And many Syrian refugees there are these bitter days. As of early November, 2012, close to 700,000 have fled their country with the UN now expecting close to one million by early next year if the fighting does not stop.
The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon who fled the violence in their homeland has increased sectarian tensions with one result being Syrian workers and refugees being targeted by elements of the Lebanese government.
Founded in 1942, as the French colonizers withdrew from this 7000 year old civilization which they occupied in 1917, as part of the English-French Sykes-Picot arrangement, the Syria Arab Red Crescent society became linked with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1946. SARC receives no government funding.
“When one of our people is killed we bury the martyr and by the next morning we have 20 or more new volunteers who want to take their place and bring aid to those trapped in the most dangerous areas. I must tell you that this hell we are living through-we are confronting directly—it has made me very proud of my people and to be Syrian. Inshallah, we will overcome this chaos and killing and we will be stronger than before as a people.”
“I said to UNCHR’s local administration, “We have noticed the many fine vehicles that you flew into Syria, and we have met some of the well paid staff that you have brought to help us, but please can you show us that you have to date delivered even one loaf of bread to our desperate people?”
Nor is SARC is without its critics.
Tawfik Chamaa, spokesman for the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations (UOSSM) speaking from his comfortable Geneva office issued an ad holmium broadside on 11/6/12 against the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society and its nearly 11,000 volunteers. He charged that cash or materials sent to SARC was being “confiscated by the regime. It will not reach the civilians who are bombed every day or besieged,” telling reporters in Geneva, “Ninety, even 95 percent of everything that is sent to Syrian Red Crescent headquarters in Damascus goes to support the Syrian regime, especially the soldiers.”
UOSSM itself has been criticized, as have a few other NGO’s working in Syria, for becoming politicized, polarized and for being inordinately top heavy administratively with bloated salaries and ” humanitarian team leaders” sitting in offices in Paris or Geneva and elsewhere far from Syria. Mr. Chamaa, himself, is a high salaried founding member of the Western group of 14 aid organizations from countries including France, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States.
On 11/8/12 exhibiting exasperation, a sense of foreboding and just a whiff of defeatism, ICRC president Peter Maurer to a conference in Geneva that “We are in a situation where the humanitarian situation due to the conflict is getting worse. And we can't cope with the worsening of the situation. We have a lot of blank spots, we know that no aid has been there and I can't tell you what the situation is or what we can do.”
In a late breaking development Friday morning, 11/9/12, the UN human rights chief expressed concern after the ICRC said it was struggling to deliver aid in war-ravaged Syria. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told AFP during an interview at the Bali Democracy Forum in Indonesia: "The fact that they've now said they are unable to perform their core functions makes the humanitarian crisis in Syria extremely critical. Nearly hopeless."