Syria is a Middle Eastern country, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, Israel, Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. This 71,998 square mile war-torn country is the source of millions of refugees escaping to the nearby nations, the European Union and the United States. But how has Syria become the center of one of the biggest humanitarian and migrant crises that the modern world has seen?
President Bashar Al-Assad was elected into office on 10 July 2000 following the death of his father Hafez Al-Assad in office a month prior. Assad’s regime has been described as an authoritarian regime by political scientists. In 2011, a drought in Syria drove farmers into cities after their fields no longer yielded crops. Food shortages began due to the difficulties in growing food. All the while, Al-Assad feasted in his presidential palace, leaving his people to starve while he lived the high life. Assad’s indifference sparked hatred among the people of Syria.
Also going on during this time was the Arab Spring, during which many Arab and African countries protested their dictators and eventually gained their freedom. The Syrians began protesting Assad, and his regime spearheaded violent crackdowns on protestors, thus causing the protests to morph into a rebellion and causing the beginning of the Syrian civil war.
On 15 March 2011, protests in Syria began in earnest.
Assad’s government has been violently suppressing protesters, using tear gas and bombs to subdue them. But this war is no ordinary two-sided war- there are 2 strong foreign interests and many less major ones, with some political scientists forecasting a “World War III”, although that outcome remains unlikely. The U.S and Russia both have strong interests in Syria, with the U.S attempting to both overthrow Assad and exterminate Daesh (which we will get into later), while Russia supports Assad and is bombing Daesh. The European Union and Saudi Arabia are also conducting airstrikes against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, North Korea is a strong ally of Assad and Syria.
Daesh, known among themselves as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS, is a so-called “Muslim” terrorist group responsible for the Paris attacks which killed 139 people, as well as inspiring many smaller attacks by encouraging would-be jihadists over the internet to kill “non-believers.” These lone-wolf jihadists encouraged by online propaganda and Daesh’s English magazine Dabiq include the married couple that committed the San Bernardino massacre, the man who shot a police officer in West Philadelphia, and the shooter at a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest in Texas. Daesh’s attacks have caused such American politicians as Donald Trump to declare that Muslims are the enemy, despite the fact that the majority of deaths caused by Daesh are of Muslims and Daesh doesn’t follow the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book.
And on why this author doesn’t refer to Daesh (an acronym for the Arabic phrase al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) as ISIS or ISIL, as most people do- Daesh calls themselves the Islamic State. Referring to Daesh as so is outlawed under Daesh’s regime in Iraq and Syria, and the punishment is getting your tongue cut out. It is theorized that the reason they hate this name so much is because it is similar to another Arabic word, “das”, meaning to trample down or crush. Also, a caliphate/ Islamic state cannot just be randomly declared. So, if Daesh is the enemy, shouldn’t we be referring to them as so?
In 2016, Daesh controls ~40% of Syria, while Assad controls ~30% and the remaining ~30% is controlled by rebels or Kurds. The Kurds, an ethnic group who are being terrorized by Daesh, and the rebels are backed by major world powers who are striking Daesh with drone-deployed bombs.
Daesh came to power when Syria was in the middle of a civil war and it was easy to control Syria, whose military is focused on fighting the uprisings. Now, Daesh has a firm grip on most of its territory including its strongholds in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria. Civilians living in Raqqa have described it as “a giant prison” with regular executions of “sinners” and frequent food and power shortages, along with U.S bombs dropping from the sky.
Civilians are emigrating from Syria in huge numbers because of the danger posed by Assad, Daesh and airstrikes. Many are paying human smugglers obscene amounts of money to get a spot on small, overcrowded boats that often lose power or sink to the bottom of the Mediterranean, or crossing borders to neighboring countries such as Jordan and Israel. Some refugees cross into Turkey, cross Serbia, and apply for asylum in Hungary. As of August 2015, more than 300,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean in 2015. That number most likely exceeded 350,000 by the end of the year. A further 2,600 migrants had died in the first 8 months of 2015, and that number was projected to be around 3,000 total by December.
2-year-old Aylan Kurdi was found dead on a Turkish beach in September after the overcrowded boat he was in sank, pulling on the world’s heartstrings and raising awareness of the horrible implications of this war on children, including children being robbed of their education, raped, killed, imprisoned, beaten, sold or forced into the ranks of Daesh as a child soldier.
Airstrikes have been concentrated on killing Daesh fighters and destroying their sources of income (taking over banks and oil refineries and setting up sanctions), but fighters are purposefully mingling with civilians and stationing civilians wherever they need to protect themselves because they know that the US will try to minimize civilian casualties.
So far, millions of Syrians have been killed or displaced in this war that shows no signs of ending soon. This civil war has been going on for almost 5 years, and is impacting the U.S 2016 presidential race as candidates debate strategies on how to eradicate Daesh and if Daesh or Assad should be a priority. And with all of the fake statistics and talk coming from the right-wing about all Syrian refugees, who were driven out of their country by terrorists, supposedly being terrorists themselves, Syrians are being re-victimized by a system that simply is unprepared for this volume of refugees and by people who are scared and out of whose fear hatred is arising.
On the local front, a group of refugees is coming to Allentown, PA. You can support them by donating food, clothes, toys, or school books and help them prosper after being terrorized by war and being driven out of their countries, and make them feel welcome despite the Islamophobia running rampant in the West.
Donate to Syrian children here- http://www.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.7998857/k.D075/Syria.htm
Here is a BuzzFeed video exploring Islamophobia and prejudice (a little bit of moderate profanity, viewer discretion advised)- http://www.buzzfeed.com/alanwhite/these-guys-read-people-passages-from-the-bible-but-made-them#.mrk3ayBZ9
Woman who is said to have predicted the rise of Daesh- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3350753/Did-blind-Bulgarian-clairvoyant-predict-rise-ISIS-Nostradamus-Balkans-died-20-years-ago-said-great-Muslim-war-2016.html