What it’s like to report on the Syrian war when no one is interested in it

Like other reporters, Richard Hall finds it difficult to write about the atrocities of the Syrian war. Why? Because readers are bored by it and the international community is unwilling or unable to stop it

Wednesday 26 February 2020 01:25
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Syrian children flee Idlib in ‘the biggest humanitarian horror story of the 21st century’
Syrian children flee Idlib in ‘the biggest humanitarian horror story of the 21st century’

Reporting on conflict often requires spending time with people at the lowest point in their lives. In the past few years I have interviewed survivors of genocide, victims of sexual slavery, children who have known nothing but war, a mother who survived an airstrike that killed her son, countless refugees in squalid camps who have no hope of going home and families stranded in the path of bombs with nowhere left to run.

As heartbreaking and difficult as these stories were, I felt there was a value to many of them. If their words and their pain were shared with the world, something might be done. Reporting on the Syrian war has been very different. Much of the time, my colleagues and I were writing about atrocities that the international community was unable or unwilling to stop, for an audience that had lost interest. And I can understand why.

As the war dragged on, massacres and war crimes became so commonplace that each was almost indistinguishable from the last. The capture of a city by the Syrian government followed a pattern of mass aerial bombardment, the bombing of hospitals, civilian death and exodus. It was the same story in Homs, Daraya, Aleppo and now Idlib.

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