Although Syria is not on the top of most middle-schoolers’ minds, the civil war across the world is one of the most important things going on currently. For example, when asked, an anonymous 8th grader questioned, “Syria is in Africa, right?” To answer their question, Syria is in Asia. Students in middle school may want to know more about what kids their age are going through in a country across the world.
Syria, or more formally known as the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia. Syria borders Turkey to the north, Jordan to the south, Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Iraq to the east, and Israel to the southwest. In 2011 to 2012, security forces, led by President Bashar Al-Assad, used tanks, gunfire and mass arrests to try to crush anti-government street protests inspired by the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. (The Arab Spring refers to the pro-democracy uprisings currently in the Middle East and North Africa.)
These protests rapidly grew in aggression when the rebels began to organize political and military groups for an uprising against the Baath government. As 2012 went on, the stand-off escalated into civil war, with desertions from the government showing the collapse of a central authority. On August 12, 2013, a chemical attack was launched on the suburb of Damascus, in Syria. Although the French government believes the attack was the Syrian government’s fault, Russia, Syria’s most powerful ally, thinks the attack is provocation by rebel forces seeking to overthrow President Bashar Al-Assad. The attack killed over 1,400 people, including over 400 children.
On Saturday, September 14, the U.S.A. and Russia agreed that the United Nations Security Council would review Syria’s compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined on the same day. The Russia-United States agreement specifies that if Syria fails to comply with its obligations under the chemical weapons treaty, the Security Council should impose measures under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, which allows for forcible steps, including the use of military force.
The United Nations Security Council met on Tuesday, September 17 about how to hold Syria to it’s pledge of identifying all chemical weapons under government control. Diplomats, who choose to go unnamed, say that the draft will not be resolved as quickly a hoped for because of differences of opinion. Russia is said to be resisting components of the draft, which was formed by U.S.A., France, and Britain. U.S.A. and France say they reserve the right to punish Syria militarily; however Russia believes this is against the United Nations Charter.
United Nations investigators returned to Syria on Wednesday, September 18, to follow up on accusations of chemical use. This will please Russia, which called a recent United Nations report “one-sided”and called for investigators to return to Syria. The United Nations has stated that when inspectors return to Syria, they will focus on a chemical attack on March 19 on the village of Khan Al Assal outside the city of Aleppo in the north, which was captured by rebels in July. In the past visit to Syria made by chemical analysts, they concurred, “chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale.”
The United Nations Security Council unanimously confirmed on Friday, September 27 to rid Syria of their chemical weapons arsenal. Now the U.N. Security Council is turning their attention to Syria’s people. The Council considers asking the fighting parties to pause fighting for humanitarian reasons. They are also considering drafting a statement to ask the Syrian authorities to allow transmission of aid from neighboring countries across the borders.
Just think, for every kid here struggling over homework, there’s a kid in Syria struggling over the fact that their family is dead.