Violence in Syria
By Mitchell Agredano
Syrian Civil War History
Despite Syria’s government identifying itself as a unitary, semi-presidential, republic, Syria is ruled by an authoritarian regime. Syria’s defacto dictator, President Bashar al-Assad, is known for having all media in the nation controlled by the state, monitoring and censoring the internet, and imprisoning anyone who goes against him. However, in March 2011, multiple teenagers were arrested and tortured for painting revolutionary slogans on a school wall. This ignited pro-democracy protests in the southern city of Deraa, resulting in al-Assad ordering security forces to open fire on protestors, marking the beginning of the Syrian Civil War on March 15, 2011. Since then it has been an all-out war between rebel forces and the oppressive Syrian government, resulting in over 470,000 deaths, 1.9 million wounded, and 4.8 million Syrians leaving the country, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research as of February 2016.
What Does This Mean for the World?
By now, you have probably heard about the Syrian refugee crisis, where millions of Syrians are fleeing Syria to evade death. Refugees have immigrated to nations such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and are even moving into Europe. Nations are struggling to create a plan on what to do to resolve the crisis. Some nations are admitting refugees, creating security concerns among citizens who believe terrorists can take advantage of this opportunity to enter the nation.
Despite being an internal conflict, it has generated massive amounts of tension between powerful nations like Russia and the United States. For example, Russia has an economic and military interest in the Tartus naval base located in Syria which is Russia’s only naval facility in the Mediterranean, making it very important that Russia supports Syria’s current government to keep its access to the base. However, the United States has its own moral justifications for supporting the Syrian rebel forces. The Syrian government has committed numerous human rights abuses and was even accused of using chemical weapons on its own citizens, killing almost 1,500 people according to a report by the Syrian-American Medical Society. This civil war has the potential to escalate to a world war with two such powerful countries involved.
What’s Happening Now?
On September 12, 2016, Russia and the United States agreed to a Syrian cease-fire, temporarily halting the bloodshed. Rebel commanders view the accord as propping up the Syrian president because his army is beginning to lose its will to fight, and is dependent on military intervention from Russia, Iran, and their allies for survival. Rebel forces have no choice but to accept the cease-fire because it will ease the suffering of Syrian civilians. However, during the last truce, the Syrian government dropped barrel bombs on civilians at a market, killing 60 and wounding 100, prompting rebel commanders to remain cautious in order to avoid another ambush. Russia and Syria claim that the rebel forces have committed dozens of cease-fire violations in the first 4 days; however, it was later reported by the Syrian Network for Human Rights that there was 28 violations within the first 2 days, all by government forces or their allies. Rebel fighters criticize the accord because it gives Russia, Assad’s main backer who takes part in the bombings, an equal say to the United States in determining violations. It is unclear how long the cease-fire will last, one can only hope that it is a first step forward towards creating peace in war-torn Syria.