Each one of us faces hard times in our life and it ends gradually but it seems that God is not in the mood of ending the bad times of Syrian people as the Syrian civil war has entered in its 8th year on this 15th of March. In the past 7 years, a country with a pre-war population of 22 million because of this civil war, lost the lives of its half million people, almost 1.9 million are wounded and as per the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) 5,165,502 are registered refugees, as of August 2017 and more than 6 million Syrians are internally displaced. According to the UNHCR Syrian Civil War is the worst after the World War II.
The reasons behind the spark of this Civil war
Any unrest doesn’t take place immediately but its foundation starts a long time back and that’s exactly happened in Syria too.
- The ongoing civil war was inspired by Arab Spring which was started in 2011 from Tunisia under which many dictators were removed and democracy was established in the Libya and Egypt etc. This gave hope to Syrian pro-democracy activists and peaceful protests erupted against the government of Bashar al-Assad ( who comes into power in 2000 after the death of his father Hafez al-Assad, who was in office from 1971 to 2000.) after the 15 boys were detained and tortured for writing graffiti in support of the Arab Spring and 1 13 year boy was killed after torturing brutally. Government crush down the protest by killing hundreds of protestors and Jailing many more.
- The Another reason is the rule of the minority over the majority, actually, Syria is a Sunni majoritarian country which is about 80-83% of total population and Bashar al-Assad who is in the rule is an Alawite which is a sect of Twelver branch of Shia Islam which is of around 13% of the population. So, there is political repression on the majority population. Also in 1982, Bashar’s father ordered a military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood which is a Sunni Islamist organization in Hama, killing tens of thousands of people and flattening much of the city. Hence this is one of the major reason for the protest.
- Along with these reasons poverty is also a reason for the protest. Actually, Syria has gone through a severe drought from 2007-10 causing as many as 1.5 million people to migrate from the countryside into cities, because of which the cost of living increases drastically in the country not only this even the cost of food becomes very high.
Timeline of the events which turns civil unrest into an inhuman civil war
The protest starts on 15 March 2011, when protesters marched in the capital city Damascus, demanding democratic reforms and the release of political prisoners. Security forces retaliated by opening fire on the protesters, and detained six. The protest was triggered by the arrest of a boy and his friends by the government for writing in graffiti, in the city of Daraa and out of those a 13-year-old boy, Hamza al-Khateeb was tortured and killed. The government claims that the boys weren’t attacked and that Qatar incited the majority of the protests. Then on 20th March, the protesters burned down Ba’ath Party headquarters and “other buildings”. The ensuing clashes claimed the lives of seven police officers and 15 protesters. Ten days later in a speech, President blamed “foreign conspirators” pushing Israeli propaganda for the protests.
Until 7 April, the protesters predominantly demanded democratic reforms, the release of political prisoners, an increase in freedoms, abolition of the emergency law and an end to corruption. After 8 April, the emphasis in demonstration slogans shifted slowly towards a call to overthrow the Assad government. Protests spread, and by the end of April protest occurred simultaneously in twenty cities. By the end of May 2011, 1,000 civilians and 150 soldiers and policemen had been killed and thousands detained.
The rise of Armed insurgency and different rebel groups
In response to the armed crackdown on the protestors by the Syrian forces, protestors arm themselves and shoot back. Start of armed insurgency marked on the formation of Free Syrian Army which was established in the summer of 2011, when a group of defected officers declared the establishment of the first organized oppositional military force, which becomes biggest moderate group who wants to remove Bashar al-Assad from the power and want the establishment of democracy.
This civil war also became a religious war between Shias and Sunni because the government was led by Minority Shia i.e. by Bashar al-Assad hence Jihadi and extremist from around the world starts fighting with rebels against the government. In January 2012 a group Jabat AL Nusra has formed which was a branch of Al Qaeda in Syria. Along with this Muslim Brotherhood also joined the war against the Assad which was backed by Turkey. Now by taking the advantage of situation Kurds themselves independent of Syria and declare Rojava in the North.
Involvement of International Powers in the civil war
In 2012, when it seemed that Assad government will fall at that point Iran provides military support to the Assad because Iran is the world largest Shia population and it doesn’t want that Shia government of Syria to fall down. When Iran stepped into the war then Gulf nations ( Saudi Arabia and Qatar) felt that Iran should not increase its influence so to counter Iran they also start supporting the rebels with money, weapons etc. Gulf nations and Turkey have some problem with Iran because they are a Sunni nation and latter is Shia. After Iran, Hezbollah which is a Shia Islamic Organization also joins the war from Assad’s side. Then next is Jordan which is also a Sunni state was initially not interested in joining the war but later on Gulf nations ask Jordan to join the war so that they can help the rebels as Jordan shares its border with Syria, also Jordan was afraid that this war should not enter into it by crossing border hence Jordan also starts supporting the rebels.
