The Syrian Civil War has been in news for the last 5 years. Till now, it has claimed the lives of more than 3,00,000 people. What started as a peaceful protest has escalated into a full-fledged war that has devastated Syria and shaken the world. The Civil war in Syria has also resulted in the rise of ISIS, which is one of the deadliest Terrorist Organisations in the world. So what exactly is happening in Syria and what is the history behind the Civil War? How did a small conflict take such a brutal form?
I will try to answer these questions with the help of this article. I have researched a lot on the topic and would like to share an easy explanation since the war is very complicated in nature. It is not that easy to understand. There are many groups and countries involved. I feel that there may be others like me who found it very confusing. So, I am trying to help those people. So, let’s get started. To understand the whole thing, we will have to start with the basics- The Shia and Sunni muslims.
The Shia and the Sunni Muslims
There are mainly two types of muslims – Shia and Sunni. These two groups do not like each other much. Now, most of the muslim population is Sunni (the ratio between Sunnis and Shias is around 80 to 20). Syria is mostly a Sunni dominated country. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are also Sunni dominated. On the other hand, Iran and Iraq have more Shia people.
Syria, despite being a Sunni country is being ruled by a Shia president – Bashar Al Assad. He belongs to Ba’ath party and claimed the presidency after his father Hafez-Al-Assad died. He took the presidency in 2000 when he was elected by an unopposed ballot. It’s obvious that most of the population was not happy with this since their family has been running the country for over four decades. They wanted some reforms in the political and economic status quo of the country. Thus, they decided to do something about it.
Arab Spring- The Event That Triggered the War
In 2011, when Arab Spring swept across the Middle East and North Africa (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia), Syria decided to partake in the revolution. It happened after the killings of 15 Syrian boys for having written pro-Arab spring and anti-government graffiti. The Syrian people participated in protests against Al-Assad. They demanded some political and governmental reforms and wanted him to resign but he did not listen. Instead, he launched a brutal assault on the peaceful protestors and killed many of them. It sparked nation-wide outrage and added more fuel to the fire. Antagonized by these events, the rebels took arms against the government. Some former members of Syrian military formed Free Syrian Army, which decided to dethrone the president. So there were these Rebels fighting the Assad government. The situation worsened with time and soon it turned into a Civil War.
Iran, which is Assad’s ally sent officers and weapons to Syria to fight and demolish the rebels. Lebonon’s Hezbollah group joined the war from Assad’s side. Russia helped too. Some other countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar sent help to rebels to overthrow the government. They wanted to counter Iran and topple the Syrian government. They expected a similar outcome as Arab Spring had brought to other countries. The USA helped in training the Free Syrian Army but despite all these efforts, Syrian army dominated the FSA and drove them out of cities.
Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda formed a new branch called Jabhat-Al-Najra in Syria. Some of the FSA people started joining it since they already had the weapons given by the gulf-countries and USA. USA was too busy focusing on Assad that it did not see these terrorists organisations getting stronger. Soon, these terrorist organisations controlled a large territory and oil fields and weapons.
In 2013, Assad used Chemical Weapons and killed many people which resulted in outrage throughout the world. USA got angry and decided to bomb the shit out of Syria. But Russia intervened and told Assad to handover the Chemical weapons and destroy them to avoid the attack. Assad agreed and the weapons were destroyed but the war did not stop. Instead, an interesting developement happened.
The Rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
In, 2014, The Terrorist group Al-Qaida broke up and a new group was formed. They called themselves the Islamic State of Iraq. Soon, they entered Syria and changed their name to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria also known as the deadly ISIS. They were much more radical then people before them. They started fighting rebels and gobbled up a huge amount of land very soon. They spread their territory and killed anyone who came in their way. They became a problem to both the Rebels and the Assad government.
So you see how, a new threat was born out of nowhere. They are a big problem in the present day Syria now. In 2015, Russia conducted airstrikes in Syria to get rid of them but they were not that successful. So you see how complicated and multi-layered this war has become? The result is that Syria is in a messy condition and the lives of people living there is worse than living in a hell. Many have died and some who are still alive are trying to find refuge across the border. This has resulted in a new problem – The Syrian Refugee Crisis.
The Syrian Refugee Crisis
Those who sruvived the war in Syria are trying to escape the country. The war has taken away everything from them. More than a million Syrian people have left the coutry to take refuge in other countries. Neighbouring countries like Lebanon, Turkey, Jordon and Iraq are filled with Syrian refugees. Some of them are trying to migrate to Europe which is not easy but fortunately European Union has agreed to take them in. USA has also come forward to help. This is a very good thing since these people do not have any means to live.
We do not know if the condition in Syria is going to improve but we hope that it would. And if it does then it’s going to take huge efforts to put the country back on the track.