Why Syrians are risking everything to reach Europe, explained in 9 devastating photos by Zack Beauchamp

VOX– It took an image to wake up the world to the Syrian refugee crisis. The chilling photograph of toddler Aylan Kurdi’s body washed up on the Turkish shores, after a failed attempt to flee to Europe, forced people to start thinking about what it meant that 4 million Syrians had become refugees — and what needed to be done to help them.

But what people might not understand is just what they’re fleeing from. The situation in Syria is truly dire: The civil war has killed more than 250,000 people since it began in 2011, and forced about half of Syria’s 22 million people from their homes. What that looks like, in practice, is nearly unimaginable: entire neighborhoods leveled, and millions of people living in squalid, dangerous conditions. These nine photos illustrate just how bad life has gotten for many Syrians today.

Click on photos to see as slideshow

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