Syria: A humanitarian disaster of endless and unfathomable consequences

The Syrian Civil War has left hundreds of thousands people killed, millions of asylum-seekers and a nation turned to ruins
Feature photography by Cristopher Rogel Blanquet / EL UNIVERSAL
11/03/2017
19:26
Emiliano Limia and Cristopher Rogel Blanquet
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The Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011 and has left 4.8 million of asylum seekers mainly in five countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, according to 2016-2017 Amnesty International report. This has been the largest refugee crisis since World War II, a humanitarian crisis, that according to the Syrian Human Rights Watch, had left over 300,000 deaths until August 2015. Only 50,000 less than those reported by the United Nations.

Everything started during the “Arab Spring” little over five years ago, with the first peaceful civil-resistance demonstrations against the regime of president Bashar al-Assad on March 2011, following uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya that ultimately brought down each of the respective governments of the day.

Return fire on behalf of the regime resulted in national protests that were similarly crushed. A Civil War broke out, that had reached Damascus, the capital city and Aleppo, the second most important city in Syria by 2012. What started as a confrontation between government supporters and detractors to Al-Assad’s heavy-handed government set off a sectarian conflict between government Alawite’s and a Sunni majority.

Radical groups took advantage of the country’s instability, like the yihadist al-Nusra front, linked to Al-Qaeda and against Al-Assad, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a violent group notorious for its extreme cruelty and its worldwide media capacity.

International Intervention

After demanding Al-Assad’s removal from power, the U.S., U.K. and France began air raids targeting ISIS in Syria.

Russia, who had expressed its support to Damascus regime, became involved until 2015 with the aim of “stabilizing” Al-Assad’s unsteady government after a series of forceful blows on behalf of the opposition that had almost secured their victory.

Iran, a key ally of Al-Assad who has allegedly spent millions of dollars to reinforce the Syrian military presence and Saudi Arabia, who is believed to be providing both military and financial aid for the Syrian resistance alongside Turkey, have played major roles in the conflict.

Hundreds of civilian casualties have resulted from the raids led by both the European Union (EU) and the Russian government.

Similarly, since Geneva talks of 2012, several peace efforts have taken place, including Geneva II in 2014, without a definite agreement being reached between different opposition groups and Al-Assad’s regime. The following peace talks to address the Syrian conflict will take place next Tuesday and Wednesday in Astaná, Kazajistán.

According to the UN, the Syrian War amounts to around 13.5 million people in need for immediate humanitarian assistance in Syria, where 8.7 million asylum seekers were estimated by the end of 2016, including 6 million children.

At least 500,000 Syrians fled to Europe in attempt to flee the war either by sea or land, while only a small part of these has been properly sheltered, leaving the Mediterranean Sea as a massive grave for the thousands of people who failed to reach the European continent.

Countries of destination

According to a report by Amnesty International, between January and September 2016, 26.2% of the asylum-seekers crossing the Mediterranean Sea came from Syria, while Germany has committed 46% of the European Union’s available resettlement places, exactly 43,431, for Syrian refugees. The European Union’s 27 remaining member countries have promised over 51,205 resettlement places and other admission conduits only amounting to 1% of the Syrian refugee population in the main host countries.

Turkey houses 2.7 million Syrian asylum-seekers more than any other country in the world, from the millions of refugees that fail to reach Europe and remain in Syrian neighboring countries instead, while Lebanon receives about a million Syrian refugees, which amounts to one in five residents in the country. For their part, Jordan shelters 655,675 Syrian refugees, 10% of its population, Iraq receives 228,894 Syrian people fleeing war and Egypt houses 115,000 Syrian asylum-seekers.

By the end of November 2016, the United Nations Humanitarian call in favor of Syrian refugees had been partially financed at 56%, which means that 93% of Syrian refugees residing in urban zones of Jordan live under the poverty line very much like 70% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, 65% in Egypt and 37% in Iraq, respectively.

Should the war end tomorrow, Syrians would still have a ravaged country, where houses would have to be built on top of ruins and ashes; where the odor of flames and fear is yet to be removed.

Even if the Syrian war continues tomorrow and decades elapse before an almost extinct nation is rebuilt, there will always be exiled Syrians dreaming of going back home one day.

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