Because the neighboring countries forbid humanitarian aid, out of fear of political military repercussions, assistance is in the form of cash only, in order to stay under the radar and out of danger. The NGO apologizes for the lack of transparency in this particular case, but this is a direct result of the fear that is dominating in the region right now due to Assad’s reign of terror.
ABOUT THE REFUGEES
During these missions, the NGO has encountered mostly women and children whose husbands and fathers stayed behind in order to keep the struggle alive. The refugees fall into three main categories:
1. Syrians traveling legally. These refugees carry legal documents and valid passports, and usually belong to the higher socio-economic classes. They cross the border legally and go through a short military investigation and are then released and are then able to rent homes and build lives in the host country.
2. Syrians traveling illegally. These refugees, usually from lower socio-economic status, illegally cross the borders, do not go through military investigations and are not processed or listed. They try desperately to blend and disappear into the local villages. They are not eligible for any aid because they do not officially reside anywhere.
3. The detained. This category includes healthy men, women and children who have been caught by local armies in neighboring countries and are held in army bases for an uncertain time. They are subject to rigorous investigation and their numbers are unknown. Rumors among the other refugees state that some are even forced returned to Syria turned over to Assad. It goes without saying that their fate is then known.
The NGO has been sending ongoing missions to help the refugees in neighboring countries, despite facing some significant challenges. One of the most difficult challenges is the resistance of the host countries, those absorbing large numbers of refugees. They all fear Assad’s wrath – political, diplomatic, economic and even military retaliation – and therefore are reluctant to publicly admit that they are absorbing Syrian escapees, and do not allow humanitarian aid to be brought in and distributed. Not only must volunteers hide from the host country, they also have to be aware of the presence of Iranian and Syrian intelligence personnel who have infiltrated and work under cover, disguising themselves as refugees. They bring information back to the Syrian government, including numbers and names, and also work actively to frighten and hurt the refugees. There have even been reports of infiltrators poisoning the water sources of the refugees.
As a result, the Israeli NGO works with cash only: in order to buy the humanitarian aid locally, to stay under the radar, and protect the lives of volunteers and local contacts.
WHAT THE REFUGEES NEED
The humanitarian needs of the Syrian refugees include the following:
• Medical. Mostly open infected wounds, viral infections usually from the close quarters.
• Children. In shock from the long journey, many having seen their mothers and sisters raped violently by many soldiers while they are made to lie with their heads in the sand until it is over. Young boys are often filled with rage, and girls suffer from shock and nightmares, and all wonder when their fathers, homes and friends and families will be reunited with them.
• Women. Some women are pregnant from rape by Syrian soldiers during their escape. Abortions are not allowed in hosting Arab countries leaving them to a verdict of giving birth to their tormentors’ child. Women plead for abortions: “My only options are to either pray for my husband’s death in this war, or else I will have to somehow make an accident happen for this baby…That is what everyone in this situation does…it is either my husband or my baby…”
Despite widespread reports and media coverage of rampant massacres, rape, pillaging and torture of men, women and children is going on, there has been little response from the international community. Ironically, although Israelis are officially warring enemies of the Syrians, the Israeli NGO has been one of the most fearless and undaunted in the face of the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
Despite the political and diplomatic potential repercussions, the NGO has chosen to go in and make a difference in people’s lives, regardless of nationality or religion. While the rest of the world sits and watches, the Israeli NGO goes in to the danger zone, risking their lives, and offering as much basic human assistance as possible.
The response from the refugees has been incredible. When the Syrian refugees learn that the volunteers are from Israel, they often respond with hugs and kisses. They are eager to share their stories, their horrific experiences being political pawns of Assad’s regime for years. They seem tired from all the hate and atrocities.
The goal of the NGO is to enlighten others to the importance of humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees, while raising awareness about the complexity of the situation that Assad has created. The NGO has sent in seven missions thus far delivering life-saving food, clothing, supplies and medical aid to 80,000 Syrian refugees in hostile neighboring countries.
Tsunami : Sri Lanka, December 2004
Conflict : Darfur-Sudan, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Floods : Georgia-Chechnya, July 2005
Hurricane : “Katrina”, USA, August 2005
Earthquake : Pakistan-Kashmir, October 2005
Earthquake : India-Kashmir, October 2005
Earthquake : Indonesia-Jawa, May 2006
Cyclone : “Nargis”, Burma, May 2008
Conflict : Georgia-Russia, August 2008
Earthquake : Indonesia-Sumatrae, Sept. 2009
Some of the missions must remain confidential
in order to protect team members and local contacts.