Eighty-Three Percent of Syria’s Lights Extinguished after Four Years of Crisis

Eighty-three percent of all the lights in Syria have gone out since the start of the conflict there, a global coalition of humanitarian and human rights organizations has revealed ahead of the fourth anniversary on March 15.

Analyzing satellite images, scientists based at Wuhan University in China, in co-operation with the #withSyria coalition of 130 non-governmental organizations, have shown that the number of lights visible over Syria at night has fallen by 83% since March 2011.

“Satellite imagery is the most objective source of data showing the devastation of Syria on a national scale,” said Dr. Xi Li, lead researcher on the project. “Taken from 500 miles above the earth, these images help us understand the suffering and fear experienced by ordinary Syrians every day, as their country is destroyed around them. In the worst-affected areas, like Aleppo, a staggering 97 percent of the lights have gone out. The exceptions are the provinces of Damascus and Quneitra, near the Israeli border, where the decline in light has been 35 percent and 47 percent respectively.”

The #withSyria coalition also today released a hard-hitting film and launched a global petition that calls on world leaders to ‘turn the lights back on in Syria’ by:

  • Prioritizing a political solution with human rights at its heart;
  • Boosting the humanitarian response both for those inside Syria and refugees, including through increased resettlement;
  • Insisting that all parties put an end to attacks on civilians and stop blocking aid.

In 2014, the UN Security Council adopted three resolutions that demanded action to secure protection and assistance for civilians in Syria. Since then, thousands of Syrians have been killed, and more people have been displaced or are in need of help than ever before. A new report ‘Failing Syria’ also released today accuses warring parties and powerful states of failing to achieve what these resolutions set out to do.

Notes to Editors:

  • The analysis of satellite imagery of Syria was conducted by Dr. Xi Li of the Laboratory for Information Engineering in Surveying, Mapping and Remote Sensing at Wuhan University in China. These figures were updated from Dr Xi’s (2014) study published in the International Journal of Remote Sensing, in which he and Prof. Deren Li analysed the effect of the Syrian Crisis on levels of night-time light as a means of evaluating and monitoring the conflict. By comparing the levels of light in March 2011 and February 2014, they found that in all of the provinces, the levels of night-time light had declined sharply following the breakout of the conflict. Indeed, in most provinces, the level of night-time light decreased by more than 60%. The authors also found that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from each province showed a linear correlation with the level of night-light loss.
  • The province-by-province percentage decline in light is as follows: Idlib (96%); Al-Hasakah (77%); Al-Raqqah (96%); Al-Suwayda (80%); Quneitra (47%); Latakia (88%); Aleppo (97%); Hama (87%); Homs (87%); Daraa (74%); Deir ez-Zor (90%); Rif Dimashq (78%); Tartus (87%); Damascus (33%).
  • These satellite images, spanning the four years of crisis, are available for download here.
  • The #withSyria coalition is a movement of humanitarian and human rights organizations from around the world, standing in solidarity with those caught in the conflict. More information, including a new petition and global campaign film available here: www.WithSyria.com.
  • The full list of signatories to this release is:ACT Alliance; Alkarama Foundation; Alliance for Peacebuilding; American Friends Service Committee; Amnesty International; Andalus Institute for Tolerance and anti-Violence Studies; Arab Coalition for Sudan; Arab Foundation for Civil Society; Arab Organisation for Human Rights – Egypt; Arab Organisation for Human Rights – Libya; Arab Organisation for Human Rights – Syria; Arab Program For Human Rights Activists; Badael Foundation; Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society; Broederlijk Delen; CAABU (Council for Arab-British Understanding); CAFOD; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; CARE France; CARE Germany; CARE International; CARE Luxembourg; CARE UK; CARE USA; Caritas Australia; Caritas Czech Republic; Center for Victims of Torture; ChildrenPlus; Christian Aid; Church of England; Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC); Darfur Bar Association; Dawlaty; Development and Peace; Doctors of the World UK; Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network; Fédération Internationale des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH); Fraternity Birati Center for Democracy and Civil Society; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Global Center for R2P; Global Communities; GOAL; Governance Bureau – Sudan; Hand in Hand for Syria; HelpAge International; Human Rights & Democracy Media Center (SHAMS); Human Rights First Society – Saudi Arabia; Human Rights Watch; Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS); International Rescue Committee (IRC); Islamic Relief; Justice et Paix; Karam Foundation; Lebanese Center for Human Rights; Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH); MAP UK; Médecins du Monde (MdM); MENA Coalition to Stop use of Child Soldiers; MercyCorps; Middle East and North Africa Partnership for Preventing of Armed Conflict; Najda-Now; No Peace Without Justice; Nonviolence Network in the Arab Countries; Norwegian Church Aid; Norwegian Refugee Council; One World Egypt; Open Doors International; Open Doors UK & Ireland; Oxfam International; Pax Christi International; People In Need; Permanent Peace Movement; Physicians for Human Rights; Protection Approaches; Refugees International; Refugee Council; Relief & Reconciliation for Syria AISBL; Rethink Rebuild Society; Save the Children; Sawa for Development and Aid; Solidarités International; Souriyat Association; South Africa Forum for International Solidarity (SAFIS); Sudan Social Development Organisations (SUDO UK); Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS); Syrian Athletics Body; Syrian Community in Egypt; Syrian Relief and Development; Syrian Women Hand in Hand; Tearfund; The Day After Association; The Syria Campaign; The Violation Documentation Center in Syria; Trocaire; United to End Genocide; Welthungerhilfe; World Food Program USA; World Vision; World Vision UK; Zarga Organisation for Rural Development (ZORD) – Sudan.

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  • Analyzing satellite images, scientists based at Wuhan University in China, in co-operation with the #withSyria coalition of 130 non-governmental organizations, have shown that the number of lights visible over Syria at night has fallen by 83% since March 2011.