As many of you might remember, I wrote a piece last semester explaining what was going on with the Egypt revolution: how it happened, who started it, and what resulted. I’m kicking off this semester by talking a little bit about Syria.
I’m sure many have heard about Syria in the past few years. Even if you don’t follow the news, the country’s name comes up once in a while. The Syrian Civil War started in March of 2011, and since then, the country’s economical and political government has been crippled by a brutal war. Over an estimated 100,000 people have been killed, and more than 2 million people have fled Syria to its neighboring countries, with over half these refugees being children. This war is being waged by President Bush Al-Assad and the rebel forces who want him out of office.
So, how did this start? The Syrian government has a history of censorship. When 15 schoolchildren had written anti-government graffiti on walls, they were arrested and reportedly tortured. This led to a slight backlash where protesters called for democracy and wanted the children released, as well as greater freedom for the people in the country. Al-Assad’s Government did not like opposition and on March 18, 2011 the government responded angrily by opening fire on the protesters and killing four of them. The following day, police officers and soldiers shot at the victim’s mourners at their funeral, killing another civilian. These actions greatly angered the people of Syria, leading to demands of Bashar Al-Assad’s resignation, which he refused. When violence started to worsen, Al-Assad offered to change a few laws, but the protesters did not believe him.
Many different groups and organizations want Assad to step down, such as exiles, political parties like the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and People’s Will Party, and rebel fighters. The main governmental opposition is the Free Syrian Army, which is the main army fighting against the national government. This is not to say there are not any peaceful groups trying to propose an alternate plan and make peace. However, the firepower comes from smaller armies within Syria that are hostile towards the national army, some being quite extreme.
The international community has jumped in. They have found that chemical weapons were being used when the Syrian capital of Damascus was attacked. The Syrian government denied being a part of the attacks saying, “There is no country in the world that uses a weapon of ultimate destruction against its own people.” They blamed the bombings on rebel forces.
The US and Great Britain were reluctant to act on this topic because they do not want to get involved with Russia. Russia supplied Syria with weapons in the past, and the two national governments are good friends. Would the US be willing to go to war with Russia over Syria? Probably not. But even Russia agreed that Syria must destroy its chemical weapons. So the removal process of the chemical weapons has begun, and the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the people involved with the destruction of these weapons.
The people who suffered most from this war are the Syrian population. Civilians have gotten mixed up in the fighting and crossfire. A lot of them have been displaced from their homes and are taking refuge in neighboring countries such as Turkey. As of now, one million children have been forced to flee the country, and the Red Cross is unable to provide aid because they feel it is too difficult and too dangerous to work in Syria.
As you can see, the situation in Syria is rather dire. There is a stalemate between the government and rebel groups. The government military had been receiving special aid such as medicine, food and communication equipment. But recently, the US and Great Britain have ceased support because they fear the rebel group will try to seize these rations. What will happen within Syria? Will President Al-Assad prevail? Or will the rebel groups succeed in their revolution? Only time will tell.