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Syrian Civil War: An Overview & How You Can Help

The Syrian Civil War, which has been an ongoing conflict for over six years, has displaced the residents of Syria as they escape the horrors of war. Since the Syrian civil war began, 320,000 people have been killed, including nearly 12,000 children. About 1.5 million people have been wounded or permanently disabled and 14.9 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria. The war has had a significant impact on the youth of Syria as it hinders their ability to safely attend school. Between 2 million and 3 million Syrian children do not attend school and the war is said to have reversed 10 years of progress in education for Syrian children. An increasing number of young Syrian girls are also being manipulated into marriage by predators who promise their families they’ll secure their future amidst the unstable war environment. 4,454 Syrian girls, all whom were ages 12-17, were married before they reached adulthood. Jordan, which hosts the third largest refugee population after Turkey and Lebanon, reports that registered marriages in the Syrian refugee community involving a girl under the age of 18 have risen from 12 percent in 2011 to just under 32 percent in 2014.

The war raging through Syria was caused by the fervent influence of the Arab Spring. As small scale protests erupted into an intersecting conflict, the war produced a mass exodus of refugees with 5,022,731 Syrians currently registered as refugees and more than 11 million others who’ve been displaced from their homes.

The democratic revolutions that swept through the Arab world in 2011 gave birth to a new movement―the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring, which  erupted in Tunisia as a successful coup d’etat that deposed  president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, took hold of 17 more nations in the Middle East. These anti-government protests spread quickly through the neighboring countries as Hosni Mubarak, dictator of Egypt, resigned next after nearly three decades of presidency. Many dictatorships came to an end and other regimes struggled to survive these revolts. However, the Arab Spring left the entire region in turmoil as terrorists exploited ineffective governments to seize power and economies plummeted. An unnamed senior American diplomat criticized the revolutions stating, “That whole Arab Spring business has been a mess, right from the start”. While others, such as President Obama, praised the changes declaring “The good news is that in Tunisia, where it began, we have seen the kind of progress that I think all of us had been hoping for, although it’s been full of challenges”. The success and outcomes of the Arab Spring are still heavily debated and result in conflicted opinions.

In early 2011, the Arab Spring fever swept through the streets of Damascus as Syrian protesters called to overthrow the regime of President Bashar Al Assad and demanded democratic reforms and freedoms. Assad, in return, unleashed his troops against the protesters and began a violent crackdown on dissenters. Tensions began to rise as the clash between the government and protesters resulted in brutal executions, kidnappings, and torture. Soon, a civil war erupted in Syria between civilian rebels groups and the Syrian government. The Syrian government was quickly backed by the support of Iran, Hezbollah (a Shi’a militant group), Iraq, and Russia as the Rebels were backed by Turkey, Jordan, and the Gulf states. Eventually, the rebels were also backed by a U.S.-led coalition after Assad’s regime allegedly killed 1,429 people through the use of chemical weapons in 2013.

The conflict became further complicated as the Gulf States and the U.S. landed in a proxy war against the opposition, Russia and Iran. President Obama however, denied the role of the U.S. in the proxy war stating “That would be bad strategy on our part. This is a battle between Russia, Iran and [Syrian President Bashar Assad] against the overwhelming majority of the Syrian people”.  Stephen Bidlle, a senior defense policy analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, disagrees claiming that “There are lots of proxy wars going on in Syria. And it’s not clear that the one between Russia and the United States is the most important”. In addition to a proxy war, Syria also fell victim to a sectarian war.

The sectarian war in Syria exists between the Shiite and the Sunni Muslims and is a direct result of the proxy war. The Shiite consist of Iran, Iraq, Alawites (Shi’a sect), and Hezbollah, all of whom support the Syrian government. The Sunnis consist of the Gulf States, Rebels, and Daesh (ISIS). A smaller conflict exists within the Sunnis with the Gulf States backing the Rebels to fight against Daesh. These intersecting and overlapping clashes have led to many Syrians fleeing from their homes.

The Syrian Civil War is one of the biggest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century and the end to this devastating conflict seems nowhere near. To provide assistance or help you can donate to these organizations that specifically aid Syrians and refugees in need.

  1. Hand In Hand For Syria
  2. Syrian American Medical Society
  3. United Nations Children’s Fund
  4. Save The Children
  5. Islamic Relief
  6. Doctors Without Borders
  7. Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
  8. Carry The Future
  9. International Rescue Committee
  10. Direct Relief
  11. United Nations Refugee Agency
  12. Church World Service
  13. Oxfam America
  14. World Vision
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