Are Syrian 'safe zones' even safe?

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

Obama says Syria 'safe zone' a practical problem

Images of a young boy covered in blood and ashes have gone viral, etching into so many minds the grave nature of the continued, cruel war in Syria.

The nearly five-year war has resulted in the killing of over a quarter million Syrians and the forced exodus of at least 4.8 million more, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It is inarguable that Syria and the Syrian people are in dire straits. In an effort to flee the ongoing violence in their home country, millions of Syrians have sought refuge elsewhere, with the United States just declaring this week that they've accepted their 10,000th Syrian refugee within a period of 11 months.

RELATED: The 10,000th Syrian refugee in less than a year arrived in the United States today

However, the idea of admitting Syrian refugees into the United States has become a point of political contention in the midst of this rancorous presidential election season. Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has repeatedly called for a ban on allowing in Syrian refugees and for "extreme vetting" for all other refugees before entering the country. But the GOP nominee has also been steady in calling for the use of "safe zones" in the region as an alternative to resettling refugees in the United States.

On Wednesday, during a sweeping speech on his immigration policy, Trump suggested that when he enters the White House, he will call on the government to suspend immigration from Syria. Instead, he offered this proposal: "For the price of resettling one refugee in the United States, 12 could be resettled in a safe zone in their home region."

So, what are these "safe zones," and are they, as their names suggest, a safe alternative for the long embattled Syrian people?

"As long as there is no clear mechanism to protect these areas in a war zone like Syria, 'safe areas' are usually far from safe," Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director for Human Rights Watch Nadim Houry told Rare.

PHOTOS: Going to school in Syria:

17 PHOTOS
Going to school in Syria
See Gallery
Going to school in Syria
Internally displaced children attend a class inside a cave in the rebel-controlled village of Tramla, in Idlib province, Syria March 27, 2016. A group of people, who live in a cave, have set up a school for children during the day. The cave accommodates around 120 students, divided into two shifts. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi 
Girls attend a discussion under a riddled roof during a celebration marking the end of the school year in the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria May 21, 2016. The sign on the curtain reads in Arabic, "Childhood in the United Nations, between the dream and reality". REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh 
Girls wait in line during a celebration marking the end of the school year in the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh 
Internally displaced children walk up the stairs of a cave after attending a class in the rebel-controlled village of Tramla, in Idlib province, Syria March 27, 2016. A group of people, who live in a cave, have set up a school for children during the day. The cave accommodates around 120 students, divided into two shifts. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
Internally displaced children attend a class inside a cave in the rebel-controlled village of Tramla, in Idlib province, Syria March 27, 2016. A group of people, who live in a cave, have set up a school for children during the day. The cave accommodates around 120 students, divided into two shifts. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi 
A teacher conducts a lesson for internally displaced children inside a cave in the rebel-controlled village of Tramla, in Idlib province, Syria March 27, 2016. A group of people, who live in a cave, have set up a school for children during the day. The cave accommodates around 120 students, divided into two shifts. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi 
Internally displaced children attend a class inside a cave in the rebel-controlled village of Tramla, in Idlib province, Syria March 27, 2016. A group of people, who live in a cave, have set up a school for children during the day. The cave accommodates around 120 students, divided into two shifts. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi 
Girls wait on a staircase during a celebration marking the end of the school year in the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh 
Internally displaced girl Yusra Ahmad, 13, attends a class inside a cave in the rebel-controlled village of Tramla, in Idlib province, Syria March 27, 2016. A group of people, who live in a cave, have set up a school for children during the day. The cave accommodates around 120 students, divided into two shifts. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi 
Internally displaced girl Shahed Shahine, 13, attends a class inside a cave in the rebel-controlled village of Tramla, in Idlib province, Syria March 27, 2016. A group of people, who live in a cave, have set up a school for children during the day. The cave accommodates around 120 students, divided into two shifts. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi 
Girls attend a class celebration for successfully completing the school year, in the rebel-held besieged town of Douma, eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh 
Damage is seen inside 'Syria, The Hope' school on the outskirts of the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town, in Idlib province, Syria June 1, 2016. The school is partially occupied and it teaches students until fourth grade. The building that is heavily damaged was used by government forces as a base before the rebel fighters took control of the area. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi 
A defaced image of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is pictured on a wall inside 'Syria, The Hope' school on the outskirts of the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town, in Idlib province, Syria June 1, 2016. The school is partially occupied and it teaches students until fourth grade. The building that is heavily damaged was used by government forces as a base before the rebel fighters took control of the area. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi 
A boy stands in a mobile educational caravan for children who do not have access to schools on the outskirts of the Syrian rebel-held town of Saraqib, Idlib province March 10, 2016. The group "Saraqib Youth Gathering" created a mobile learning caravan to reach children who have no access to schools in the area. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi 
Children look out of the window of a mobile educational caravan for children who do not have access to schools on the outskirts of the Syrian rebel-held town of Saraqib, Idlib province March 10, 2016. The group "Saraqib Youth Gathering" created a mobile learning caravan to reach children who have no access to schools in the area. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi 
Girls walk through a damaged corridor inside a school in the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria May 24, 2016. The writing reads in Arabic, " Your shelling will not let the creativity in our hearts and minds die." REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh 
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

One glaring historical example of how "safe areas" or "zones" can go terribly wrong is Srebrenica, a town in Bosnia that was designated a "safe area" by the United Nations in the 1990s where civilians could flee the Bosnian war. In 1995, the town became the site of a genocide that killed thousands of people because the area was not sufficiently secured.

