Conflict in Syria: What’s actually happening?

Photo: a.anis
Image: a.anis

The conflict in Syria has been all over global headlines for the last couple of years.

The severe loss of human life, infrastructure, political and economic angst has perpetuated into one of the worst conflicts of all time.

The Syrian war is like none other seen before on this scale: a multi-polar war consisting of several groups, organisations and nation-states.

In fact, there are as many as 1,000 rebel forces, not to mention the 30 odd countries also doing the hokey-pokey in Syria, making it one of the most complex conflicts ever.


The Backdrop

For years, the Syrian government has been criticised for its authoritarian rule and ongoing human rights violations. In 2011, the political uprisings against governments in the Middle East (known as the Arab Spring), eventually crawled through North Eastern Africa into Syria, where civilians began lining the streets in protest against the Assad regime.

In response, the Syrian government violently reacted by killing and imprisoning protesters. This only exacerbated the situation, causing civilians to link up with military and political forces to form opposition groups in hope to bring the Assad regime down.


Who’s Fighting Whom?

So President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government with the help of Iran, Russia and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah are trying to counteract the uprising from civilians and rebel groups.

Over the fence, the Western Coalition made up of countries such as the US, UK, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are attempting to take down Assad through supporting a number of rebel groups: funding, arming and even training them.

The problem is one of the main rebel groups is the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL), who currently occupy around 30% of Syria and will bulldoze anyone who gets in their way: whether they are from the Syrian government side, the Western Coalition or even the rebellion. So IS is enemy to all players… but the dilemma is every player is fighting someone different and have motives of their own.

The Syrian crisis composes of conflicts inside conflicts… inside conflicts.

It’s like the inception of wars.

For example:

  • Although Turkey and the Kurdish are fighting together with the US-led coalition against IS, the Turkish and Kurdish are both enemies of one another (the Turks are actually bombing the Kurds).
  • Russia is supporting Assad due to a Russia-Syria alliance, however the Russians claim they are only launching airstrikes against IS (despite the fact they have also bombed other rebel groups funded by the gulf countries and the US).

You can see why the Syrian crisis makes as much sense as using a fork to eat soup. 

The many clashing ideologies separating each actor from one another is what makes the crisis so complex. As a result the Syrian crisis has been one of the most fatal and truly devastating we have ever seen.

The UN estimates around 400,000 people have died since the start of the conflict, with 4.8 million Syrians risking their lives searching for safety in other countries.

If you wish to learn more about the crisis or how you can help, feel free to visit the Red Cross or UNICEFs Syrian appeal pages.

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