Syria’s prolonged and bloody conflict extends beyond the physical battlefield into the virtual one. In the war-torn country, all major parties involved in this tragic war rely heavily on the internet to promote their own narrative, project power and mobilize supporters. Outside of Syria, foreign patrons and backers use digital platforms to support their military forces and allies on the ground, replicating the international proxy war in the cyber-space.
But the digital domain has not just been used by the warring parties and their allies: international and domestic civil society and humanitarian groups have also been active in the digital sphere.
After five years of bloody and prolonged war, the war has resulted in an unmitigated humanitarian catastrophe. To respond to it, humanitarian actors have had to develop new ways to provide assistance and to bear witness to the suffering of ordinary Syrians. While it might be going too far to say that these digital humanitarians are “winning” the Syrian digital conflict, their ingenuity and courage ought to be recognized.
Before describing some of innovations by humanitarian groups, let’s be clear about what they are up against.