Friday, 30 October 2015


Syrian crisis.

It all began as part of the Arab Spring. The economic weakening of the Arab states combined with mostly educated youth living in decades of dictatorial rule,  it was the perfect recipe for revolution.
In January 2011 Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown. In February it was the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Libya soon erupted in civil war which killed the longest reigning dictator in the Arab world, Muammar Gaddafi. Yemen followed and president Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in February 2012.

Almost all of the Arab world faced demonstration or revolution attempts, but the most hard-hit states were the autocratic governments. After all of the above mentioned states, Syria was next.
But to comprehend the complexity of the conflict , we have to understand the demographic and political condition of Syria

Demographics :
60% Arab-Sunni, 12% Arab-Alawite, 13% Christian, 9% Kurd-Sunni, 6% others (incl. Druze, Shi’ite).

Politics :
Authoritarian, single-party ruler Alawite  dominated the elite, allowing no opposition and under who there was no free speech as the press was owned by the state . His son Bashar Al-Assad rose to power after Hafez’s death in 2000.

The economy :
Inefficiency, mismanagement, and corruption in the government, public, and private sectors, illiteracy, poor education, particularly in rural areas, the increasing emigration of professionals, inflation, a growing trade deficit, a high cost of living and shortages of consumer goods, high unemployment  & rampant smuggling & black market caused this to become an uncontrolled Socialist economic failure
Free-Market was introduced in 1991 but benefited only those connected with the ruling elite and Sunni merchant class in Damascus and Aleppo. Rural areas remained poor, illiterate, and under-developed.

The minority dictatorship is sitting on this giant powder keg of disenfranchised Sunni majority. And then there was the1982 Hama Massacre.
Syrian support to the Christian in the Lebanese civil war triggered domestic terrorism and urban guerrilla warfare committed by Sunni jihadist targeting government, military, and Ba’ath party.
A campaign of repression against the Muslim Brotherhood was launched, culminated in the Hama Massacre, killing 10.000-40.000 people. Many MB members were killed, tortured, or disappeared.

The Syrian uprising began just like Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain. The demonstrations started as early as January 2011 demanding normal things such as democracy and government reform. But these demonstrations were crushed violently. And the people, who happened to be predominantly Sunni, began taking up arms against the Alawite dominated government.
With the Hama massacre still fresh in the Sunni people's mind, the uprising quickly turned sectarian.

And once the sectarianism reared its ugly head, the minority Alawites, Shiites, and Christians had no choice but to side with the secular government.
On the other hand, the Sunni rebels became more and more Islamist and Salafis.

What made the situation worse was the involvement of Syrian neighbours, namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey who supported the rebels, flushing them with money and weapons.
The Syrian government was heavily supported by Iran and Hezbollah. As Syria also hosts Russia’s only warm naval base , it received support from a global superpower without which the war would have taken a very different course .

Al-Qaeda joined in (Jabhat al-Nusra) and later Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq formerly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq).
The sectarian nature also appealed to jihadist parties from around the world to join in the fight as a religious calling. And the spill over to neighbouring countries with similar demographics was also unavoidable such as Iraq and Lebanon.

Geopolitically Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen are the frontlines of the cold war between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran and there is no end in sight for now .

The fallout of the war

Thousands of Syrians flee their country every day. They often decide to finally escape after seeing their neighborhoods bombed or family members killed.

The risks on the journey to the border can be as high as staying: Families walk for miles through the night to avoid being shot at by snipers or being caught by soldiers who will kidnap young men to fight for the regime

But escaping a country rife with war is not enough for from the frying pan they end up in the fire as the refugee camps are nowhere close to being able to accommodate everybody .

Jordan’s Za'atari, the first official refugee camp that opened in July 2012, gets the most news coverage because it is the destination for newly arrived refugees. It is also the most concentrated settlement of refugees: Approximately 81,500 Syrians live in Za'atari, making it the country’s fourth largest city. The formerly barren desert is crowded with acres of white tents, makeshift shops line a “main street” and sports fields and schools are available for children.

A new camp, Azraq, opened in April 2014, carefully designed to provide a sense of community and security, with steel caravans instead of tents, a camp supermarket, and organized "streets" and “villages”.

Most refugees must find a way to pay rent, even for derelict structures. Without any legal way to work in Jordan and Lebanon, they struggle to find odd jobs and accept low wages that often don’t cover their most basic needs. The situation is slightly better in the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq, where Syrian Kurds can legally work, but opportunities are now limited because of the conflict there and language is still a barrier.

The lack of clean water and sanitation in crowded, makeshift settlements is an urgent concern. Diseases like cholera and polio can easily spread — even more life-threatening without enough medical services. In some areas with the largest refugee populations, water shortages have reached emergency levels; the supply is as low as 30 liters per person per day — one-tenth of what the average American uses.

As if that’s not bad enough the Syrian war has prompted the withdrawal of seeds from the The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, built in 2008, which stores more than 850,000 seed samples from nations all over the world.It's intended to safeguard the planet's food supply and biodiversity in the event of a doomsday catastrophe like nuclear war , asteroid strike or crippling disease wipes out varieties of plants. Crop Trust, the company that runs the seed vault, says on its website that the vault is "the final backup".

So the question in all our minds should be if the Syrian War can rival  a Nuclear war or an Asteroid strike , why is the UN not taking definitive action ?

Gurpreet Kaur

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