Syrian War Update


Olivia Smathers '21, Staff Writer

In March of 2011, Syrian citizens, fed up with their lack of governmental representation and personal freedoms, took to the streets of Deraa, a southern city in Syria. The government had just arrested and tortured a group of teenagers who painted anti-government slogans on a school wall; that was the last straw for the disgruntled Syrians. The government met their protests with open-fire. By July, hundreds of thousands of protesters united against their tyrannical leader, Bashar al-Assad, and demanded his resignation, putting their lives on the line for the end of his unjust rule. After just three years, the chaos of the civil war spurred the rise of the Islamic State, a terrorist organization that further complicated the conflict, capitalizing on the nation’s disarray to gain control. As time went on, world powers began to join the fighting, adding more and more fuel to the fire: Iran and Russia have been propping up Assad’s government while the United States, United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan work alongside the Syrian rebels.

Today, the conflict has taken an incredible toll on the international world. Fear and violence have forced 11.8 million Syrians from their homes, with 5.6 million of them leaving the country altogether in the world’s worst refugee crisis since the post-World War II period. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have taken in millions of fleeing Syrians, bringing tensions, especially between Syria and Turkey, to an all-time high. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his nation is at capacity after taking 3.6 million refugees and has closed off the border. The United States and Russia previously organized conferences, called “Geneva II,” aiming to implement the 2012 Geneva Communique and finally achieve peace in Syria, but the efforts quickly fell apart since the Syrian government exerted little effort towards diplomacy with the opposition. 

In 2018, the Trump administration made the decision to withdraw the remaining US troops in Syria, but US withdrawal made little impact on the state of the violence. As of last month, Syria has been at war for nine years with nearly nothing to show for it besides incredible turmoil. Bashar al-Assad still remains at large despite years of his citizens’ revolts. Instead of negotiating for a ceasefire, Assad utilizes starvation sieges, arrests and tortures activists and reporters for indefinite time periods, and bombs civilian infrastructure with Russian assistance. Before agreeing to destroy Syria’s chemical weapon supplies, he has even ordered chlorine bombs and sarin gas to be used against his own people—adults and children alike. As long as Assad continues to receive billions of dollars of Iranian military aid, encourage the Russian air campaigns that kill countless Syrians, and refuse to negotiate with opposition representatives with no accountability, the bloodshed will never cease. 

On March 11, a Germany court set the first trial date to investigate Syrian crimes against humanity. Syria has not signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, making it nearly impossible to prosecute members of Assad’s government at the standard level of international law. Nevertheless, through the collection of Syrian refugee testimony, European lawyers have put together a case against Assad. With a trial set to take place on August 13 of this year, humanity can only hope Assad’s government finally faces the consequences of perpetuating a humanitarian horror story on their own soil.