The Crisis in Syria Explained


Nish Nalbandian

By: Xavier Rogers, Staff Reporter

The Syrian civil war has been an ongoing ordeal since 2011. The start of the war can be traced back to the Syrian city of Deraa, wherein fifteen school-aged children were arrested and tortured for anti-government graffiti that they had posted on a wall.  Upon hearing this news, the citizens in the community began to peacefully  protest, calling for the kids to be released from imprisonment as well as for liberty within their country. The next day, March 18, 2011, Syrian security forces opened fire on a crowd of protesters in Daraa, killing four protesters. In April of the same year, armed security forces raided a sit-in in the Syrian city of Homs. In June, Police officers and soldiers in Jisr al-Shughour decided to join forces with the protesters they were meant to shoot, forming the Free Syrian Army. The United States soon responded with President Obama urging for the resignation of Syria’s president, Bashar Al-Assad.  He also ordered a freeze on the Syrian government’s assets. Soon after, other countries expressed their outrage towards Assad, with much of Europe and the Arab League deciding to place sanctions on Syria. In October, the Syrian National council was established by groups that opposed Assad’s regime, with the goal of ending Assad’s government and replacing it with a Democratic system in Syria. The Syrian government signed an Arab League proposal that was designed to end violence between protesters and government forces. Despite this, by February of 2012, the Syrian government increased the bombardment rate on Syrian cities like Homs.

               According to BBC, in 2012, President Obama warned Syria against the use of chemical weapons on its people in, as doing so would invoke a U.S. response. Later that year, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition forces were formed as an opposing counsel to the Syrian government, and in December they were recognized as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people by countries such as Turkey, France, Britain, Gulf and the US. In the following year, UN weapons inspectors declared that chemical weapons were used in the city of Damascus a month prior in an attack that led to the death of 300 people. Following this incident, the UN destroyed many of Syria’s chemical weapons. This task was not fully completed until the next year.

In December of  2013, reports came in to the US and Britain that Islamists had taken over western-backed Free Syrian Army bases, which prompted both countries to temporarily shut down the support they had been giving to the rebels. Things only got worse from there as  UN-sanctioned peace talks in Geneva fell apart, due to Syrian officials refusing to negotiate an interim government. to find a peaceful solution, Assad’s army, with the help of Lebanese forces, recaptured the Syrian city of Yabroud. Militants from the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) declared leadership or caliphate in territories spanning from Aleppo to the Iraqi province of Diyala. In September, the US and five Arab nations launched air-strikes against Islam in areas such as Aleppo and Raqqa. The next year ISIS began to claim several ancient cities in Syria, destroying ancient artifacts at the pre-Islamic World Heritage site. The Islam Army of rebels also took control of the Idlib Province, which strained the government’s hold on major strongholds.

         2015 marked the beginning of Russian interference in Syria. That year, the Russians launched a series of strikes that they stated were targeted at the ISIS, however Western and Syrian opposition say that they seemed to be mainly targeting Anti-Assad groups, and are allies with the Syrian president.  December of 2016 marks a significant turning point in the war against Syria as Iranian-affiliated militias and Russian air forces recapture Aleppo, which took care of the rebel’s last major urban citadel. April of 2017 marked the first major  US intervention as President Trump orders a missile attack on the Syrian air force base that was allegedly used to launch a chemical weapons assault on the rebel town of Khan Sheikhoun.

                In the midst of all the conflict, the destruction left behind has ruined countless lives and caused many to travel as refugees. Of the 13.5 million in need of humanitarian aid, approximately 6.6 are stuck within Syria itself, while others have fled to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt to find a safe haven. Approximately 5 million Syrians are registered refugees and children make up about half (2.4 million) of this statistic. With no end to the war in sight, one thing is clear: countries must pull together resources to provide for and aid the citizens of Syria in their time of urgent need. With the way things have escalated within the past several years, can a negotiation be reached to end the conflict or is war the most direct answer to the problems spanning out of Syria?

For more details regarding the history of Syria, we recommend you visit BBC’s Syria profile for a brief run down on major events during the war.