Seven long years and still counting! One of the most vicious examples of war in contemporary times. Syria’s civil war will be entering it’s eighth year with the onset of March, 2018.
This dark chapter of humanity can be traced back to 2011, when two neighbouring governments of Tunisia and Egypt were overthrown after the Arab Spring gained support from the natives. Eventually, the pro-democratic wing in Syria contemplated a similar uprising to topple the oppressive President Bashar al-Assad, who had succeeded his father Hafez in 2000. But little could they – or for that matter anyone – imagine that this would ignite a mini World War.
The initial days saw peaceful protests which were calm and silent. The government, as expected, welcomed the protestors with brickbats. This only fueled public ire and people took to the streets all across the nation, demanding the President’s resignation. As protests escalated and crackdowns intensified, opposition supporters began to take up arms to defend themselves. In July 2011, defectors from the military announced the formation of Free Syrian Army, a rebel group aiming to overthrow government. The violence rapidly spread like forest fire and the country slowly descended into a civil war.
The sustained chaos and the disruption of law and order drew the attention of foreign powers who saw Syria as a fertile ground to establish their strategic influence in Arab politics. These foreign powers entered Syria on the pretext of fighting terrorism and to find a political solution for the greater good. But even at the end of seven years of this conflict, peace remains a distant dream in Syria with the war pointing towards a bleak future.
One of the first foreign entrants to enter the Syrian civil war was Turkey, as part of a United States (US) coalition. Moreover, Turkey has single-handedly bombarded the Kurdish opposition forces along northern Syria and sent forces to hunt down IS and Kurdish forces. All these complex equations led the conflict between the government and the rebels to grow more complex and devastating.
Iran was another early foreign player to drag itself into Syria’s civil war. Iran has protected Assad’s regime to serve its strategic as well as religious purpose. Iran finds Syria strategically important as Tehran needs Syria to transport weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon through a land corridor that extends from Iran to Lebanon through Iraq and Syria. Hezbollah has also been backing Assad’s regime in Syria and both Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon consider Israel as their common enemy. On the other hand, Syria has a Sunni majority but the Alawites, the minority Muslim sect that dominates Assad’s regime, are an offshoot of Shia Islam, Iran’s state religion. Now this shapes the religious aspect of the conflict.
Russia entered into the scene in 2015 to safeguard Assad’s regime and since then, it has continuously bombed rebel territories without assessing any civilian causalities. Russia’s quest to establish itself as a world power alongside America, and to safeguard its Mediterranean Fleet, of which port city of Tartus houses an important Russian naval base, has prompted Vladimir Putin to back Assad’s regime.
Meanwhile, since late 2014 the US has been leading an international coalition of nearly 60 countries targeting the Islamic State (IS) and other extremist groups with airstrikes in Syria. The US has avoided direct conflict with pro-regime forces but has provided rebel groups with weapons and military training with an agenda to topple Bashar al-Assad. It was only in April, 2017 that US President Donald Trump ordered airstrikes on a Syrian airbase in response to a chemical attack against civilians by the Syrian government.
Against this backdrop of the conflict among foreign players, over 500,000 people have died so far, almost five million people are refugees outside Syria and more than 6 million have been internally displaced within Syria. Casualties are becoming heavier each day in this country which has long been reeling under the mayhem of multifaceted warfare.
On February 18, 2018, Syrian government forces backed by Russia began bombing the eastern Ghouta, one of the last besieged rebel-held enclaves with an estimated 400,000 people trapped within it. Within just a week, more than 500 deaths and thousands of injuries have been reported. It was one of the deadliest assaults on human life in the chronicles of this war.
On February 24, 2018, the UN Security Council unanimously voted for 30 days of ceasefire across Syria to allow for humanitarian deliveries and the evacuation of the critically injured.
But hours into the first day of ceasefire, airstrikes and mortar attacks resumed in eastern Ghouta, under orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin. This questions the real impact of the ceasefire agreement and the toothlessness of the UN.
The UN’s ineffectiveness in curbing violence in Syria is only predicting doom for its future course of action. Only being a puppet to someone’s whims and fancies won’t serve the purpose with which this international organisation was set up and this just may be the bell for UN to exit from world political affairs.
So, this is neither a war between capitalists and communists, nor it is a war among power mongers in the Arab world. This is a crusade for humanity and its survival which calls for each one in the crowds of billions of people who must stand up for a cause – the cause of not abandoning humanity.