Politics made easy: Whats happening in Syria?

The civil war in Syria began in 2011 and in the 5 years or so since it erupted, it is estimated to have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people. The war is being fought between two groups; the soldiers who support the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad and a group of fighters known as rebels, who do not want him to be in power.

 

Why and How did it start?

The conflict began in the Syrian city of Deraa, after local citizens decided to stage a peaceful protest when 15 schoolchildren were arrested and reportedly tortured for writing anti-government graffiti on a wall. The protestors asked the government to release the children and give greater freedom and democracy to the Syrian people. Sadly, the government responded very aggressively to this request and on the 18 March 2011, its army opened fire on protesters, killing four of them.

The following day, the army again opened fire on mourners at the victim’s funerals, killing one more person. This event is thought to have initiated wide-spread unrest throughout the entire country, as people demanded President Bashar al-Assad resign from his position, which he refused to do. Levels of violence became so heightened within the country that in 2012, the International Red Cross declared it to be in a state of civil war.

 

Who are the rebel fighters?

Establishing who are and who are not rebel fighters can often be tricky, as they are not just one group of people but are in fact made up of several groups who are all opposed to president Assad’s regime. The rebels include normal every day citizens of Syria, political party members and people who have been exiled from the country. It is estimated that there are currently around 100,000 rebel fighters in Syria, however this number is growing bigger every day. 

 

Who else is involved?

In recent years, the problems within Syria have escalated to its neighbouring countries. In early 2014, a radical militant and extremist group known as ISIS began taking over large parts of the country. Maintaining a violent and aggressive approach against anyone who did not share their religious views, they quickly moved into the Eastern part of Syria. Once there they began taking over large areas of land. This began a rather strange scenario, leaving both Assad’s forces and rebels fighting against each other and ISIS.

In September 2014, the United states, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates began using airstrikes to attack ISIS fighters who were on the ground in Syria. One year later, in December 2015, the United Kingdom also began to intervene, carrying out airstrikes in an attempt to remove ISIS from the country.

 

What impact has the war had on the Syrian people?

The conflict in Syria has had a devastating impact on its people, forcing millions to flee their homes and find safety in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. Those who have had to leave have largely become known as ‘asylum seekers’, ‘immigrants’ or ‘refugees’. Since 2011, many European countries, such as Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Greece and Spain have also welcomed asylum seekers into their country. However, the journey for Syrians escaping to these countries can be very unsafe, with many risking their lives to travel across the Mediterranean sea to reach Europe. Sadly, a huge number of Syrian refugees have died whilst attempting to complete this journey and increasingly, more and more European natives are voting against allowing Syrian refugees to settle within their country. 

It has resulted in one of the largest mass refugee movements in recent history but there are still many Syrian people who have voluntarily stayed behind or are trapped within the country. Whilst various agencies and charities want to help the Syrian people-who are quickly running out of fresh food and water-getting aid to them is extremely dangerous. 

Chemical Weapons 

After initially denying the use of chemical weapons, which are banned in international war, the Syrian government later confirmed it had in fact utilised them. In September 2013, Russia, who are strong allies with Syria, suggested that the government give up these weapons and agree to destroy them. The process of destroying the weapons began in October 2013 and the people who worked on this project were later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

What does the future hold for Syria?

Sadly, whilst the US, Russia, Britain and France continue to discuss ways of achieving a peaceful resolution to the ongoing war in Syria, within the country, much remains the same. Syria as we know it, with its rich culture and history has been brutally reduced to a fraction of its former self. Homes, schools and mosques have been demolished and thousands of lives has been lost. For the foreseeable future, the conflict is likely to continue until both the rebels and the regime can forge a peace treaty. If and when this is done, Syria will then have to strive to rebuild and re-mould itself into a normal and functioning society. 

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