A SERIES ON REFUGEES: Who They Are, Where They Come From, and Why They Had to Leave: Syria

Syria (12,587) (FY 2015 1,682)

Watch a Vox video outlining the Syrian Civil War here. I usually do not give much credence to Vox, but this piece does follow the facts. The Syrian Civil war officially started in 2011 with the “Arab Spring”—a time when many nations including Syria began peacefully protesting restrictive regimes. In response to this call for change President Bashar Al-Assad cracked down violently. Communities armed themselves in self-defense and war broke out. Assad’s government has been a minority government in power for over 40 years, but had strong military backing. He could not cave to popular request for votes and remain in power. During this time, drought pushed rural Syrians to large cities straining and changing the demographics of some cities and thus tipping the balance of power. Once obscure minorities had numbers. Many of the rebel groups are divided along ethnic and religious lines, but not because they began that way. As the war progresses people have retreated to their own groups in a perceived safety and trust. The rebels began to split and fissure into more groups. At present, in Syria we have roughly 4 coalitions, Kurds seeking an independent state from Turkey and Syria somewhat backed by the U.S., ISIS being fought by everyone, Syrian forces led by Bashar Al-Assad backed by Russia, Hezbollah and Iran, and team “Moderate Rebels” backed by the U.S., Jordan, the Gulf States and Turkey—4 distinct armies made of players pushing different agendas, representing different ideologies and featuring different war tactics in and outside the rules of war. Namely the Kurds seek to claim independence and claim some land to create a Kurdish State. The rebel groups are not all on the same page. Should the rebels take control of Syria, the next challenge will be to find a way that a loose coalition of groups united in overthrowing Assad function as a governing body. ISIS also claimed land in Syria declaring the land its caliphate. The  burning hate-based group of terrorists willing to win at all costs, again with no regard for humanity in general, and also in violation of international law is known for conscripting child soldiers or and rapping and trafficking young girls. Iran and Saudi Arabia use Syria as a proxy war to gain dominance in the region. Russia has few remaining allies and wants to preserve Mr. Assad’s rule to ensure it’s last remaining military base outside the former Soviet Union remains open. The U.S. saw the opportunity to oust Assad—a long-time enemy—and to fight the Islamic state without more U.S. troops on the ground. Our policy has been to pump weapons into all groups fighting Assad and ISIS and thus ensuring the conflict continues. Wars open up power vacuums that will be filled one way or another.  Assad uses chemical weapons and murders innocent people in catastrophic numbers. He also uses starvation as a weapon, isolating Aleppo and striking citizens who try to flee. He violates international law and will one day likely be tried for war crimes, Inshallah. The Kurds are being attacked on multiple fronts bringing Turkey into the action. Turkey sponsors the U.S. backed rebels, but opposes the Kurds who the U.S. also backs as an ally in the fight against ISIS and now Bashar Al-Assad.  Add to this the many proxy wars going on between the Gulf States, Iran, Russia, Turkey, The U.S. and Syria is not only Syrians warring against their government, but a world proxy war being carried out in a country decimated by war. As more and more Syrians die and flee, each side will continue to fight in part because they are backed by wealthy nations who do not want to send their own troops, but want to win wars. That is why Syria is so complex and devastating. No realistic plan for peace exists and the conflict puts more and more people in the ground and drives more and more people out of the country.

UNHCR Syrian Conflict Page

NY Times Article: Straightforward Answers to Basic Questions About Syria’s War

CNN Syrian Civil War Fast Facts and Timeline

The Atlantic’s Confused Person’s Guide to the Syrian Civil War

PBS’s Cheat Sheet to the Syrian Conflict

BBC Syria: the Story of Conflict

Personal Story of a Refugee in Rolling Stone’s article “Mike Pence’s Refugee Problem” Please note that this piece is pro-refuge and a left-leaning source compared to all the others, and I acknowledge the bias.

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