The Syrian civil war has plagued the country of its peace with millions of people fleeing to seek refuge within and in the neighboring countries. It has become one of the most brutal and horrific civil wars ever witnessed in the recent history, and it does not seem to end any time soon. According to the recent statistics, almost half a million Syrians have been killed so far and over 1 million injured due to the war. So, what led to all this?
How did the Syrian war begin?
It started back in 2011, when the rights of a group of people, in Syria, were violated by the government of Bashar al-Assad, who is the president. The government, under Assad, decided to act on the 15 boys who were caught writing political graffiti on the wall in an effort to oppose the government of the day. The 15 boys were detained which sparked peaceful demonstrations against Assad.
The one thing that angered protesters was the brutal torture and killing of a 13-year-old boy who was among the 15 boys detained. The boy, Hamza al-Khateeb, had a gunshot wound, broken neck, and some of his body parts were cut off which signified torture before he was killed. As a result, the protesters took to the streets in order to force Assad to resign.
This did not go well with Assad and therefore he chose to kill the protestors, in hundreds, and detained others for going against his regime. What started as peaceful demonstrations and protests turned out to be violent. This act by the Syrian government led to the formation of rebel groups who were against the Assad’s regime.
Who are the rebel groups?
There are a lot of rebels fighting the Assad army. Apart from the soldiers in the Syrian military who defected, civilians have also joined the rebel groups. In short, there are two groups within the country who are fighting against each other. This amounts to a civil war. One group supports Assad, while the other group is looking to overthrow the Syrian government.
The rebel group operated under the name Free Syrian Army, but it was not alone in this. There were other groups which joined the rebels to help fight the Assad, which included the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front and the Islamic Front. The rebel groups grew in number and they had about 100,000 soldiers to fight the war. So what crimes did Assad commit?
What crimes has Assad committed against his people
Apart from torture, killing and detaining Syrian citizens who challenged the government, Assad has gone an extra mile to launch a series of chemical attacks on his people. In 2013 a nerve agent known as sarin was used in Syria where it killed around 1,400 people. This was against an international law which prohibits the use of the chemical weapons by countries in wars. It was during this time that Russia and the U.S agreed that they should remove all the chemical weapons from Syria to avoid a similar attack in future. This was a good move since both the U.S and Russia were on opposing sides in the Syrian civil war. The chemical weapons were removed and destroyed.
However, Assad did not stop there, on the chemical attacks against his own people. In April 2017, another similar attack, took place where dozens of people were killed. This caught the international interest where the U.S and the UK said that it was Assad who launched the chemical attack. However, Assad, together with his ally, Russia, denied those claims. In response to that attack, the U.S launched missile attacks at the airbase which had aircrafts that were purported to have carried out the chemical attack. This was supported by the UK as the Assad government had violated the international law on the use of chemical weapons on civilians in wars.
How did the Islamic state in Syria (ISIS) come about?
Islamic state is an extremist militant group which first invaded Iraq. It is widely known for its violent acts on Christians and any other group that does not agree with what they stand for. During the civil war in Syria, the Islamic state found a great place to land in Syria and joined the war to fight the Assad regime. It was in 2014 when the group began to find its way in Syria after occupying a considerable section in Iraq, which neighbors Syria. In the eastern part of Syria, ISIS started to take over cities amidst the civil war.
It was until then, when the Assad army and the rebels realized that it is no longer a civil war, as ISIS had come into the picture. Both the Assad army and the rebel groups were fighting against each other and the ISIS militant group, at the same time. The invasion of ISIS has made the situation in Syria even more complicated as it is no longer a civil war. However, last year, the rebels backed by the American troops invaded ISIS where they were chased from Raqqa city, which was ISIS’s headquarter since 2014. This marked the beginning of the end of ISIS, but there are rumors that traces of the militant group in some parts of Syria, still exists.
What role does Russia and the U.S play in the Syrian war?
Russia and the U.S are on the opposing sides when it comes to the civil war in Syria. Russia is supporting the Assad government, while the U.S is supporting the rebels fighting to overthrow the government. In the midst of such a conflict, Russian troops already have an airbase of operation in Syria. Due to the conflict of interest between the U.S and Russia, they have always communicated when either side wants to launch airstrikes in Syria to avoid colliding. However, the US and Russia have been instrumental in making sure that the use of chemical attacks in Syria is eliminated. The US is, however, contemplating on a military solution to help end the war in Syria. On the other hand, Russia claims that no outsider can participate in the Syrian war to remove Assad as he is the legitimate president of the country.
Where and how are Syrians fleeing from the war
More than 12 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes. About half of those displaced have sort to seek refuge within the Syrian borders, mostly in the northern part of the country. They live in terrible conditions, as they are crowded in a small area which is not enough to accommodate all. The other half of the displaced civilians have become refugees in the neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Greece, and some are heading to the U.S. In an attempt to escape from the unrest in Syria, the refugees walk long distances to seek refuge.
Men, women and children die of hunger, diseases or killed in crossfires, within Syria, when attempting to escape from their homes. This huge outflow of refugees to other countries has led to social and cultural tensions due to their overwhelming numbers. In fact, the migration of the Syrian refugees to Europe has been greatly criticized and some of the routes have been closed. The risks associated with crossing the borders to find a safe haven in another country are there. They are at a risk of colliding with the warring parties who may either kill them or take the men hostage to fight in the war. For those crossing the Mediterranean Sea to access Europe, some end up dying in the quest to find a new home.
How has the war effected the Syrian people?
Apart from the displacement of millions of Syrians and the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, the refugee crisis has become a huge problem. With the displaced people seeking refuge in neighboring countries, the situation in those countries has become worse, due to the huge number they have to accommodate. They include poor sanitation, inadequate clean water, food, housing, and jobs. The health or medical services have been strained to a point where they are not enough for everyone. This has provided more room for the spread of communicable diseases with limited medical services to attend to the refugees. The situation is mainly the case in Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan which host the most refugees from Syria.
What next for Syria
It does not seem like the war in Syria is about to end. Assad’s forces and the rebel groups have not found a way to end the unrest in the region, which would result to a ceasefire, and restore peace in Syria. Even with the United Nations and other humanitarian and donor groups working towards delivering support to the people displaced in Syria, they are finding it hard to do so. This is due to the fear of being caught in the middle of the war as no one is safe. At the moment, international human rights groups including the UN have to keep engaging the two opposing sides. This will be in an effort to help them agree on how to end the war, which has span for almost 8 years.