First Person

Syrian refugee gives Secretary Kerry an earful

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Kids living in Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. Photo: Karl Schembri/Oxfam
Kids living in Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. Photo: Karl Schembri/Oxfam

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Jordan’s Zaatari Refugee Camp today, home to roughly 115,000 Syrian refugees. Syria’s two-year civil war has killed nearly 100,000 children, women and men and left millions in need of urgent humanitarian aid.

Secretary Kerry spent time with six refugees who, according to a Reuters news report, “vented their frustration at the international community’s failure to end Syria’s more than two-year-old civil war.”

According to the article, a Syrian woman said this to Kerry:

Where is the international community? What are you waiting for? We hope that you will not go back to the States before you find a solution to the crisis. At least impose a no-fly zone or an embargo.

The US, as a superpower, can change the equation in Syria in 30 minutes after you return to Washington.

Mr. Secretary, if the situation remains unchanged until the end of Ramadan this camp will become empty. We will return to Syria and we will fight with knives.

Kerry told reporters:

Well, I think they’re frustrated and angry at the world for not stepping in and helping. … I think that President Obama has made certain that the United States of America is doing a huge amount here, and the American people should be very proud of the amount of their contribution to what is happening here. It’s the largest in the world. So we are working at this. It’s not simple. It’s not easy. But I share their passion and frustration for the plight that they face on a day-to-day basis, the destruction of their homes, their villages, their cities, and the loss in many cases of many members of their families. So this is not easy, and that’s why we’re all working to try to find a solution to it.

Today, Syria is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. With summer temperatures reaching their peak, Oxfam is doing more to save lives—aiming to help 650,000 people in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria over the coming months. We are working to protect families from the risks and indignities of war and displacement. We are providing access to shelter, food, and clean water for drinking and washing, to prevent the outbreak and spread of communicable disease like cholera. But millions more Syrians inside the country and living on the margins in neighboring countries are in need of humanitarian aid right now.

As President Obama said last year, preventing atrocities “is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.” The crisis in Syria is an atrocity. More than 4 million children—a population larger than Los Angeles—need help.

Although the United States has acted admirably to pledge humanitarian aid to the crisis, President Obama has announced plans to inject more arms into an already violent war. Instead, the United States, with Russia and the United Nations, should do much more to bring the warring parties together as soon as possible to negotiate an end to the war.

It may not be “simple,” but it is clear: Syrians need our help.

Oxfam is delivering essential supplies and services to children and families who have fled the violence in Syria—and we urgently need your help. Make a donation now. Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+