Speaking from my own experience, you cannot truly grasp the full scale of the refugee crisis in the Middle East until you’ve experienced their state of living first hand.
But if you can’t (or don’t want to) actually see what it’s like for the millions of refugeesstruggling to survive after fleeing the violence in their homeland, the next best thing is to speak with somebody who has–and there aren’t many people who can provide better insight than Carol Malouf.
Malouf is a Lebanese journalist turned socio-political activist who has spent the past few years immersed in the thick of the tragedy brought on by the beginning of the Syrian civil conflict in 2011. She recently filmed a soon-to-be-released documentaryduring which she accompanies refugees on their journey from the shores of Turkey to Germany–walking many miles in their shoes.
Before Malouf was an activist in the Middle East, she reported on the region extensively as the Senior Middle East Producer and founding member of Al-Jazeera English.
In December of 2013, the municipality of Arsal reached out to her to ask if she could use her influence to shed light on the situation of 400 Syrian families trapped in a ‘no-man’s land‘ by the deadly storm “Alexa.” Not only did Malouf cover the story, she did something much greater–she founded an NGO dubbed “Lebanese For Refugees(L4R),” which has gone on to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars to aid Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Malouf has since been at the forefront of several charitable efforts in the region including the House of Mouneh project and, most recently, a social media campaign that raised over $80,000 for a Syrian refugee she helped locate after a photo of him selling pens on the street with his daughter asleep in his arms went viral.
Speaking over the phone, I asked Malouf if she could share with me some details of her time spent up close and personal with the catastrophe and what she has learned from her experience. She recalled to me reporting in the region when the conflict began and being shocked when political protests quickly evolved into an all-out “war by proxy.”
“The atrocities that were committed after the peaceful demonstrations were the turning point,” Malouf said. “I saw a lot of human rights abuse against the people of Syria.”
“But I also saw the opposition arm itself. I watched as it turned from a peaceful protest into a violent war.”
As the fighting has continued to escalate in Syria, European countries have been scrambling to effectively relocate the unrelenting waves of refugees that have continued to arrive at their borders. The media has begun to uncover the truth of just how dangerous these long journeys can be for refugees fleeing the Middle East: thousands have lost their lives desperately searching for a peaceful existence.
Malouf said she made arrangements to accompany a group of refugees on their trek from Turkey to Germany shortly after news outlets released the story of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old refugee boy who drowned along with his brother and mother when their family attempted to travel from Greece to Turkey in a 15-foot rubber raft.