The Museum has been closely monitoring the conflict in Syria since its outbreak in April 2011. The violence has already cost the lives of well over 100,000 Syrians, displaced millions more, and involved numerous atrocities and crimes against humanity.
In February 2014 the Museum sent a delegation to Jordan to bear witness to the plight of refugees fleeing the violence in Syria. In one of the worst humanitarian crises the world has seen in recent decades, some 9 million civilians—almost half the population of Syria—have been displaced from their homes and approximately 2.4 million are now living as refugees in neighboring countries. The delegation returned to the United States with a clear sense that thousands more civilians will starve to death, be displaced, or be killed unless there is a much more vigorous effort from the international community to halt the conflict and address the growing humanitarian crisis.
In June 2012, the Museum expressed grave concern about the escalating violence in Syria and warned that the increasingly sectarian nature of that violence could, if unchecked, lead to genocide. In March 2013, the Museum issued a report by Ambassador Frederic C. Hof analyzing that sectarian nature and concluded that the longer the conflict lasts, the greater the danger is of widespread sectarian mass atrocities and even genocide in certain areas.
In this video, Ambassador Hof discusses the situation in Syria.
Ambassador Hof also wrote a Washington Post op-ed (external link) in which he discussed the tough policy decisions the United States faces regarding engagement and support for the Syrian opposition.
In June 2013, the White House confirmed that Syria’s Assad regime had used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, in several small-scale attacks. In August 2013, the Museum issued a statement about the confirmation that chemical weapons had been used again—this time on the outskirts of Damascus—resulting in widespread death and injury.