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Feminists Failed Aleppo. Here are a few things we can do.

As I write this, thousands of people are being evacuated from Aleppo.*

The U.N. estimates 400,000 civilians have been killed in the besieged Syrian city since the war started in 2011, deeming it the worst human rights disaster of our century. A city that took four thousand years to build has been utterly decimated. Civilians are tweeting their final goodbyes. Women are committing suicide to avoid being raped and tortured. Evacuees are leaving one war zone for another. And the world has, for the most part, done nothing.

The crisis in Aleppo did not happen overnight. This is a years long bloody conflict that has destroyed the city and its people through prolonged attacks that target hospitals and schools, the constant deprivation of basic necessities such as food, fuel, and medicine, and countless war crimes and crimes against humanity, including mass executions and gender-based violence.

All week, I’ve been asking myself: where do we go from here? How can we show solidarity? How can we atone for our failures as a feminist community that has stood by idly and watched? This is what I’ve heard we can do so far.

First, donate to relief efforts. Possibly the most effective thing you can do. Here are a few organizations to give to:

  1. The White Helmets, a group of 2,900 Syrian rescue workers, many of whom have been critically injured and killed in their attempts to save others.
  2. Hand in Hand Syria, a humanitarian organization established soon after the war began that has been providing aid in some of the most difficult-to-reach places.
  3. Doctors Without Borders, members of this organization have remained in the city and continue to help civilians even though an airstrike last month killed over 20 workers and patients.

Next, start reading. Start with this New York Times piece on the recent history of conflict in the Middle East, The Independent’This is the brutal effect of war on the women of Syria,” the International Rescue Committee’s Crisis Watch, Chandra Mohanty’s Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarityand this recap of Hillary Clinton’s role in the current crisis. Wanting to watch something instead? Check out the 1-hour Netflix documentary on the White Helmets.

Finally, volunteer your time. As The Independent notes, “medical professionals have helped saved innumerable lives by assisting the beleaguered doctors and nurses in Aleppo by giving advice via Skype.” Contact US-based SAMS, a medical charity that operates across Syria, for how to get involved. Alternatively, reach out to your local non-profit and/or mosque—they’re likely struggling to support the refugees that have reached your state. These organizations provide language courses, employment workshops, and support services for young people. The crisis in Syria affects people who live in our communities and they, too, need our support.

This past week, I’ve thought a lot about how so many of us call ourselves transnational feminists and yet, our concerns don’t extend beyond our nation’s walls. We talk about the intersections of global movements for justice yet we fail to show solidarity across borders. We discuss imperialism, colonialism, and global capitalism in our seminars and think pieces but stay mum when imperialist geopolitics destroys the lives of Syrian civilians. My commitment as a feminist of color requires me to recognize the political oppression of women and men across the world and acknowledge the ways my liberation is bound up in theirs. But I’ve failed. We have failed.

In the preface to This Bridge Called My Back, Radical Writings by Women of Color, Cherrie Moraga writes, “To view the world today through a feminist of color lens shatters all barriers of state-imposed nationality.” The crisis in Aleppo has showed me that the barriers haven’t been shattered. They’re firmly in place. Women in Aleppo are in grave danger and those of them who’ve been evacuated are still vulnerable and face uncertain futures. Right now, caring is not enough. Writing this article is not enough. And all I know for sure is that we fucked up. Our theories fell short. Our solidarity was not enough. Our feminism needs work.

Editor’s Note: *As this is being published, evacuations have once again been suspended.

Header image via Newsweek.

Durham, NC

Barbara writes for Latinxs, immigrants, and brown girls. She is not here for white tears, white feminism, or white guilt.

Barbara writes for Latinxs, immigrants, and brown girls. She is not here for white tears, white feminism, or white guilt.

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