The Slatest

Satellite Images Show Syria Plunged Into Darkness by War

March 2011


February 2015


The images above are a stark illustration of the effect of four years of civil war on Syria. The first of the images, released Thursday by the WithSyria coalition, shows a night view of the country in March 2011, just as the country’s unrest was beginning. The second, from February 2015, shows a country plunged into darkness. The city of Aleppo in the northwest, Syria’s largest city and the site of some of the heaviest fighting between the government and rebels, looks almost completely extinguished.

Analysts from China’s Wuhan University, working with WithSyria, estimate that the light visible from Syria at night has decreased by 83 percent since the war began. In Aleppo it’s 97 percent; in Raqqa, the capital of ISIS, 96 percent.

With the four-year anniversary of the conflict approaching, the photos’ release comes on the same day as a new report from a coalition of 21 aid agencies blasting the U.N. Security Council for failing to enforce resolutions passed last year demanding an end to attacks against civilians and access for humanitarian aid. The report estimates a 31 percent increase in the number of people needing humanitarian assistance in Syria in 2014, including 1.33 million more children, and a 26 percent increase in the number of people forced to flee. Thanks to the ongoing fighting involving government forces, rebel groups, and ISIS, more than 4.8 million people are living in areas that aid agencies can reach only sporadically or not at all.

“Despite passing three UN Security Council Resolutions in 2014, violence in Syria has intensified, killings have increased, humanitarian access has diminished, and the humanitarian response remains severely and chronically underfunded,” the report states.

This week also brought a new report from Medecins Sans Frontières detailing the impact of the Assad regime’s barrel bombs, which have caused thousands of civilian casualties, particularly around Aleppo.

It should be pointed out that despite the international attention focused on ISIS—and a U.S. approach to the conflict that rebels groups accuse of being tacitly pro-government—the vast majority of the casualties and destruction in Syria have been caused, and are still being caused, by Bashar al-Assad’s forces.