Many parents in Syria worry about sending their children to school because of the dangers on the road to or at school itself. In 2014 alone, at least 60 schools were attacked, sometimes deliberately. In total, 5,000 schools cannot be used for this year. This is because they have been destroyed, damaged, converted to shelter the displaced families or used by the warring parties.
There can be no doubt that the Syrian crisis is spiralling out of control, and that US and EU attempts to develop anything that remotely resembles a coherent approach have been woefully inadequate. But it is not too late. Now is the time for our government to step into the vacuum; now is the time for our Prime Minister to show some leadership, and to start engaging in pro-active diplomacy in Moscow, Tehran, Washington, Ankara and Riyadh; now is the time for a roadmap to peace and stability... Clearly, we will have to compromise with Moscow and Tehran, and those compromises will certainly cause us discomfort along the way. The Syria crisis is a blood-soaked game of shadows. We must now learn and adapt to its rules; and we must start playing to win.
The truth is, I don't know what the hell to think. I don't want to drop bombs that kill innocent civilians. At the moment I can't see how more bombs upon bombs would help. But I also think sitting doing nothing is not an option either. I've spoken to Syrian constituents of mine who think the UK should take military action. I've also read accounts of Syrian children scared of the sky. For every action a perfect and equal opposite reaction. What galls me about this more than anything, is that my role in this, my vote, my shuffle through the lobby is so widely discussed and dissected in the media, by my party, by their party by people in the country and it is all still speculation. No vote has been called. No discussion has been had.
I ask a group of children what they want to be when they grow up. Half raise their hands to be teachers, the rest want to be doctors and engineers. These children are the future. Despite all the challenges, all my visits to the Middle East have been inspiring. As the Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish said, "on this land, we have what makes life worth living." The world failed Aylan. Can we help Amal make her life better?
This time it's not Crimea or Ukraine but President Bashar Hafez al-Assad's Syria where Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun to establish his very own 'Caliphate' in the Middle East. And because he has 'The Bomb' nations stand by helplessly as he defiantly ignores their condemnation and doesn't even wait to see if anyone will lift a finger to stop him.
In Europe, there are attempts to remove even the humanitarian framing - identifying hundreds of thousands of people as migrants who simply want to come to take our jobs, rather than as those who are in desperate need of protection and other assistance. This is a dramatic failure of responsibility at all levels of political leadership.
There has been precious little to praise about the regime of Vladimir Putin in recent years. His actions in stoking civil war in Ukraine and annexing the Crimea region is criminal under international law, his crackdown on political opposition and dissenting voices has seen numerous state-sponsored and the oppression that can be experienced in Russia by ethnic and religious minorities, and the LGBT community, is shocking and criminally under-reported here in the west.