Without Aid, TikTok Users Support Syrian Refugees

Bashir is one of millions of displaced Syrians relying on TikTok to survive.

Valentine Wiggin
3 min readApr 18, 2024
3D rendering of the TikTok logo
Source: Eyestetix Studio on Unsplash

The Syrian Civil War is a bloody, protracted war that has lasted for 13 years so far and shows no signs of stopping. This war killed hundreds of thousands of people, including around 200,000 civilians as of January of 2024, and displaced over half of the population of Syria. These people were displaced both internally and externally. Around 6 million people fled to refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt while another 7.2 million were internally displaced.

This displacement created mass poverty. In 2024, 16.7 million people were found to need humanitarian aid. Unfortunately, the UN’s World Food Program had to stop giving Syria aid in January of 2024 aid due to a lack of funding. Between the earthquakes in 2023 and the aforementioned war, most Syrians struggle to survive. With widespread economic disruption, 90% of the population lives in poverty.

Among these people is Bashir, a disabled man with six children. He has told me on livestream that both he has gone for as long as three days without any food. During times of particular scarcity, Bashir and his children subsist on bread and water if they can find some. While fresh foods, such as meat, are possible to access, they are often overpriced and therefore not something that many people eat on a regular basis.

A small chicken can cost $10 and goat meat can cost $30 per kilogram. Since frying and roasting are not possible for Bashir and his family, these meats are boiled with onions, carrots, and salt. Salt is the only seasoning available to many Syrian refugees, which is a stark contrast to the rich spices and complex flavors of traditional Syrian cuisine. While many people abroad enjoy Syrian food, many Syrians themselves can’t indulge in this cuisine.

Due to the extent of the starvation and malnutrition that Bashir and his family have endured, one of his children currently has gastritis. As such, he has begged his viewers to donate so that he and his children can eat and seek medical care. In refugee camps, even the most basic medical care is scarce. This means that conditions that would be easily treatable in normal conditions can kill in refugee camps.

Making extra money in a refugee camp is not as simple as getting a job. Not only are paying jobs scarce or nonexistent in refugee camps, but they do not pay much. In Bashir’s case, he is physically disabled and cannot walk, much less do any sort of manual labor. This means that even if there were employment opportunities for Syrian refugees, he still wouldn’t be able to work. This means that streaming on TikTok is his sole source of income for him and his six children.

In addition to being a source of income, Bashir’s streams provide vital insight into the daily life of a refugee. Although mainstream news outlets can provide statistics and political commentary, these sources often fail to capture what life as a refugee is actually like. By following and interacting with refugees directly, netizens have information about refugee life that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Bashir is one of millions of Syrian refugees trying to survive and feed their families. Having lived for 13 years in the refugee camp, he and his children have suffered from chronic malnutrition and starvation. Being disabled, streaming is his only way of providing for himself and his family. Bashir’s situation isn’t unique among Syrian refugees either. According to the World Food Program, 12.9 million Syrians face food insecurity. With significant cuts to aid, this number will only rise.



Valentine Wiggin

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