10 YEARS OF THE SYRIAN WAR : ‘THE WORST MAN-MADE DISASTER SINCE WORLD WAR II’
The 15th of March marked the 10 year anniversary since the Syrian uprising in 2011. Millions have been displaced and hundreds of thousands have been killed as a result of the grim consequences of the deep-rooted, complex and ongoing conflict.
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HOW IT BEGAN
Major public unrest spread across Deraa, Damascus and Aleppo on the 15th of March 2011, as protesters took to the streets expressing dissatisfaction with the repressive and brutal regime, demanding democratic reforms.
The pro-democracy demonstrations were initially triggered by the detention and torture of a young group of boys a few days prior, over graffiti challenging the rule of longtime President Bashar al-Assad. The Government responded violently with arbitrary arrests and detention to crush any semblance of dissent.
In July of the same year a rebel group emerged - Free Syrian Army - with the aim of overthrowing the Government, hence pushing the revolt into a civil war.
The Government failed to tackle the root causes of conflict, hence the protests continued relentlessly and the conflict intensified as various rebel groups and actors emerged across the country by 2013.
THE DAMAGING EFFECTS OF WAR
Raqqa, situated on the Euphrates River in Syria’s north, was the first governorate capital to fall under opposition control after the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011. By 2014, the city was captured by ISIL (ISIS), who declared it their capital.
Between the 2016 and 2017, Raqqa and many nearby villages and towns in the province fell victim to the devastating effects of the US-led coalition air raids during the anti-ISIL operation. It is estimated that approximately 80 percent of the city was destroyed.
Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was captured by ISIL (ISIS) in May 2015 and once again in December of 2016. Several ancient wonders have been destroyed by the group including : the Temple of Bel, the Temple of Baal Shamin, the Arch of Triumph, and columns in the Valley of the Tombs.
THE DEVASTATING HUMAN COST OF WAR
According to the UN, the death toll estimate in 2016 was more than 400,000 people.
The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, placed the toll over 593,000 as of December 2020.
According to UNHCR, approximately 11 million people need humanitarian assistance, about 6 million are internally displaced and 5.5 million Syrian refugees live in neighboring countries.
Child life expectancy in Syria has dropped by an alarming number of 13 years (World Vision International Frontiers Economics - March 2021).
Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic, the scarcity of fuel and shelter, as well as the US government sanctions, have greatly impacted war-weary families.
"The regime forced us to take up arms and turned the uprising into a war …. it was no longer possible to face guns with our screams.” - Ashraf al Homsi, a Syrian refugee from the Homs province, told
Al Jazeera that by 2011, the protesters were left with no other choice than to fight.
The future of Syria and its people remains paralyzed by the violent clashes of conflict. Numerous abuses and grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law have persisted, with no party held to account.