under attack, the residents’ saviors, surprisingly, are terrorists – former Iraqi soldiers who provide the villagers with free bread, free fuel and protection from the Syrian military forces.
Syria’s uprising includes not just combat but a social media battle as well. The country’s population includes a large number of well-educated youth who are expressing their unhappiness with their government through social media. Through social media they have the power to show the world their economic plight and how their government offered little assistance before the revolt. The rebels also use social media as a recruiting tool, Amos said. The Syrian government likewise uses social media, not for recruitment but for funding. The government receives a large portion of its funding from Russia.
Is there an end to conflict in sight? No, Amos said. “They are in a stalemate.”
The continue uprising suggests around 3 million Syrians will be forcibly displaced this year. For Syrians, “2013 promises to be a staggering humanitarian catastrophe,” she said.
After the speech, Amos answered several questions from the audience, including one on the dangers of covering the conflict. Twenty-eight journalists have died so far. Amos said. One key is using a reporter’s instinct to find trustworthy sources, and then circling back to them to stay updated. Still, “this is the hardest reporting I’ve ever done. You don’t know where your safety is,” she said.