So it is clear from the above developments that the war which was started as an unrest to get the democracy in the country gradually converts into a war where everyone is fighting for their cause keeping aside the original one.
Chemical Attacks by Assad on its people in Ghouta in 2013
Till 2013 complete middle east got involved into the war and becomes an international war. At that time USA approves CIA to provide training to moderate rebels because the ultimate aim of the extremist groups was to destroy the USA once they capture Syria. So, to avoid any other 9/11 USA wanted that the moderate should come into the power and also asked Saudi Arabia to stop funding the extremist rebels.
In August a major incident happened when Assad government did Chemical Attack using Sarin gas on its own people in the suburbs of Damascus called Ghouta which cause the death of 700 people. These attacks were severely condemned across the globe. Then Russia which is a friend of Syria convinced Assad to let OPCW dismantle all Chemical weapons and for this OPCW get the Noble peace prize for it in 2013.
The rise of ISIL/IS in 2014
In 2014, ISIL got separated from Al Qaeda in Iraq and started capturing small villages in Syria and captures Raqqa city and in Iraq, it captures Fallujah and Mosul and proclaimed Caliphate in June 2014. Along with this it also starts attacking Kurds and FSA because they thought these groups have the different ideology than ISIL, as it wants to force Sharia law in Syria but Kurds and FSA are against it. In September 2014, a US-led coalition launched air strikes inside Syria against IS. But the coalition has avoided attacks that might benefit Mr Assad’s forces.
The rise in ISIL Power and Russian Military Intervention in 2015-2016
In May 2015 ISIL capture the Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and started destroying the ancient structures which were of around 2000-3000 years old. On the other side at this time PKK and YPG who were Kurdish militias were bombing the major cities of Turkey like Istanbul and Ankara as Kurds want a separate or autonomous Kurdistan like the one they have in Iraq. In response to these bomb attacks, Turkey starts air striking against Kurds. On 30th September 2015 in the response to the official request of the Syrian government, Russia starts air strike against ISIL, AL Nusra and FSA. within 2 months of air striking all of these groups were heavily damaged and expelled backwards and by this time most of Syria was either under Syrian government or under FSA.
After massive air strike from both USA and Russia ISIL lost its ground and a ceasefire happened between USA and Russia in February which got collapsed. Then again in September both USA and Russia agreed to do a ceasefire which is also got collapsed.
So we can see how amazing it is that war is going on between Syria and Rebels whereas USA and Russia are doing the ceasefire this is because USA is supporting FSA and Russia is supporting Assad.
Missile strikes by the USA in April 2017
Initially, USA was not involved directly into the war although its supporting FSA against Assad, it was not involved directly and the same thing was made clear by US president Donald Trump that he will not let the USA join the war. But in April 2017 chemical attack was done by Assad forces in Khan Shaykhun, Idlib killing 85 people including 20 children. Due to this incident, USA launched Tomahawk missile on those Syrian air base where they have stored their chemical weapons.
The Defeat of ISIS/IL in Raqqa, Mosul and Deir al-Zour
Raqqa and Mosul are 2 major cities of Iraq, So Iraqi army defeated the ISIS with the help of Kurds group YPG and US also did air strike against ISIS, and Iraqi army recovered the Raqqa which was the capital of ISIS. Similarly, Mosul was also captured by Iraq with the help of USA and Kurds. After Iraq ISIS also lost Deir al-Zour in November 2017 by Syria army and with this ISIS has now lost its control in Urban areas and they are now operating from the rural area of Syria.
Army intervention By Turkey against Kurds
Kurd is an ethnic group which is majorly divided between Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Now in Iraq, these people have their autonomous state called Kurdistan. So Kurds from Syria and Turkey also want to have an autonomous state like Iraq and many Kurds want to establish a country for Kurds in the region highlighted in red colour in below image.
Since turkey is already facing the issue of Kurds and doesn’t want to have a Kurd majority nation next to it. Hence Turkey starts attacking Afrin province against Kurdish militia (YPG) and SDF. Although Turkey claims that it is fighting against ISIS but in that region, ISIS doesn’t exist in Afrin.
The bombing of Ghouta by Assad in 2018
Assad again strikes the suburbs of Damascus called Ghouta in February 2018 because from start people of this region is against the Assad government and is a stronghold of FSA. So to get complete control over Ghouta Assad government is bombing it heavily and continuously and not even allowing the relief convoys to gett through.
Attack on Syria by US, France and Britain April 2018
Recently in April 2018 US, France and UK together launched precision airstrikes in Syria by accusing the Syria government of doing a Chemical attack on its people. The target of the missile is the three site near to Damascus and Homs that were allegedly used for R&D, Production, testing and storage facility of chemical weapons. Total of 105 missiles was launched from water and air. So this is not just the thing done to save the people of Syria but it is also a clear indication to Russia about their power.
Peace Efforts to stop the War
During this war, several efforts were done to established peace and to stop the war and political transition in Syria but the main sticking point has been the fate of Assad.
