It is virtually impossible to find the right words to comfort activists, relief workers, and others living inside Idlib when they describe the nightmare of daily life in the midst of the Syrian regime’s ongoing offensive. In recent days, a renewed bombing campaign by the Syrian regime and its Russian ally has displaced 200,000 and killed more than 100 civilians. People are fleeing from their homes for their lives, some only to find safety in the open air despite the cold winter.
Earlier this year, a sustained military campaign in the region displaced more than half a million people. Most are still living in overcrowded, informal camps that lack the most basic services like running water or toilets. One relief worker described the conditions in the camps as being “like the Stone Age.”
Now amid a new wave of fighting and displacement, things are only getting worse. And for the newly displaced, these camps are not even a choice. Many exceeded their capacity long ago, and others have been flooded by heavy winter rains.
People inside Idlib told Refugees International that conditions are beyond their imagination, even after seeing nearly nine years of brutal war. “I saw people sleeping in the streets. There was a family with a baby. I couldn’t help but think that their baby might freeze if they stay out in the cold,” a relief worker in Idlib city told me via WhatsApp. “The worst part is that I couldn’t help them.”
“It is beyond what words can describe. When is all this suffering going to stop? When is the world going to do something?” implored a displaced activist, relaying the widespread rage and despair in the province.
Apart from hollow words, including a tweet from U.S. President Donald Trump warning Russia, Syria, and Iran against killing “innocent civilians in Idlib province,” no world leader has taken any meaningful steps to stop the Syrian regime and its allies from committing more atrocities. Many inside Idlib feel that the world has let them down, repeatedly. However, they don’t want their suffering to go unnoticed; they do not want to be forgotten. “We want the world to know! We want the world to see!” a doctor responding to emergency medical needs in the province told me.
They say that the holiday season has made Idlib’s suffering even more painful. “Families worldwide are celebrating, and children are waiting for Santa Claus. Our sky is also alight… but only with fire and bombardment,” an activist in Idlib said.
Last week, China and Russia vetoed a renewal of a UN Security Council resolution that allows the delivery of cross-border humanitarian aid into areas of Syria that fall out of regime control, including Idlib. As the world watches, the Security Council must find a solution and renew this resolution before it expires on January 10. Otherwise, the lives of millions of Syrians will be at further risk. In the absence of a political solution to the conflict, supporting a pathway for this life-saving aid is the least the international community can do for the people of Idlib.