For months, a hot topic in the news has been the conflict in Syria. Since April 2011, the country of Syria, located in the Middle East, has been involved in a devastating civil war. During this time, citizens of Syria began to protest the dictatorship ruling Syria, as similar uprisings had been occurring in neighbouring countries. The government responded with the killing and torturing of activists, and later, their families. Eventually, the government’s militia began to open fire at protests. Citizens of Syria, in an attempt to fight back against the government, formed rebel groups.
Much of the tension in Syria is rooted in secular rebalancing, when European colonists drew up the boarders of Syria without considering the diverse religions or beliefs of the groups put together. Currently the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, an Alwite (an Islamic sect) is ruling over the predominantly Sunni population.
Assad may have gotten the idea to use sarin gas on his people from his father, Hafez al-Assad, who used similarly ruthless methods to deal with those who rebelled. In 1982, the senior Assad leveled entire neighbourhoods in order to crush the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic group. Though Hafez al-Assad’s way of dealing with an uprising succeeded without many consequences, the same cannot be said for the younger Assad’s efforts.
The use of a chemical weapon, sarin gas, was found to have been used on the people of Damascus, Syria’s capital. The use of chemical weapons is illegal, and Syria blatantly ignored and broke this law. This has caused the United States to want to get involved and punish Assad for not following the law on chemical weapon use. There was debate surrounding a proposed air strike on Syria led by the United States, which never came to be, as another option became available. Russia, an ally of Syria, stepped in and had Assad agree to dispose of the remaining chemical weapons the country possesses.
The disposal of chemical weapons will not bring an end to the civil war, which has already killed over 100,000 people and created over 2 million refugees. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, this number is expected to grow to over 3 million by the end of 2013. Many Syrians are seeking refuge in nearby countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. These refugees are being placed in overcrowded refugee camps, and dependent on the aid provided by the camps and groups supporting the refugees. Neighbouring countries are not going to be able to continue to take in and support refugees if the civil war increases in severity and the rate of Syrians leaving the country continues to rise.
Will the United States be satisfied with Syria handing over the chemical weapons they possess to Russia? Will the United Nations step in to help ease the tensions in Syria? These are just some of the questions that come to mind thinking about the multiple complex issues involved in the Syrian conflict. Time will tell what actions the superpowers of the world will pursue to aid the people of Syria.