Geneva I (2012) and Geneva II (2014) talks
In June 2012 1st round of talks took place in Geneva, Switzerland which was facilitated by UNSC between the Syrian government and opposition delegates. But both the talks were failed because all opposition groups said that they will not sign on any treaty till the time Assad is in the power but Assad refused to leave the post of the president of Syria.
Vienna Process October 2015
After failing in Geneva, USA, Russia and other participants of ISSG gathered in Vienna to resolve the conflict in Syria. But this talk again came to the same point where the USA maintained that Assad should have no role in Syria’s future; Russia maintained that Assad should not be forced to go and that Syrian elections should decide who will rule Syria.
Astana peace Talk 2017
A new round of peace talks was started in January 2017 between Syrian Government and 12 rebel groups and both sides agreed on doing a ceasefire in Syria, but this ceasefire broke in few days and fight starts again. A special thing about this peace talk is that it was not done under United Nation but mainly lead by Russia, Turkey and Iran was also a part of this. Few more round of Astana talks happened from September to December 2017 but they were also failed.
Sochi talks, January 2018
In January 2018 Russia convened the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, in which 1,500 delegates participated.
Impact of this civil war
It is clear from the above points that it is not just a civil unrest but it is more than that. This is the biggest tragedy of 21st century which results in deaths of lakhs of people and displacement of millions. Social, Cultural, economic and infrastructural destruction of Syria.
Crime against Humanities
During this war, local people suffered a lot. Cluster bombing was done in which 20-25 bombs were dropped in an area of radius 500-600 meter which completely destroys the area and no one got the chance to escape. Even though it is internationally illegal to use cluster bomb as civilians got died in it but still it is used in this war.
Many human right abuses are happened like kidnapping, cutting off the legs and arms, slaughtering the people over the video and publishing it on social media, mass killing of the people just to establish fear in them which is majorly done by rebels like ISIL, AL-Nusra and even Syrian government also tortured lots of people. Use of Chemical weapons like sarin gas was also done in this war.
In this war, people from the minority community were targeted majorly. Alawites, Druze, Christians and Shias are the minorities and as the Assad belongs to the minority community, people of these are majorly targeted by the rebels. On other side Pro Assad groups targeting the Sunni in the region where they are a minority. So it is happening from both side and it has become a religious war.
Due to this war, there is a massive displacement of Syrian people. About 6 million people got internally displaced and almost 5 million people flee from Syria.
Majorly refugees have gone to Europe, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan. According to UNHCR, this is the worst situation after the WW2.
The complete breakdown of a nation
This war has destroyed Syria completely. The infrastructure of the country is completely destroyed Cities turned into piles of sand. Be it road, electricity, water, everything which is a basic need of any human society is finished because of this. The country lost its cultural heritage because terrorist groups like ISIS/IL have destroyed it as they did in Palmyra where they destroyed almost 2000-year-old structures, the city like Aleppo which is very ancient is also destroyed.
Due to heavy bombing factories, farms of Syria were destroyed because of which its economy also got derailed. As the economy has demolished poverty, illiteracy, cost of living is increased drastically. Along with this, the health condition in the country has degraded very badly and this can be understood from this that the country which is free from polio have reported issues of it again. Quality of life plummeted and the biggest example of it is the decrease in life expectancy which comes down to 50 years which before the war was 75 years.
But Why this Civil war becomes Entangled War
There are multiple sides in this war which are fighting with each other. According to an estimation around 75, rebel/opposition groups are fighting against each other. For example, Turkey is fighting against the Kurds and with ISIS, ISIS fighting with Kurds and FSA, USA is fighting against Assad and ISIS.
Also, the involvement of world power like USA and Russia dragging the conflict by backing their favourite side like when Assad was about to lose the war Russia help him with military aid similarly USA helped FSA when they were in trouble. According to many security experts, it is a WW 3 as many world powers are involved in this war and even a small mistake can turn this war into World War. Such incident happen in October 2015 when a Russian fighter aircraft was shot by the Turkish army and that It seemed like now there will be a war between the 2 nations but luckily that didn’t happen.
I have written about 10 article till date and I was able to conclude them but I am not able to find the end of this article. I can conclude this article but I can’t see the end of suffering of the Syrian people who are getting punished for demanding democracy. But are they asking very much? Just because one person doesn’t want to leave his political post does it means that citizens have to pay for it by their life? A life which is either taken by bombs, by slaughtering or by a bullet and some poor soul lose it in a chemical attack.
What was the fault of above two kids? one lost his life in a bomb attack and another one during fleeing from this hell. Everyone is just fighting for their interest some wants to sell their weapons, some want the oil, some wants the power and any other wants to show it as a superpower of the world. But no one is answering a simple question that
“WILL THEY EVER WANT TO END THIS WAR IF YES THEN HOW MANY DEAD BODIES THEY WANT TO SEE BEFORE THAT?”