It’s all over our TV screens, our newspapers and our computers; the Syrian Civil War. However much we see about it in the news, it can still be hard to grasp what exactly is going on in this ravaged country. In order to make sense of it all, here are some facts about the Syrian Civil War starting from the causes of this dreadful world issue, right through to what is happening to those who have fled the country.
It’s a good idea to remind yourself about the country of Syria and its origins, before getting into the nitty gritty. This Middle Eastern country became independent in 1945 and has an overall area slightly smaller than the UK. The al-Assad family have been in charge for 45 years, although Syria puts up a pretense that it’s a ‘democratic nation’. Bashar al-Assad has been in power since 2000, after his father was in control from 1970.
The Arab Spring started in March 2011, which is when people from several North African and Middle Eastern countries decided to demonstrate against their leaders. What started off as peaceful protests turned into rebel action when the government began using violence to crackdown on the protestors and their actions. Many of the leaders overthrown in Arab Spring were Islamists who were traditionalist and hard-line.
Although the al-Assad family are quite liberal, many Syrians were still unhappy with the people in charge. They felt as though a lot of promises had been broken and decided that enough was enough. The news of what was happening in nearby countries spurred them on. It was then that they decided to get involved with the Arab Spring and protest against their own government. Despite it being for different reasons than many of the other countries involved.
It wasn’t long before the protests began to turn ugly for the Syrians. Although this was kind of expected, due to what was happening in other countries who had been part of the Arab Spring. One of the key turning points was the death of several children who had painted anti-regime graffiti. They died under detention, which caused another uproar around Syria. The authorities had also been violent towards protestors, blindly firing shots into groups of demonstrators.
Free Syrian Army
By July 2011, many of the Syrians had come together to create their own armed forces. Defectors from the army and those who had served Bashar al-Assad in the past led the way. Many civilians then followed suit and joined the Free Syrian Army too. This is when everything began to turn into a full-scale civil war of epic proportions, although not for all the reasons you may think.
A Messy War
Everything began to get complex and messy when more and more different parties joined in with the Civil War. No longer is it just about Syrian fighters and the Assad regime. Now there are the Jihadists and ISIS, all wanting something different from the war. It seems as though everyone is fighting for a different cause yet nobody knows how they could ever be a resolution or a winner. In fact, many experts have said “no one can win.”
It has been over four years since the Syrian Civil War started now. In that time it is thought that there have been over 220,000 people killed. Plus, countless others have been injured or lost their friends, families and loved ones. Most of whom are civilians, including women and children. There is much need for food and medical supplies, while bombings continue to wipe out huge chunks of the towns and cities. The death toll continues to rise on a daily basis and it’s not known where that number will stop.
It is thought that around 7.6 million people are internally displaced. This means that they are still in their country, but have been forced to flee their homes. They are desperately trying to avoid the bombings and attacks going on around Syria, yet have nowhere to flee to. They have not yet crossed their international borders in order to find safety in another country. Perhaps due to fear of the unknown or not having enough money to make their escape.
It is thought that four million Syrians are now registered (or trying to register) with the United Nations High Commission of Refugees. This makes them the largest refugee population on the planet! Thousands are trying to get out of Syria every day, going through unspeakable risks to get out of the country and find somewhere safer. Most will walk for miles at night, to avoid being shot on sight. Snipers are poised to take out anyone seen escaping.
There are actually very few refugee camps when you consider the number of people escaping on a daily basis. Most of those who do get out of the country alive will make their first port of call Jordan, where there are some camps in place. However, there simply isn’t enough space and supplies for them all. Instead, they’re made to sleep wherever they can find safe shelter. Or even unsafe shelter, if the case may be.
The majority of Syrian refugees have no place to go, which is why many are applying for asylum in Europe. While the majority make it through Turkey, they still have some way to go before getting to Greece. Many will die on boats coming over from various parts of the country. If they do make it to Europe then they are packed onto trains and more boats, in order to ship them from one place to another.
Perhaps one of the most shocking facts about the Syrian Civil War is the number of children caught up in the crisis. It is thought that more than half of all refugees from Syria are under the age of 18, according to the UN. Over half of those will have lost everything; home, school, friends and family. They’re forced to go it alone and just hope for survival. Many do not make it, as we have seen in photos from the news recently.
Many countries are doing their best to assist the refugees during this crisis. The UN has said that $8.4 billion is what is needed to help those both inside and outside of the country. People are coming from all over the world to meet the refugees in different parts of Europe and the Middle East, in order to provide them with food, shelter and medical aid. However, there are still millions of people who are too far away from assistance.