As US-Led War Continues, What Happens to Civilians Wounded and Displaced?

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As US-Led War Continues, What Happens to Civilians Wounded and Displaced?

'There is only talk of extremism and Islamic State, but not the women and children who are killed, the bodies torn apart, the stomachs blown open, which is what doctors are dealing with each day.'

Syrian Kurdish refugees cross the border into Turkey after fleeing fighting between Kurdish forces and ISIS militants around the city of Kobani in north-east Syria September 2014. (Photo: UNHCR / I. Prickett)

Syrian Kurdish refugees cross the border into Turkey after fleeing fighting between Kurdish forces and ISIS militants around the city of Kobani in north-east Syria September 2014. (Photo: UNHCR / I. Prickett)

The United States has entered the new year pledging to lead a war on ISIS for "as long as it takes to prevail." But what of the Syrian civilians whose lives have been upended by years of conflict and whose plight is used, in part, to justify U.S.-led military intervention?

According to a group of Syrian doctors and aid workers, ordinary people are being neglected by the international community.

"Between 30 to 60 people are dying each day since the bombings started," said Tawfik Shamaa, spokesperson for the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations (UOSSM), an association of 14 non-governmental organizations that provide aid to regions of the Levant, including besieged areas of Syria.

The organization met on Monday with officials of France—whose government, a participant in the U.S.-led war, provides a majority of the group's funds, according to Reuters.

"There is only talk of extremism and Islamic State, but not the women and children who are killed, the bodies torn apart, the stomachs blown open, which is what doctors are dealing with each day," Shamaa continued.

The statements come amid grim warnings from United Nations officials about the crisis of civilian displacement.

Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, declared at an annual meeting of Turkey's ambassadors in Ankara on Tuesday, "The Syria and Iraq mega-crises, the multiplication of new crises and the old crises that seem never to die have created the worst displacement situation in the world since World War II."

"This is a world where conflicts multiply and the old ones are not solved and the result is, of course, a dramatic impact from the humanitarian point of view," Guterres added.

The United Nations announced in November 2014 that at least 13.6 million people have been displaced by the wars in Iraq and Syria—a number that has since risen during an especially violent time for both countries.

However, since 2011, fewer than 191,000 Syrians have been allowed to resettle in countries outside of the region, according to a New York Times article published last month.

The United States has only taken in 300 Syrian refugees so far—in a closed-door policy that has garnered heavy criticism, given the key role the country has played in sowing the crisis and the rise of ISIS. European states, especially Britain, France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, have been especially reluctant to take in Syrians. According to a September 2014 report by the charity Oxfam, wealthy nations, especially the United States, are failing to provide adequate resettlement or aid to Syrian people.

By comparison, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt have accepted approximately 3.8 million Syrian refugees, the Times article states. However, the Lebanese government recently announced that it will begin imposing stringent new visa requirements on Syrians seeking refuge, adding to the difficult circumstances refugees face when fleeing violence.

Meanwhile, it is still not clear exactly how many civilians are being killed and wounded by U.S. coalition attacks. Despite numerous reports of civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon has repeatedly denied such killings and refused to provide information to the public.

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