Syria: Civil War and Refugee Crisis

Syria: Civil War and Refugee Crisis

The Syrian Civil War is in its eighth year, and the conflict and resulting refugee crisis are prominent global issues. It is important for students to learn about the war — whether it just be the basics or a more in-depth discussion — so they can become more informed members of the global community. Take a look at our guide for teaching about Syria, which explains the origins of the war and refugee crisis and helps students understand larger themes of sectarian conflict and oppressive governments.

Also, click here for a list of vocabulary terms about the Middle East, which can be helpful to have on hand when teaching this topic.

***Some materials may contain images of war that may be upsetting to students. It is recommended that teachers review all content in advance.***


Background Information

Lesson Plans and Teaching Materials

Films & Documentaries

  • The White Helmets — Academy Award-winning documentary following Syria Civil Defense volunteers as they attempt to save lives in Aleppo (41m; available on Netflix)
  • Hell On Earth: The Fall Of Syria And The Rise Of ISIS — Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested paint a portrait of war-torn Syria through visceral footage and stunning interviews (1h 39m; available on YouTube and Amazon Prime for $3.99)
  • The Last Men in Aleppo — Academy Award-nominated documentary documenting the life of the Syrians still fighting for their lives in Aleppo (1h 50m, available on Netflix)
  • Salam Neighbor — filmmakers Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple follow the lives of Syrian refugees and document the brutal life in refugee camps (1h 15m; available on YouTube and Amazon Prime for $3.99)
  • Vice: What Syria looks like after 6 years of war — a firsthand look at Assad’s Syria (23m)
  • Vice: My Escape From Syria: Europe or Die — follows the perilous journey of 25-year-old Ismael 19-year-old Naseem as they try to reach safety in Germany (19m)
  • PBS: Children of Syria — “tells the stories of four children surviving in war-torn Aleppo, and their escape to a new life in Germany” (54m)
  • PBS: Inside Assad’s Syria — on-the-ground reporting and firsthand accounts from government-controlled areas of Syria (54m)
  • PBS: Syria Behind the Lines — Olly Lambert documents “the everyday lives of Syrian rebels, government soldiers and the civilians who support them” (54m)
  • PBS: The Battle for Syria — “an unprecedented portrait of Syria’s rebel leaders, the toll of the war on civilians and the outlines of a potential struggle for power in post-Assad Syria” (27m)

YouTube Videos



  • Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga — written in free verse about a young Syrian refugee who comes to the United States (the author is Jordanian-American)
  • Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini — from the author of the best-selling novel Kite Runner comes this powerful illustrated book composed in the form of a letter from a refugee father to his son
  • A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi — a fictional story of a Syrian family fleeing the country, written by a real-life journalist who has witnessed the civil war first hand
  • The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown— a graphic novel depicting “the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, exposing the harsh realities of living in, and trying to escape, a war zone”
  • No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria by Rania Abouzeid — “Award-winning journalist Rania Abouzeid dissects the tangle of ideologies and allegiances that make up the Syrian conflict through the dramatic stories of four young people seeking safety and freedom in a shattered country”
  • We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled by Wendy Pearlman — “an astonishing collection of intimate wartime testimonies and poetic fragments from a cross-section of Syrians whose lives have been transformed by revolution, war, and flight”
  • The Home That Was Our Country by Alia Malek — a narrative that “weaves acute political analysis with a century of intimate family history, delivering an unforgettable portrait of the Syria that is being erased”
  • Syria Speaks edited by Malu Halasa, Nawara Mahfoud, Zaher Omareen — “showcases the work of over fifty artists and writers who are challenging the culture of violence in Syria”

Click here for additional multimedia resources on Syria.

Need more info? Click here for a list of National Resource Centers on the Middle East.

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