Syria is a country in western Asia with a majority population of Arabs. It was originally ruled by France before it gained independence in 1946. 2 In the mid 1950s Al-Sarraj rose to prominence in the military and was put in charge of a section of Syrian military intelligence “le Deuxieme Bureau” meaning the second office. Things started to get heated between Nationalists and Baathists when Colonel Adnan al-Maliki, the deputy chief of the Syrian army was assassinated by a member of Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP). After the assassination of Al-Maliki, Al-Sarraj increased its power on the Deuxieme Bureau, he used torture, killing and nail extraction to oppress the Syrian people and officers. In 1958, the formation of United Arab Republic (UAR) between Egypt and Syria was declared, Al- Sarraj was appointed interior minister of its norther province (Syria), Nasser being the president of UAR. Nasser heard about how the Syrian officers were tired of Al-Sarraj’s actions and how he needed to ease his grip, so he got relocated to Cairo, later on in 1961 he gave his resignation after his leader of Syrian branch was taken away. In September 28, 1961, there was a coup in Damascus led by Abdul Karim al-Nahlawi that declared Syrian independence from the UAR. 2 Al- Sarraj lived as a private citizen in Cairo for 50 yeas, he died in 2013 at 88. When al- Sarraj died Syria was two years into the civil war which began with protests against Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian regime which “arguably remained in power using many of the tools of repression introduced by al-Sarraj nearly 60 years ago” (Al Jazeera, 2017).
The beginning of the Syrian civil war began when Pro-democracy protests erupted in March 2011 in the southern city of Daraa after the arrest and torture of 15 teenagers who painted “Freedom, down with the regime, it’s your turn doctor” (Tarabay,2018) referring to Assad, the ophthalmologist. When Assad became President, he seemed to fulfill Syrians’ aspirations, changes came to the country, slowly but surely, mobile phones arrived in the country, the internet came to Syria and then Facebook, people started to sense and see what was happening outside, around the world. In 2008 Atef Najib was appointed the new security chief of Daraa, he started to take control of not just the place but the people, he initiated new laws like he was the president, he made it difficult for people to sell their land. Daraa’s fight with security chief occurred against a backdrop of a middle east uproar. The beginning of 2011 began with Tunisian President fleeing to Saudi Arabia, sparking the start of the Arab Spring. The revolutions happened, and people would watch on Al Jazeera and CNN and the people started to see what was happening outside. This is when a teenager graffitied on the wall calling out Assad, and Najib men arrived cause they needed to arrest someone, so they started to arrest teenagers who were under 20 years old. Those teenagers were taken into custody by Najib’s men, they were held, beaten, had fingernails removed, tortured for weeks. And for weeks their parents and friends would go to Najib’s office and plead for their release, but they were told “Forget your children. If you want children, make more children. If you don’t know how bring us your women and we will make them for you” (Tarabay,2018). Things got worse when the arrest of the teenagers triggered nationwide protests demanding president Assad’s resignation because he would not stop Najib from torturing the teenagers. High ranking delegations of government officials traveled to Daraa and met with town elders on Assad behalf, the children were released in a gesture of goodwill, but when the teenagers were released they saw all the support they got from the protesters and started demanding for freedom. 3 The opposite of what the protestors thought happened, instead of listening to the protest, the government started killing the people that were in the protests, violence escalated, and the country descended into civil war as rebel units were formed to battle government forces for control of the cities. 4 In 2012 the fighting reached capital Damascus and Aleppo. By June 2013, the UN said 90,00 people have been killed in conflict and by August 2015, the killings climbed to 250,00. Now the conflict is more than just a battle between those against Assad, there are the Kurds who support neither the government nor the opposition, they have been battling IS along the Turkish border and have benefitted from considerable military support from the USA. Russia has military interests in Syria, and says its motivation is to fight terrorism. Iran see Assad as its closest Arab ally, Syria is also the main transit point for Iranian weapons shipments to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Reginal Sunni powers like Saudi Arabia oppose Iran’s influence in Syria. The involvement of all these countries in Syria are in it for their own benefits which is having bad consequences on the natives of the country.
Arab spring was group of individuals protesting which resulted in regime changes for countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya but not all movement were successful, for example Arab spring in Syria resulted into a civil war. The original end goal of the Arab spring was supposed to be increased democracy and cultural freedom but in Syria the aftermath led to many deaths and forcing many to leave the country to seek refuge in different countries. Individuals protesting during the Arab Spring time wanted freedom of speech, affordable homes, equality, they wanted all the things the western countries had which they saw through Facebook/internet. This led to huge protests on the streets, one leading after another. The releasement of the teenagers who vandalized the school asking for freedom in Syria only angered the protestors more, this led Najib to fight back with torture, killing, hence why they went out of control because the protestors were not thinking the government was going to get this cruel and kill their own people. This also led people to create groups against Assad and try to fight for freedom, young kids would join these armies going off to fight the regime.
The Syrian civil war has led to Humanitarian Crisis. 3 More than 4.5 million people have fled Syria since the start of the conflict, most of them women and children, most men forcibly had to stay to fulfil their army duties. 4 Countries surrounding Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey had to cope with one of the largest refugee evacuations in recent history. Europe has sought about 10% of Syrian refugees resulting in all the countries arguing over sharing the burden. Germany has accepted about 1.5 million refugees, refugees are going to Greek islands near the Turkish coast in hopes of reaching to Germany, this crisis has strained EU relations with Turkey a mainly Muslim country. Europe has closed some of its borders, have fences under construction to prevent the refugees from entering in, this is leading the refugees a place to go nowhere. The UN says that it will need $3.2bn to help the 13.5 million people, about 70% of Syria’s population doesn’t have access to adequate drinking water, one in three are unable to meet basic food needs. 4 The political parties have created problems in Syria and are refusing humanitarian agencies access to civilians in need. The UN also has evidence that all parties to the conflict have committed war crimes – including murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearances, they have also blocked access to food water and health.Indiscriminate use of weapons has been used in populated areas, many have been killed by barrel bombs dropped by government aircrafts on gatherings in rebel held areas. ISIS fighters have also carried out mass killings of rival armed groups. Hundreds of people died on August 2013 after rockets filled with chemicals were fired at several suburbs of Damascus, western powers said only Syrian government could do this, but the Syrian government blamed the rebel forces for it. Chemicals weapons still were being used on deadly attacks on rebel held areas.
In Conclusion, the lack of freedom, equality and way of living life all started to add up and annoy the Syrian civilians as they would see the type of living style in the western countries on the internet. The beginning of Arab spring and the act of those teenagers graffitiing the walls of the school is what truly began the civil war. The teenagers getting arrested leading to mass protest for their release, after their release asking for freedom leading to government killing/torturing anyone who would go against Assad. This all started to go out of hand when the Syrian government wouldn’t give up their power, when surrounding countries started to interfere in hopes of stopping this civil war but only making it worse because it became more complicated. Some surrounding countries are allies to Assad where as some aren’t leading to more complications. With neither side able to accept defeat on one another, only talks between higher powers and a political solution could end this.
- Al Jazeera. 5 (2017, March 15). Syria: 2 The Roots of Tyranny. Retrieved March 8, 2019, from https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2017/03/syria-roots-tyranny-170313062353299.html
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- Tarabay, J. 7 (2018, March 15). For many Syrians, the story of the war began with graffiti in Dara’a. Retrieved March 8, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/15/middleeast/daraa-syria-seven-years-on-intl/index.html
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