Website aims to bring home the reality of the Syrian crisis to individuals in western countries.
Photo Credit: If We Were Syrian

Syrian crisis brought home to G7 countries

A new website aims to make real the Syrian crisis for residents of G7 countries in hopes they will take action to help. Called If We Were Syrian, the site has seven tabs–one for each country, including, Canada--and clicking on them shows how the death and displacement statistics would play out in each one.

This Thursday, July 18, 2013 aerial view photo, shows the Zaatari refugee camp near the Jordanian-Syrian border. Reporter Shannon Gormley found the suffering and need so great she had to do something. © AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool, File

‘A hard time picturing nine million people’

“We hope what it will do is help put this crisis in context,” says website co-founder and Canadian journalist Shannon Gormley. “We hope it will help them picture just how bad the crisis has really become. I don’t know about you but I have a really hard time picturing what nine million people (displaced in Syria) looks like. But when you relate it to cities that I know very well and I care about, suddenly the numbers take on a new life.”

For example, in Canada, the equivalent of a Syrian crisis would mean everyone in the city of Sudbury would have died, and everyone in the cities of Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Markham, and everyone in all four eastern provinces would have fled their homes. The tactic seems to have worked very well.


Response has ‘exploded’

“We have been astounded by the strong response that we’ve had from people,” says Gormley. “We weren’t expecting it and we’re really grateful for it. We’ve been pretty shocked.” Gormley says the response has “exploded.” Major media outlets have requested interviews, major humanitarian organizations have offered support, and individuals, including refugees themselves, have responded in great numbers.

Website co-founder Shannon Gormley was astounded by the strong response. © Drew Gough

Refugees grateful

“I think the most inspiring thing has been receiving emails from Syrian refugees themselves telling us that it’s important to them that people show that they care. We’ve had a much stronger reaction from individuals than we’ve expected and now it’s time for governments to take action,” says Gormley.

Act Now

The website has an Act Now section where visitors are offered suggestions. They can tweet links that have been written for the purpose, there are sample letters to send to government representatives urging action, links are provided, and there is a list of humanitarian organizations offering relief to Syrian refugees so people can make donations.

Website illustrates how the Syrian crisis would play out if it were happening in the U.S. and other G7 countries. © If We Were Syrian

‘Western democracies would expect much more support’

After reporting on the Syrian crisis from different countries for a year, Gormley and fellow reporter Drew Gough had two reasons why they decided to start the website: first,“the level of suffering and the level of need is so great…and the second…is that the international community isn’t meeting those needs. It needs to provide more humanitarian aid but countries also need to open their borders to Syrian refugees.

“It struck me pretty powerfully that if western democracies were experiencing the same level of crisis that (they) would expect much more support from the international community,” says Gormley.

“That’s what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to show people ‘if you went through something like this, you’d want more support.’ And so we need to give that support.”

Categories: International, Society

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