"Without the consent of warring parties in Syria, it would be virtually impossible to guarantee the protection of civilians in a so-called 'safe zone' in Syria," Kate Gould, who directs the Middle East policy program at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, told Rare.

"On the contrary, a 'safe zone' would concentrate civilians in one place, making them an easy political target for the [Syrian President Bashar] Assad regime as well as ISIS and other extremist non-state actors. Like Srebrenica, a 'safe zone' without the consent of warring parties risks becoming a death trap for civilians rather than a sanctuary," Gould said.

RELATED: For some countries, the Olympics are a bright spot during dark days

Currently, the United States is operating a de-facto "safe zone" in the region, which, according to former Ambassador James Jeffrey, is born out of a concrete strategy on Syria. "What we have now is de-facto or quasi zones generated by U.S. reaction" to the Assad regime "without a comprehensive policy process, end goal," Jeffrey told Rare.

SEE: Syrian children, refugees and soldiers:

1 PHOTOS
Syrian children, refugees and soldiers
See Gallery
Syrian children, refugees and soldiers
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The rise of ISIS and other international factors has also complicated the already fickle situation in Syria. Barbara Slavin, the Acting Director for the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told Rare that she once supported the use of safe zones as a "way to protect displaced Syrians and give them a place they could go without having to leave the country."

"Trapping Syrians on the edge of a warzone is no substitute for protection as refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Europe, the U.S. or elsewhere," Gerry Simpson, the Senior Refugee Researcher with Human Rights Watch, told Rare.

The hesitation surrounding the feasibility to successfully enact and protect a "safe-zone" in the region has not slowed the calls from Trump and others for these zones to be the foremost policy answer to the growing refugee crisis born out of the ongoing war in Syria.

"We want to do safe zones in Syria. I will get the Gulf States, who are not doing much, believe me. The Gulf States have nothing but money. I'm going to get them to pay," Trump suggested earlier this year at a campaign event, proposing that the United States will push for air and ground safe-zones in Syria, but that the Gulf States would finance the endeavor.

"Donald Trump's suggestion that a 'safe zone' could be an alternative to allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S. is utterly irresponsible and should be condemned by both proponents and opponents of 'safe zones,'" Gould told Rare.

"Civilians in Syria need protection, but this protection should not be used as a pretext to prevent them from fleeing if they wish to. The right to seek asylum is a basic and essential right," Houry said to Rare.

RELATED: Students run mobile amputee clinic in Syria:

21 PHOTOS
NTP: Students run mobile amputee clinic in Syria
See Gallery
NTP: Students run mobile amputee clinic in Syria
Khamis (L), 24, fits an artificial limb on nine-year-old Salma's amputated leg in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Khamis (R), 24, helps a man with an amputated leg walk using an artificial limb in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A boy with an amputated leg walks using an artificial limb in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A broken artificial limb is seen inside a mobile truck clinic in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Men with amputated limbs wait to be inspected in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A man with an amputated leg exercises using an artificial limb in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Khlouf, 25, prepares an artificial limb for a man with an amputated leg in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A boy with an amputated leg exercises using an artificial limb in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
An artificial limb is baked in an oven inside a mobile truck clinic in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A man with an amputated leg poses for a photograph wearing his artificial limb in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A young man with an amputated leg poses for a photograph standing by his broken artificial limb in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Khamis, 24, pours gypsum in a bucket to make a mould for an artificial limb inside a workshop in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Khamis (L), 24, talks with a man with amputated legs in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Khamis (L), 24, examines an amputated leg of a man in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Khamis, 24, files an artificial limb inside a workshop in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Artificial limbs are stacked on a shelf inside a mobile truck clinic in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A man carries his brother with amputated legs towards a mobile truck clinic in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Khamis, 24, (Back) and Khlouf, 25, prepare an artificial limb inside a mobile truck clinic in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
An artificial limb lies on a table inside a mobile truck clinic in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Khamis, 24, files an artificial limb inside a workshop in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria March 20, 2016. Two university students forced to interrupt their studies have learnt to make and fit hundreds of new limbs in the past four years in opposition-held areas of Syria. A mobile clinic operating from a truck has gone some way to improve access to treatment. While most patients are between 15 and 45, the clinic also helps children and the elderly with replacement limbs. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi SEARCH "SYRIA AMPUTEE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

More from Rare:
Here's what Colin Kaepernick did on "Salute to the Military" night in San Diego
A mom and other adults cheered as pissed off teen girls brawled in the front yard
Parenting this baby is not what she expected, so she is suing again

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners

20 Folks Recall Shocking Interview Moments That Made Them NOT Want the Job 20 Folks Recall Shocking Interview Moments That Made Them NOT Want the Job
Man Suspects His Wife Is Cheating On Him - Then His Daughter Reveals What's Really Going Man Suspects His Wife Is Cheating On Him - Then His Daughter Reveals What's Really Going
Nature Gets Revenge On Safari Hunter Who Killed Elephants And Lions For Sport Nature Gets Revenge On Safari Hunter Who Killed Elephants And Lions For Sport