A US TikTok Ban Could Devastate Syrian Refugees

Syrian refugees rely on TikTok for survival and many of their donors are Americans.

Valentine Wiggin
3 min readApr 26, 2024
Syrian rebel flag (green, white, and black bands of equal width with three red stars placed side by side in the middle)
The Syrian rebel flag that I’ve seen in the refugee camps

Note: This is not the official flag of Syria. I have specifically chosen to display this flag because more of the refugees in Syria seem to identify with this flag over the official flag.

Syrian refugees have been on TikTok for a while. In fact, a few years ago, TikTok came under fire for taking 70% of the money that these refugees made from gifts. Gifts are small widgets that enable netizens to give money to their favorite creators. Because of TikTok taking such a large portion of the proceeds, many Syrians on TikTok have asked for direct donations.

When the House passed legislation to ban TikTok, many creators voiced concerns about the futures of their businesses and careers as creators. Others have said that banning TikTok is a form of censorship, especially since many young people use TikTok to watch major events unfold in real time and challenge media narratives that we see as unfair or misguided.

As an American who comes into frequent contact with Syrian refugees via TikTok, I am concerned about how a TikTok ban will affect this vulnerable population. These refugees mostly live in tents that are ineffective at sheltering from harsh conditions that come with a desert climate. They flood during storms and various insects crawl in and bite anyone who stays inside. Even without a TikTok ban in the US, many refugees are struggling to get by. Some are even dying of starvation in front of their viewers’ eyes.

Many Syrian refugees on TikTok appeal specifically to Americans knowing that there are around 150 million of us on TikTok and that we are generous people. The USA placed 5th in 2023 and 3rd in 2022 in the World Giving Index. With the exception of 2021, the USA has consistently placed in the top 10 for having people who are willing to donate their money and labor to people in need. With both of these factors in mind, Syrian refugees appeal to a large and generous demographic.

It is not known exactly how many donations Syrian refugees receive from from Americans, especially since individual audiences can vary widely among different refugees and their families. After all, a ban in the US would cut down potential donors and gifters by a significant amount. Without aid from the World Food Program, an estimated 12.9 million people in Syria are at risk for starvation.

Between the ongoing civil war and 2023 earthquake that also affected Turkey, Syria has faced years of severe economic disruption for years. Some refugees have also told me that aid gets in, but it’s not nearly enough to survive. Not only that, but some of them need things, such as medications or surgeries, that aren’t available in aid packages. One of these, people, Bashir Hashem, is trying to raise money for spinal surgery.

A TikTok ban in the US has the potential to financially devastate Syrian refugees due to drastically shrinking a pool of potential donors that Syrians would have access to. Knowing that many Syrian refugees specifically appeal to Americans, banning us from this app could drive them into even more dire straits.



Valentine Wiggin

Death-positive, sex-positive, and LGBTQ-affirming Christian. Gen Z. I hate onions. She/her