Facts About The Syrian War
More than 360,000 people are dead and more than 156,000 are presumed dead in Syria as a result of the Syrian Civil War that has been in motion since 2011. In addition to the death toll, the war has left more than a million with permanent disfigurations including lost limbs.
Backdrop of the Syrian War
Upon the death of Hafez al-Assad in 2000, the self-declared President of Syria in 1971, his son Basher al-Assad took the reins as President of Syria. Between July 2000 and August 2001, a movement known as the Damascus Spring of the social and political debate came to the fore. It concluded with the arrest of activists who called for civil disobedience and elections through a democratic process.
In the wake of Assad’s rule as President, many critics felt he was not delivering the reforms promised. Despite hopes for the Damascus Spring, socioeconomic inequality increased and unemployment rates soared. Beneficiaries of free-market policies formed a small part of the population, mostly people with political connections.
On 15 March 2011, protesters marched in Damascus, the capital of Syria, to demand democracy and the release of political prisoners. Government security attacked protesters in retaliation and killed a 13-year old boy. On 20 March 2011, protesters burned government buildings to the ground, including the headquarters of the Ba’ath Party, the party led by Assad. After 8 April, the content of the protests shifted from democracy to the removal of the Assad government. These protests took place in many cities and resulted in the arrest of thousands.
Opposition to the government in the form of armies and militia began to rise in a more organized fashion. This characterized the beginning of the civil war in Syria. Kofi Annan, the representative for Syria from the United Nations, provided a peace plan but fighting continued even as negotiations were ongoing. The ceasefire contained in the plan was declared in April 2012 but evolved into violence in June. Assad also began to express aggression against the rebellion and vowed to crush the uprising.
The Syrian War
Many Islam fundamentalist groups rose up with their own agendas making the situation far more complex. Fighting and terrorism between these groups and Syrian rebel groups over the possession of resources, and conquest of land started to complicate things.
Russia got involved in 2015 in response to a request by the Syrian government, and launched attacks against certain fundamentalist and anti-Assad groups. During this time, the United States under Barack Obama intensified its support of the Syrian rebel groups. However, Barack Obama did not undertake a military intervention when Russia brokered a deal that Syria would hand over its chemical weapons. In February 2016, the first successful United Nations ceasefire was put into effect but collapsed quickly. Turkey, Russia and the United States continued to intervene.
As things currently stand, the key supporters of the Assad government are Russia and Iran while the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia support the rebels. Control over Syria's biggest cities has been won back by the government, but large portions of the country remain under the control of rebels and fundamentalist groups.
Three UN envoys to Syria have been unable to come up with a plan of action that will address the dire situation. Both sides of the conflict are unwilling to negotiate or cede power. International intervention appears necessary at this stage. The Syrian war does not look like it will end anytime soon, but everyone agrees that a political solution is required.