The historic uprisings known as Arab Spring began with the revolution in Tunisia. These revolutionary movements were successful in uprooting the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt giving hope to the other Arab countries. However, most countries were not successful in attaining a peaceful transition and had to face violent armed conflicts and civil wars. One such ill-fated country is Syria where a peaceful uprising against the president turned into a full-scale civil war. After almost nine years of persistent bloodshed, there seems to be no hope for a peaceful end to the Syrian civil war. The war does not remain just a regional concern anymore, it has grabbed international attention from time to time for the active participation from global superpowers and serious humanitarian concerns.
Long before the protests and conflict erupted in Syria, the most populations were already displeased with the existing governance under president Bashar al-Assad, who replaced his father Hafez after his death in 2000 (Holliday, 2013). This was due to the high unemployment rate, widespread corruption in the system and, the absence of political freedom. Global warming had an important role to play in the revolution. From 2007-10, a serious level of drought almost crippled Syria and forced almost 1.5 million people to migrate (Aljazeera, 2018). This further contributed to hinder the already strained economy and societal unrest.
In March 2011, peaceful protests started in Syria inspired by the Arab Spring in neighboring countries. Fifteen boys were detained for writing graffiti supporting the Arab Spring and one of the boys, who was only 13, was tortured to death (Laub, 2020). The Assad regime used deadly force on the protestors who demanded the resignation of the president. The government forces killed hundreds of demonstrators and imprisoned even more. The violence after that spread like wildfire. Peaceful protestors started taking up arms to defend themselves and to drive the security forces away from their areas. President Assad continued to attack the demonstrators whom he defined as foreign-backed terrorists (CFR, 2020).
The revolution in Syria turned into a full-scale civil war when defectors from the military formed the rebel group, Free Syrian Army to overthrow the government. The war soon witnessed a complex sectarian division. The opposition started fighting for a democratic and pluralistic Syria but it was overshadowed by jihadis promoting a Sunni theocracy (Laub, 2020). Regional powers attempted to back local forces solely because of their own geopolitical interests. The Assad regime was backed by Russia and Iran and the anti-government rebel groups were backed by the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and, other Arab countries in the region. Back in December 2018, the United States announced the withdrawal of its troops from Syria that amplified the uncertainty of both internal and external actors (CFR, 2020). The sole motive behind the involvement of the United States was to fight the Islamic State extremists, which had the chance to flourish in full swing in the middle of this civil war. The rise of terrorism has caused the displacement of almost half of the Syrian population. In 2013, ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) appeared in northern and eastern parts of Syria (Hjelmgaard, 2018). They soon became infamous for their use of social media to recruit members and brutal executions.
According to the reports of the United Nations, more than 4,00,000 have been killed since the beginning of this civil war. Approximately 5.6 million people have left the country till January 2019 and more than 6 million people have been internally displaced (Aljazeera, 2018). Those who are living as refugees in Lebanon and Jordan are already having a negative impact on the host infrastructure and economy. The rest of the refugees have fled to Europe and some in Turkey. There have been several attempts at peace negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition aimed at a peaceful political transition but none of them were considered successful.
The war lost its true meaning long ago with multiple rebel groups fighting among each other with hidden political motives. The battlefield has been used as the ground for geopolitical proxy wars of regional powers. The Assad regime is not willing to move out of his power or to make a compromise. There is an occurrence of human rights violations almost every day across the country. From what it seems, war-torn Syria is likely to face more years of instability.
Holliday, J. (2013). The Assad Regime: From counterinsurgency to civil war, Middle East Security Report, Retrieved from: http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/TheAssadRegime-web.pdf
Aljazeera. (2018). Syria’s war explained from the beginning, Retrieved from: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/14/syrias-war-explained-from-the-beginning/
Council on Foreign Relations. (2020). Civil war in Syria, Global Conflict Tracker, Retrieved from: https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/civil-war-syria
Laub, Z. (2020). Syria’s Civil War: The Descent into Horror, Council on Foreign Relations, Retrieved from: https://www.cfr.org/article/syrias-civil-war
Hjelmgaard, K. (2018). Syria conflict explained: How did we end up here? USA Today, Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/04/09/syria-conflict-explained-bashar-assad/498756002/