Chapel-en-le-Frith humanitarian reflects on ten years of horrors in Syria after returning from aid mission

It is a a decade since the Syrian conflict started but the millions of people killed, injured, or living in refugee camps have been forgotten by the rest of the world, a Chapel-en-le-Frith aid worker said.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 9:21 am
Updated Monday, 22nd March 2021, 9:51 am

Charles Lawley has been working with charity Syria Relief for several years and has just returned from a five-week mission to deliver aid and assist those in the Lebanese refugee camps on the Syrian border.

He said: “The atrocities these people have seen and are living through is truly horrendous.

"On this trip I met a 14-year-old girl who came home from school when she was seven to find her house had been hit by an air strike and her parents dead inside. She hasn’t spoken since – she has just shut down as her body couldn’t cope.

Charles Lawley has just returned from a five-week aid mission to help Syrian refugees

"There was a mother living in a tent in a refugee camp with her six children and she said she thought about killing herself and her children just so they wouldn’t have to be in the camp anymore.

"It’s a horrible life. These people have no home, they have escaped from the warzone which they called home to a refugee camp only to be told they can’t work or own property.

“People are waiting to die, one man I spoke to in his 70s said he hoped he caught Covid-19 so he could die.”

Charles Lawley has just returned from a five-week aid mission to help Syrian refugees

Before the conflict began, many Syrians were complaining about high unemployment, corruption and a lack of political freedom. Things took a turn after 15 school children were arrested and tortured for writing political graffiti.

The protests were peaceful to begin with, calling for the release of the children, democracy and greater freedom for people in the country.

The government responded by sending the army who opened fire on protesters, killing four people. The following day, they shot at mourners at the victims' funerals, killing another person.

People were angry and soon unrest spread to other parts of the country. By July 2012 the International Red Cross said the violence in Syria had become so widespread it was in a state of civil war.

Charles said: “Things spiraled and violence, bombing and air strikes were a way of life so people had no choice but to flee.”

Since the conflict began in March 2011, 5.5 million Syrians have been made refugees, and Syria Relief has been working to try and help those who have fallen victim to this political war.

Charles said: “We’ve built 306 schools, 14 hospitals and health centres but we are only papering over the cracks. Until there is a political solution the destruction and loss of life will continue.

"On February 25, 2020 ten Syrian schools were bombed while the children were sat at their desks and thousands of innocent children died.

"If that had happened in the UK there would be a state of mourning and a vow to stop these attacks.

"It feels the rest of the world has forgotten this is happening. These people didn’t ask for this conflict but they do need our help to say this isn’t acceptable.”

Over the last decade Syria Relief has provided aid to 9.4m people in need. To help them continue the good work you can donate at syriarelief.org.uk.