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What The People Of Aleppo Need Is Our Outrage

15/12/2016 16:32

I'm lucky enough to work for one of the largest (and in my opinion best) humanitarian organisations in the world. We've been responding in Syria since the start of the conflict and watched in utter despair as the situation reached new unimaginable levels of horror.

In recent days I've had a number of phone calls from people or media who are preparing "What you can do to help the people of Aleppo" type posts.

One person said to me: "People want to know what they can do to help the people of Aleppo. You know, practical things like sending food and clothing". I know he is right, and I know that this motivation comes from a good place, but I couldn't help finding myself getting irrationally angry.

Don't get me wrong, all that stuff is great. And desperately needed. I worked in the Balkans for six months at the end of last year and the start of this year on the European "refugee crisis". I saw first-hand how the coats and shoes people donated really made a difference in sub-zero temperatures. But even then, I remember so many of my friends saying they were collecting clothes to send out - and I was angry.

I was angry because we have never stopped and asked WHY we want to help? Is it guilt? Or is it because we really want to do anything we can to ease the suffering?

The people who we are now so desperate to help were fighting for freedom. Freedom that we have; to say what we want without fear of persecution, to protest peacefully and have our voice heard.

And how are we using that freedom... a cycle of ignorance followed by a startling dose of guilt which we appease by stuffing a shoe box full of toys or depositing our old jumpers in the local community centre to be shipped out. We've done our bit.

If the goal is to feel better about ourselves then mission accomplished, but I don't believe that's the case. I believe that the majority of us really want to make a difference and the reason I find it so frustrating is that there is something a lot cheaper and easier to give the people of Aleppo that will do that. Your outrage!

Don't feel overwhelmed by the scale of the horror - or turn away because it is too upsetting. Don't not share something on social media, or not join a protest because you feel embarrassed. Don't think that social action is something that belongs only to the 'lefties' and students.

Don't think that we can't make a difference because it is "Governments" who should be doing more. Government's answer to us!

Last year when Alan Kurdi's body washed up on the shore of Turkey we were all so unified in our shock, outrage and despair that our Government heard us. In the days that followed, our now Foreign Secretary said that the Government needed to look closely at what more they could do for the people of Syria. Let's remind him of that.

We have a voice, and that voice has power, so use it for the people of Aleppo. Shake off that British trait of not talking about something for fear of it being awkward. Write letters, sign petitions, host events, join peaceful marches, post things on social media - just keep talking about the people of Aleppo.

In a film currently doing the rounds on social media, a teacher in eastern Aleppo tells us: "We didn't want anything else but freedom". I found those words agony to hear. It's time that we use our freedom, take pride in our outrage and use them for the people of Aleppo.

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