Let’s get Syrious – explaining the Syrian Civil War

News, Opinion, Politics, United States, World, World News — By on September 9, 2013 1:13 PM

By ELYSE WILLIAMS

 

By now you should have heard about the unrest and horrific attacks happening in Syria. You may have seen images in the media of bombs going off, children fighting, families dying, and even bodies lining the streets, but you probably have no idea about the messy situation the nation is in.

It’s all well and good for you to acknowledge what you see, think ‘oh, that’s horrible,’ and then move on with your day.

But what is it really all about?

This article attempts to explain the current Syrian Civil War, which at time of writing has been ongoing for almost two and a half years.

 

Syria and the Assad Regime

Syria is an incredibly tiny nation with a huge population.

To put things into perspective, it is smaller than the size of Victoria, Australia, yet holds a population almost as great as Australia’s own – approximately 22.5 million people compared to Australia’s 23 million.

For the last 43 years, the Assad family has run this small nation; although with the exception of the man who took over for several days in 2000 after Hafez al-Assad passed away; but it wasn’t long before Assad’s son, Bashar, came in and took over.

Bashar al-Assad

The Assad family is not overly religious, yet many people wrongly assume religion is the reason for this uprising, due to similar-looking conflicts.

The Syrian people want Assad out of government due to alleged failures to deliver on political promises.

However, that is not the only thing that has caused this civil war.

 

The beginning and middle

The main catalyst for the current conflict is believed to have occurred on March 6, 2011, when a group of children and teenagers were jailed for painting anti-regime graffiti – some of whom were later killed in detention.

This led to huge protests about the government’s failure to properly punish criminals, particularly minors.

Regardless of what caused it, protests broke out, and it wasn’t long before the Syrian Army began firing at protestors, leading to a rebellion.

In July 2011, the FSA, or Free Syrian Army, was formed in an attempt to fight the Syrian Army and government, but these groups remain smaller and under-armed.

Slowly, rebels (from both the FSA side and the Assad-regime) began killing civilians on top of those the Army had already killed.

Rebels of the FSA.   Source: The Guardian

Rebels of the FSA.     Source: The Guardian

Countless numbers of bombs have been detonated which were meant for “government targets”, and rebels have begun executing people with very little reasoning.

This has continued for well over two years.

At times, the UN has attempted to peacefully intervene, however they ended up retreating after the violence was too intense to handle with an unarmed military.

Many nations, particularly those involved with the UN, have spent countless days attempting to find ways to bring peace to Syria and its people.

Assad has refused to step down in order to bring peace, and because no attempts have succeeded at this point in time, civilians continue to die.

 

Casualties and refugees

Currently, the number of estimated deaths sits between 100,000 and 120,000, with the toll rising each day.

However many question this number , as very few journalists are allowed into Syria and the majority of the information comes from the Assad government or the opposition.

The United Nations also estimates a startling 2 million refugees have fled Syria in the last two years alone.

 

Suspected chemical weapon use

For many months, the US has suspected the Syrian government or rebel forces of having and using chemical weapons on its people.

On August 21 2013, reports surfaced from activists that sarin gas was used, killing hundreds, if not thousands of people.

Sarin gas is a man-made nerve agent; colourless, odourless and tasteless, and once it becomes a gas, it spreads into the environment rapidly. People can be exposed to the gas through skin or eye contact, breathing it through the air or if it has been mixed amongst water and food, which can lead to severe symptoms or ultimately death.

Possession and use of such chemical weapons are banned under international law.

As a result of these reports, the United Nations and US called for an investigation into the use of the gas the following day as footage of dead bodies, covered in sheets lining rooms and streets began surfacing on the web – amateur footage from those experiencing it first hand.

Other countries, such as the US and Britain, have since prepared themselves to retaliate against the Assad government, if it was confirmed they ordered the attack.

In a PBS interview with President Obama on August 30, it was announced that the US believe they had confirmation the Assad Government enacted a chemical weapon assault on its civilians.

In the interview, Obama said he had not yet decided whether he will send troops to Syria to intervene, but if he does it will send Assad “a pretty strong signal” not to do use chemical weapons in the future.

However, the UN still need time to finalise their results.

If true, this was officially the first use of chemical weapons in the 21st century and the UN has labelled it a “crime against humanity”.

 

So, what now?  

Reportedly, President Obama is currently seeking congressional approval to launch an attack towards Syria.

Many believe it should not even be considered, as Assad has come out this week saying he will not back down even if “World War III” breaks out.

Locals are naturally worried, as they believe there is already enough fighting in their country, and they are scared of what a US attack could do.

But for now, the only thing to do is wait.

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