Syria up till Now

Source: samer daboul /

Undoubtedly, this article will oversimplify matters, but as incomprehensible violence continues, perhaps it is time to reflect on the Syrian civil war.

There is no end in sight. The war in Syria has continued since pro-democracy protests began in March 2011. It was revolutionary. Authoritarian governance had been in place since Bashar al-Assad’s father became president in 1971 and this was unprecedented freedom of expression. As a result, violence at the hands of the police and military was used to suppress the demonstrations. It quickly escalated, with countless people taking up arms. By 2012, it was undeniably civil war.

Images have continued to filter through the news. We now expect it. Images of orphaned children, broken buildings, broken lives … The United Nations and Arab League estimated in April 2016 that 400,000 had died, with no ceasefire in sight. Civil war is rife. It is understandable why we have become desensitised. It is understandable that when this violence is replicated in Europe and the United States, it is more shocking. Why it continues cannot be understood. Perhaps to the West, the most immediately-perceived problem is the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) extremists. This chaos and instability has allowed IS to gain territory and influence in Syria, seen as a centre point for its terrorism.

Consequently, IS is seen as an international threat. Incoherent, enigmatic and happy to take credit for any and every attack. Furthermore, it has inspired copycat criminals. This was exemplified just in the last few days with bombings in both New York and New Jersey. Prime suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami has been incarcerated, allowing investigators “a rare opportunity” to find “motivations and affiliations” (in the words of CNN). It is unknown whether he acted alone or in a group. It is little comfort where we see terrorism breed more terrorism. Again, the United States and supposedly the West as a whole have been the victims of violent bombing attacks. Yet the idea of the “West” and the “Other” only facilitates the divides created by ISIS. We have shared internationally in loss with Syria and, though it is little consolation, it is a thought that should unite us against a common enemy.

The focus should always be on the human tragedy of these events. Reckless hate and untimely deaths are seen the world over. The refugee crisis has endured in Europe and was perhaps a motivation behind the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom in June.

However, is the way to combat extremism and violence to shut our borders to the innocent people whose lives have been catastrophically altered? Recent figures estimate that 11 million Syrians have left their homes since March 2011. With a further 13.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance within the country. 4.8 million Syrians are now in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. A much smaller number of one million has requested asylum in Europe. Conditions are questionable at best for these refugees. The widely reported “Calais Jungle” and image of the washed up body of Alan Kurdi represent the very real and devastating fallout of war. Whilst the tragedy is still palpable in New York and New Jersey, citizens of the United States have not yet had to flee their borders.

Can Assad be overthrown? Can the rebels be trusted to build a peaceful and fair society? What’s the future for the children, the brothers, the sisters, the mothers, the fathers left in the carnage? Where will the thousands upon thousands of refugees go? The answer is not down to me alone but lies with all of us. In the wake of the Greek economic collapse last summer, it was reported that if every European gave €3 (£2.60), then we could have collectively bailed out the country. It’s idealistic to imagine such a world, but is it worse than imagining what attacks will be reported in the next year, month or day? Furthermore, it is not a localised situation. The United States is not alone. Syria is not alone. The solution is therefore not clear, but furthering hate and bigotry can only lead to a more fractured and damaged society. Quite simply, help the refugees and help us all.

Global Seven News

Catherine McNaughton

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