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Towson-Based Humanitarian Group Providing Relief to Syria

Updated: Tuesday, September 3 2013, 10:33 PM EDT

While Washington lawmakers debate the future of Syria, a Towson-based humanitarian aid group is dealing with the realities of that conflict.

Though the International Red Cross is having trouble reaching Syrians in some of the most dangerous regions, locally based International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has unprecedented access and is delivering aid in those areas now.

From his office in Towson, Mark O'Hanian shares photos of Syrians waiting for help. His organization is getting through with food and other essentials in Western Syria, an area in which the Red Cross has had trouble in providing aid. IOCC is delivering essentials such as blankets, stoves, kitchen utensils and mattresses. It has been delivering aid to regions of Syria for more than a decade and already had a delivery system in place.

Right now IOCC is delivering supplies to 11 of the 14 Syrian regions, and while O'Hanian wants to leave politics to the politicians, humanitarians worry about Syria's future.

"You cannot deal with fire," O'Hanian said. “With more fire it will generate more need more crisis…more humanitarian catastrophe. We have enough on our hands as it is."

Another perspective: Maryland has almost six million people while in Syria, seven million people have lost their homes and are now considered refugees.

Towson-Based Humanitarian Group Providing Relief to Syria


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The Syrian civil war, (also known as the Syrian uprising or Syrian crisis) is an ongoing armed conflict in Syria between forces loyal to the Ba'ath government and those seeking to oust it. A part of the larger Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring, the conflict began March 15th, 2011 with local demonstrations that grew in scope to become nationwide by April 2011.

Protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in Syria since 1971, as well as the end of Ba'ath Party rule, which began in 1963.

The Syrian Army was deployed in April of 2011 to stop the uprising, and soldiers fired on demonstrators across the country. After months of cities and neighborhoods being cut-off by the Army the protests evolved into an armed rebellion.

The Arab League, United States, European Union, and other countries condemned the use of violence against the protesters. The Arab League suspended Syria's membership as a result of the government's response to the crisis, but granted the Syrian National Coalition, a coalition of Syrian political opposition groups, Syria's seat on 6 March 2013.

According to the UN, about 4 million Syrians have been displaced within the country and 2 million have fled to other countries.

Syrian government supporters include Russia and Iran, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia are providing material and weapons to the rebels.


 
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