One of the worst crises of recent times is the Syrian Civil War. A relatively peaceful rebellion against Bashar al-Assad’s regime turned into a full-scale civil war involving a number of political groups and several different countries. The brutal war has claimed the lives of over 380,000 people, destroyed towns and cities, and devastated the Syrian nation in numerous ways. Public agitation started on 15th March 2011, against Assad’s Baathist regime for its authoritarian rule. This unrest was violently suppressed by state forces, subsequently leading to an all-out civil war fought by different political entities. The worst sufferers have been innocent Syrian civilians whose lives have been shattered under horrifying circumstances.
As part of the Arab Spring, the Syrian people rose against their dictatorial government in 2011, demanding greater political rights and freedoms. Assad had been in power since 2000, taking over from his father after the latter’s death. Protests against government rule led to a violent crackdown by the state. This prompted a group of Syrian military personnel to defect in July 2011 as they refused to be a part of the national government’s attempt to use violence against its own citizens. After a period of three months, the Syrian National Council was established by a number of opposition political groups with the goal of removing Bashar al-Assad from power. In mid to late 2011, the US and European leadership asked Assad to step down and let “the will of the Syrian people prevail.” Nevertheless in October 2011, a UN Security Council resolution that would call for an immediate stop to the violence and sanctions was vetoed by Russia and China. In December 2011, a suicide bomb attack killed 44 people in Damascus, Syria, which the Syrian government accused of being linked to Al-Qaeda. As thousands of rebels started joining more extremist rebel groups, Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri praised the Syrian people for pursuing “jihad.” In mid-2012, a leading UN Human Rights official alleged that the Syrian regime had committed “crimes against humanity.” In July of that year, the Zaatari refugee camp opened in Jordan as thousands of refugees fled there to escape the violence in Syria.The violence intensified as hundreds of anti-government rebel groups took up arms to fight the Assad regime. Foreign powers quickly became involved in the crisis as they sent money, weaponry and soldiers while supporting different sides in the conflict. The ensuing chaos worsened as extremist entities such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS, with their own agendas, became involved in the civil war. Syrian Kurds have also been a part of the conflict as they have fought for self-government while not fighting against Assad’s forces. Saudi Arabia and Qatar financed the Syrian opposition during the initial phase of the war. Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah have been supporting the Assad’s regime militarily; Russia began conducting airstrikes and other military operations in 2015. The US-led international coalition has militarily targeted ISIS forces and some government and pro-government entities. Since 2015, the USA has actively supported the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (Rojava) along with its military wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). During different periods, Turkey has fought against the Syrian state, the SDF, and ISIS since 2016. Turkey has also supported the Syrian opposition and has gained control of large portions of Syria’s northwestern region while engaging in substantial ground combat. From 2011 to 2017, both pro and anti-government forces crossed over to neighbouring Lebanon to fight against each other. Al-Nusra and ISIS have both fought against the Lebanese Army in Lebanese territory. Israel has exchanged border fire and has continuously perpetrated strikes against Hezbollah and the Iranian military. All of this is evidence that the Syrian war has evolved into a massive conflict involving several players with multiple goals and objectives.
Over 50 per cent of the Syrian population have become displaced both internally and in foreign lands. Around 6.7 million are displaced within Syria while another 5.6 million have become refugees abroad. Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon are home to 93 per cent of the refugees and these nations have been struggling to a significant extent in dealing with one of the worst refugee crises of recent times. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has estimated that over 387,000 people have died while another 205,300 are missing. Nearly 117,000 of the dead were civilians while 88,000 are assumed to have died in state-administered torture camps. 2.1 million Syrians have become disabled or suffered injuries. The majority of the killings have been perpetrated by the Syrian government. The UN has accused all parties involved in the conflict of severe human rights abuses. As of January 2021, according to the UN, 13.4 million of Syria’s population were dependent on humanitarian assistance with 6 million in acute need. Over 12 million people were suffering from food shortages and more than 500,000 children remained chronically malnourished. In the past 12 months, Syria has suffered an economic downturn with its currency weakening severely and food prices increasing sharply. Syria has also been furthered battered by the Covid-19 outbreak.
A decade of fighting has left the Syrian nation utterly devastated. A people with a long and rich history of civilization have suffered from deaths, injuries, displacement, destruction of infrastructure, and medical and educational facilities, economic devastation, and so on. Entire neighbourhoods and heritage sites have been ravaged. Even after ten years, the fighting continues and no lasting peace solution has been seen yet. Bashar al-Assad’s ruthless hold on power continues, and the Syrian people are still denied basic political rights and freedom. In the years to come, it should be hoped that there will finally be an end to the brutal fighting and Syrians will, at long last, establish a free and prosperous country.
The writer is a Development professional. He can be
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