WASHINGTON, DC—Eighty-three percent of all the lights in Syria have gone out since the start of the conflict there, a global coalition of humanitarian and human rights organisations has revealed ahead of the fourth anniversary on March 15.

Analysing satellite images, scientists based at Wuhan University in China and the University of Maryland, in co-operation with the #withSyria coalition of 130 non-governmental organisations, have shown that the number of lights visible over Syria at night has fallen by 83% since March 2011.

“Four years since this crisis began, Syria’s people have been plunged into the dark: destitute, fearful, and grieving for the friends they have lost and the country they once knew,” said David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. “Four years since the crisis began, there is at present very little light in this tunnel. Over two hundred thousand people have been killed and a staggering eleven million have been forced to flee their homes. Syrians deserve much better from the international community – it is past time to show that we have not given up and will work with them to turn the lights back on.”

“Satellite imagery is the most objective source of data showing the devastation of Syria on a national scale,” said Dr Xi Li, lead researcher on the project. “Taken from 500 miles above the earth, these images help us understand the suffering and fear experienced by ordinary Syrians every day, as their country is destroyed around them. In the worst-affected areas, like Aleppo, a staggering 97% of the lights have gone out. The exceptions are the provinces of Damascus and Quneitra, near the Israeli border, where the decline in light has been 35% and 47% respectively.”

The #withSyria coalition also today released a hard-hitting film and launched a global petition at withsyria.com that calls on world leaders to ‘turn the lights back on in Syria’ by:

  • Prioritising a political solution with human rights at its heart;
  • Boosting the humanitarian response both for those inside Syria and refugees, including through increased resettlement;
  • Insisting that all parties put an end to attacks on civilians and stop blocking aid

Dr Zaher Sahloul, President of the Syrian American Medical Society, said: “The rise of terrorist groups crossing borders has spread fear and focused the world’s attention on Syria – but it has distracted governments from the suffering of ordinary Syrians and the abuses committed by all sides in this conflict. Every day Syrian medics, aid workers and teachers are taking enormous risks to help their neighbours and loved ones, while the international community continuously fails to pursue a political solution and an end to the violence and suffering.”

In 2014, the UN Security Council adopted three resolutions that demanded action to secure protection and assistance for civilians in Syria. Since then, thousands of Syrians have been killed, and more people have been displaced or are in need of help than ever before. A new report ‘Failing Syria’ released today accuses warring parties and powerful states of failing to achieve what these resolutions set out to do.

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council and former United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said: “2014 was the darkest year yet in this horrific war. Civilians are not protected as the Security Council promised they would be, their access to relief has not improved and humanitarian funding is declining compared to the needs. It is an outrage how we are failing Syrians.”

The full list of signatories to this release is:

ACT Alliance; Alkarama Foundation; Alliance for Peacebuilding; American Friends Service Committee; Amnesty International; Andalus Institute for Tolerance and anti-Violence Studies; Arab Coalition for Sudan; Arab Foundation for Civil Society; Arab Organisation for Human Rights – Egypt; Arab Organisation for Human Rights – Libya; Arab Organisation for Human Rights – Syria; Arab Program For Human Rights Activists; Badael Foundation; Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society; Broederlijk Delen; CAABU (Council for Arab-British Understanding); CAFOD; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; CARE France; CARE Germany; CARE International; CARE Luxembourg; CARE UK; CARE USA; Caritas Australia; Caritas Czech Republic; Center for Victims of Torture; ChildrenPlus; Christian Aid; Church of England; Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC); Darfur Bar Association; Dawlaty; Development and Peace; Doctors of the World UK; Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network; Fédération Internationale des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH); Fraternity Birati Center for Democracy and Civil Society; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Global Center for R2P; Global Communities; GOAL; Governance Bureau – Sudan; Hand in Hand for Syria; HelpAge International; Human Rights & Democracy Media Center (SHAMS); Human Rights First Society – Saudi Arabia; Human Rights Watch; Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS); International Rescue Committee (IRC); Islamic Relief; Justice et Paix; Karam Foundation; Lebanese Center for Human Rights; Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH); MAP UK; Médecins du Monde (MdM); MENA Coalition to Stop use of Child Soldiers; MercyCorps; Middle East and North Africa Partnership for Preventing of Armed Conflict; Najda-Now; No Peace Without Justice; Nonviolence Network in the Arab Countries; Norwegian Church Aid; Norwegian Refugee Council; One World Egypt; Open Doors International; Open Doors UK & Ireland; Oxfam International; Pax Christi International; People In Need; Permanent Peace Movement; Physicians for Human Rights; Protection Approaches; Refugees International; Refugee Council; Relief & Reconciliation for Syria AISBL; Rethink Rebuild Society; Save the Children; Sawa for Development and Aid; Solidarités International; Souriyat Association; South Africa Forum for International Solidarity (SAFIS); Sudan Social Development Organisations (SUDO UK); Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS); Syrian Athletics Body; Syrian Community in Egypt; Syrian Relief and Development; Syrian Women Hand in Hand; Tearfund; The Day After Association; The Syria Campaign; The Violation Documentation Center in Syria; Trocaire; United to End Genocide; Welthungerhilfe; World Food Program USA; World Vision; World Vision UK; Zarga Organisation for Rural Development (ZORD) – Sudan.

Find Out More



For further information, please contact Conor O’Loughlin at Crisis Action on conor.oloughlin@crisisaction.org or +44 7741 963333 or +44 207 269 9450.

PLEASE NOTE: Crisis Action works behind the scenes to enable our partners to respond jointly to conflict and crises. Crisis Action should not be cited in media reports.


Image courtesy of Christopher Charles
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