The World on Edge: The Syrian Turmoil

Syria has lived through periods of political instability and unrest ever since its independence from France in 1946. Under the Al-Assad regime, which consists of former president Hafez Al-Assad, who ruled from 1970 to 2000, and his son and current president Bashar Al-Assad, Syria has been living through the most unstable and violent period to date, filled with riots, attacks, and a death toll that keeps rising. Now, there have been talks of possible war if the United States of America decides to attack in order to suppress the Syrian government and supporters after recent chemical attacks in various cities of Syria. Before delving into what is happening now, you must understand how it all began.

Current President Bashar al-Assad. Photo from upi.com
 

How It All Began

According to BBC News’s Profile on Syria, the Ba’ath government, of which Hafez and Bashar Al-Assad belong to, is known for its “authoritarian rule at home and a strong anti-Western policy abroad, particularly under President Hafez Al-Assad.” An example is how in 1982, tens of thousands were killed in the suppression of the uprising led by the Muslin Brotherhood in Hama. They were rebelling against the president’s decision to annul the law that stated that the president had to be Muslim.

Years later, the Arab Spring, or pro-democracy uprisings, takes hold of the Middle East and North Africa in 2010. On March 18, 2011 protesters gathered in Daraa after Friday prayers. As was stated in the Huffington Post, protesters were angered by “the recent arrest and torture of children who had spray painted anti-government slogans on a wall in the city.” The people demanded greater freedom, political participation, and focused on the monopoly of the Ba’ath Party. Instead of listening to its people, security forces responded violently resulting in the death of some protesters. But, the regime maintained its innocence from these violent events.

Photo of protesters in the streets of Daraa in 2011 by CNN.com

            Throughout 2011, many protests took place and the government tended to respond violently to the gatherings. As mentioned by the Huffington Post, the cities with the harshest security crack downs were Homs, Hama, and Latakia. There was an average of 40 people being killed a day. A year later, on February, the violence worsened with the brutal assault on the city of Homs led by regime forces. For weeks bombs, rockets, and tanks filled the streets of these cities, eventually driving the rebel Free Syrian Army out.

International Opposition

            While this was happening, the United States of America, France, and the United Kingdom cut economic ties with Syria. Also, the United Nations have tried to calm things down in through peaceful terms, but the violence only intensified and countries began to close their embassies in Syria. It wasn’t until July 2012 when the world really began to take notice of what was going on when the Syrian Government indirectly admitted to having stocks of chemical weapons.

            At first, it was said that the weapons would be used against an external attack until March 2013; allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Northern Syria emerged. According to BBC News, said attacks took place in: 

·         Khan al-Assal, March 19, 2013

·         Al-Otaybeh, March 19 2013

·         Adra, March 24, 2013

·         Sheik Maqsoud, April 13, 2013

·         Saraqeb, April 29, 2013

·         Ghouta, August 21, 2013


Map by BBC News

What has been able to shed light on all of these alleged incidents were the videos leaked by opposition activists of the aftermath of the attacks and interviews of different doctors confirming the use of poisonous gas.

            This put the world on edge. According to UN statistics, more than 100,000 people have died and two million have fled Syria, which has caused countries to discuss what the next steps will be in order to stop all of this violence.

            The only country that has attacked Syria has been Israel, but countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have provided political and financial aid as well as homes for many refugees. The biggest players who support military intervention are the United States, United Kingdom, and France. Those who oppose military intervention are Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq who have provided shelter for refugees, while Iran backs the armed supporters of the Syrian government. The two countries that have vetoed the last three UN Security Council resolutions have been China and Russia, saying that there is no real proof that the Syrian government used chemical weapons and that military intervention would only worsen the turmoil in the Middle-East.


Intercative map by Aljazeera

In More Recent News

            What has been in the back of everyone’s mind is the possibility of war. Like President Barak Obama said in his speech last Wednesday, the people think it is too soon to send the troops back to war. Some even share China and Russia’s opinion saying that the war will only make things worse.

            Obama believes that “we should act instead of looking the other way.” For that reason, he took the proposition of a possible air strike to Congress for deliberation. But, once Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, was willing to help the international push by deliberating with Syria, Obama put the vote in Congress on hold.

President Barack Obama meets with President Vladimir Putin at the past G8 Summit in Ireland. Photo by voanews.com

            As more diplomatic resolutions are trying to be taken, Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad has decided to cede control of the country’s chemical weapons. He said that “Syria is placing its chemical weapons under international control because of Russia. The US threats did not influence the decision,” in a yet-to-be-released interview by Russian television. Here he also states the steps that have to be taken in order for the whole process to be completed

     To this day, Syria keeps denying that they were behind the chemical attacks and as you can see in the video, things are still tense concerning the United States. Concerning the possible military strike, France’s President Françoise Hollande is ready to back the United States if needed and the US’s forces have strengthened in the Mediterranean. All that is known for sure is that President Obama is now trying to reach a diplomatic resolution with the help of President Putin. We will have to pay close attention to international news for the days coming, but for now, the world is still on edge.