International Press (IP) reporter Harsha Sista writes on the devastation caused by the Syrian conflict and how the humanitarian side is taking a back seat.
The middle-east has been a continuous centre of conflict for the last few decades. From the United States of America’s (USA) invasion of Afghanistan to the current Syrian crisis, the middle-east has been in a constant state of turmoil. The latest chapter to this stormy sequence has been the Syrian Civil War, which has been dragging on for the last six years. Countless lives have been lost as the rebel factions look to overthrow the tyrannical Syrian Government led by Bashar Al-Assad. In order to understand the current crisis in depth, the skirmish needs to be traced back to its roots.
The Assad family has held power in Syria since 1971, but has not lived up to the expectations of the people. The Government failed to deliver long-promised reforms and left a very dissatisfied taste in the minds of the citizens. When the Arab Spring spread to Syria in 2011, the people got the push they needed to go over the edge. There were protests all around the country demanding the resignation of Bashar Al-Assad. The government, instead of solving the issue peacefully, resorted to torture and killing to subdue the protestors in hopes of crushing them once and for all.
This move backfired and made the protestors react to violence with their own brand of violence. A civil war brewed, which escalated very quickly and attracted world powers and external agencies into the Syrian battleground. This resulted in a proxy war as the superpowers got involved, competing with each other to prove that they are the best. This was a consequence of the war and not a cause for it. The USA supported the rebel groups looking to overthrow the Assad regime while the Russian Federation is supporting the Assad Government as they have been their long-standing allies. Both of them have vested interests and they are not helping the situation in Syria as the war is still going on, without any hope of ending soon.
The entrance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) brought in a truckload of problems for everyone involved. The extremist ideology of ISIS coupled with determine fighters who believe whole-heartedly in it is a dangerous combination and has resulted in losses for everyone, with the civilians being the worst affected. The ISIS has been able to grow in stature because of the power vacuum in Syria and offers a major threat to both the parties.
Often taking a backseat amidst politics is the humanitarian aspect of this crisis. Murders, rapes and tortures are everyday acts and there is a lack of access to basic amnesties such as food and water throughout the country. The government is also blocking the humanitarian aid and food supplies to civilians in the hope of subduing them and winning them over easily. In the opinion of the IP member, such warfare tactics should never be employed and Bashar Al-Assad should face multiple criminal charges for doing so.
There is an alarming number of human rights violations by all parties involved and most of them are not held accountable for it because everyone is too busy focussing on the war. Soldiers on all sides kill without regard. The safety of women is a myth as the peacekeeping forces and soldiers use them for “recreational purposed” and then leave them to suffer. Children are brainwashed and forced to take up arms so that they can “fight for their motherland”. In the opinion of the IP member, the justice system should be more stringent so that such things do not go unpunished and nobody is immune, because nothing should get in the way of accountability for a crime.
With such human rights violations all across the country, there has been a mass efflux of refugees from Syria.The usage of chemical weapons in the war has caused mass civilian casualties and is one of the contributing factors to the refugee crisis. More than 4.5 million people have fled Syria since the start of the war and have migrated to neighbouring countries, hoping for a chance at life. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, which are the closest neighbours, have struggled to cope with the sheer numbers, often turning away many refugees. The refugee crisis has caused political divide in the European Union (EU) as countries argue about the sharing of the burden with each other.
Although many humanitarian agencies have tried alleviating the pain of the Syrian people, their progress has been stopped as the humanitarian aid and food supplies do not reach the besieged towns and cities in the remote parts of the country. As a result, many lives that could have been saved are lost.
In the opinion of the IP member, the parties involved should concentrate more on the humanitarian aspect of things so that the civilians get some respite from the horrors that they have been enduring. Although various attempts at brokering peace have been made through political means, the crisis is still in progress. Therefore, the IP member feels that if the focus is shifted a bit, a possible solution may arise and the age of insecurity is but a page in the history books.