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Syria Deeply Aims To Boost Awareness of Ongoing Civil War

Heights Staff

Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 16:02

For most Boston College students, the civil war in Syria seems, quite literally, half a world away. For seven international studies and political science majors, though, the conflict has become a personal one.

The founding members of the BC chapter of Syria Deeply, an international news platform dedicated to disseminating information concerning the Syrian situation, these students, including Kathryn Turlo, A&S ’13, call the endeavor an attempt to educate the public on a war that has gone largely unnoticed in the American media. “Most of us did this out of frustration,” Turlo said. “We know what’s going on, but we know a lot of people don’t.”

For Turlo, the decision to join Syria Deeply is also a personal one. Studying abroad in Jordan last semester, the site of many Syrian refugee camps, she witnessed firsthand the escalation of the refugee problem. “When I was there, the refugee situation was just starting to become a real crisis,” Turlo said. “My host mom, among others, would say, ‘We don’t want the refugees here.’ They recognized that they needed help, but Jordan is still a poor country, and it doesn’t have the necessary resources. People also worried about the possibility of radicalism in the camps. These were political refugees, fleeing an oppressive regime, and the people in Jordan worried about what they might do.”

“As an outsider, it really made me think,” she said. “Where are these people supposed to go? From then on, I became involved in following the Syrian crisis.”

Joining Syria Deeply offered Turlo the opportunity not only to follow the crisis, but to become involved in educating others as well. It began as the launch program of News Deeply, an initiative of journalists who recognized the need for a more comprehensive circulation of foreign affairs. As she explained, “It is the only place you can get all the information on Syria in one website.” The goal of such a news source is twofold: “We seek to combine information and knowledge with engagement in order to affect faster change than would occur in the normal news arena.”

Even so, the organization does not actively support one side or another in the conflict. “Syria Deeply isn’t a political organization,” Turlo said. “They’re not backing any political platform or focusing on one particular group. They’re just trying to spread awareness and get facts from the ground.”

The leap to college campuses makes sense, given the age group’s technological advantages. “They feel that young people are the most able, and the best equipped, to spread awareness about an issue like this,” Turlo said.

The organization held its first fundraising event on Tuesday, Feb. 12 to support one of Syria Deeply’s campaigns, Caravan Aid, in conjunction with El Pelon, which donated 15 percent of its sales that night to the organization. “All proceeds will go to the Zatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. Our fundraising will go towards building warmer, more stable, and more comfortable housing for them,” Turlo sad.

Having come into existence only this semester, Syria Deeply has yet to attain official status as a BC organization, which makes fundraising difficult, as the group cannot advertise on campus. Still, says Turlo, “It was a good start. It was the first event we had, and now we’re really going to focus on raising awareness around campus.”

Building this awareness remains the focus of Syria Deeply’s mission. “The situation there is so complex that it’s very easy for people to brush the conflict off and say it doesn’t matter,” she said. “But regardless of how it ends up, Americans need to be paying attention. Whoever ends up in power, it will have major international repercussions, and it will affect American interests. That’s why it’s so frustrating that people don’t know what’s going on.”

But even more importantly, Turlo emphasizes the need for awareness to stop the violence. “It has been almost two years since the start of the conflict,” she said. “Over 70,000 people have died, mostly civilians, and there are over four million in need of assistance. These facts are staggering. This is a civil war, and it’s teetering on the edge of ethnic cleansing.

“This is an extreme humanitarian crisis, and every day that goes by without something being done, more people are dying.”

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