Yet one more horror in a war that has delivered them almost daily, the mass exodus of Syrians through a narrow opening in a chain-link fence at the Syrian-Turkish border this past June nevertheless stood out for what it showed about the sheer complexity of the human catastrophe now unfolding in Syria. The US has accepted fewer than one thousand Syrian refugees so far—more made it through that hole in the fence during a few hours.
In sheer numbers alone, the scale of Syria’s humanitarian crisis is difficult to grasp: a third of the country’s 22.5 million people have abandoned their homes; 10 percent have fled the country, including more than one million children. The crisis has also been hard to understand because the Syrians who have fled are dispersed in hundreds of villages, towns, and cities across the region. These photographs, taken during reporting this summer in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq, show some of the many different situations in which the refugees now find themselves.
By last September, the number of Syrians fleeing abroad had grown to more than 300,000, a figure that doubled again over the following three months. In March of this year, it reached one million. At the beginning of September, more than two million Syrians had left the country, while the average pace had reached five thousand people a day. The UN projects there will be 3.5 million refugees by the end of the year.
Among the many consequences of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the plight of millions of Iraqi refugees is seldom mentioned. The stories of such people as Burhan Abdulnour, whom we met in Sweden in 2008, have hardly been told.