The sound of planes flying overhead evoked a deep memory in me. A shudder escaped my shoulders, and my body tensed up until the fighter jets passed. The sounds hadn’t come from the sky but rather from my television, and the fear these sounds awakened in me were from an earlier time, when I was nine years old and fleeing the Persian Gulf War as a refugee.
I was watching “The White Helmets,” a new documentary about a group of Syrian volunteers who are the first to respond to barrel bombs and missile strikes. These unbelievably courageous first responders are often also victims of the war in Syria. As I watched these heroes, identifiable by the white helmets they wear, help a boy not much older than I was during the war, I was brought to tears.
The ongoing civil war in Syria has devastated the country’s population. During the past 5 years nearly 13 million Syrians have fled their homes to escape the conflict, as my family once did. On September 19 the United Nations will host a Summit for Refugees and Migrants to develop a more coordinated international response to the enormous Syrian refugee crisis.
The crisis has put significant strain on countries surrounding war-torn Syria. Jordan, for example, recently said the volume of incoming refugees (1.3 million) is putting unsustainable pressure on the country’s water, financial, and social infrastructure. The global impact of 12 million displaced people requires an international response. On September 20 President Obama will host a Leaders’ Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis to discuss how countries can collaborate and do more to help.
In the United States opponents of accepting Syrian refugees have cited the 2015 terrorist attack in Paris and 2016 attack in Brussels as evidence that terrorists masquerade as refugees and pose a threat to national security. Yet the claim that the refugee program could be abused and lead to terrorism belies the facts.