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Syria: The road to hell

The U.S. attack on a military base in Syria could be the turning point in an armed conflict that has lasted 6 years and seems to go nowhere
Inder Burgarin, correspondent
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Nothing pains 13-year-old Abdul Statouf more than talking about his homeland, Syria. “I remember that we have to leave from day to day, leaving everything behind: our home, our toys, our friends, everything.” says the demure boy that arrived in Holland as an asylum seeker together with his parents, his brother, and his three younger sisters.

Abdul’s effort to erase his past in Syria is clear and completely understandable as it is tainted by chaos, destruction, and tragedy. After over six years of the Syrian Civil War, the country has amassed one of the bloodiest records of the past decades. According to the Syrian Center for Political Research and the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the armed conflict has resulted in the killing of over 470,000 people and over 117,000 people missing, until February 2016, while the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates over 6.1million displaced people within the country and over 5 million asylum-seekers mainly in Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Germany, and Sweden. From those who have decided to stay in Syria, four of every five people live in extreme poverty.

Additionally, the Syrian civil population has suffered from marginalization, systematic and generalized violations to human rights, kidnapping, executions, torture and forced child military labor, as well as the use of human shields for artillery and strategic posts, apart from being the target of chemical attacks.

U.N. observers concluded that on August 2013, hundreds of people died of a nerve gas sarin attack in two suburbs in Damascus, while other two similar attacks took place in 2014 and 2015 with chloride gas.

Last Tuesday’s nerve gas sarin attack took place in north Idlib, a rebel enclave, which killed over 86 people including 27 children and 17 women as reported by the Syrian Observer of Human Rights.

“Crimes and abuses against civilians have become a distinctive imprint of this armed conflict in which hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, millions of families have been displaced and communities have been torn all over the country.”, said U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, during his participation in the humanitarian forum on Syria held in Brussels.

The Syrian conflict goes back to 2011 during the Arab Spring, which started a year earlier in Tunisia and took an unexpected turn in Damascus. Thousands of people took the streets to protest against, unemployment, marginalization, corruption and lack of political freedoms.

Bashar al-Assad suppressive state response to the protests clashed with a fragmented and sectary opposition which stretched to entire communities. The dialogue was hampered, while the demand for a presidential dismissal became non-negotiable. Al-Assad quickly targeted the opposition movement as a terrorist one.

The conflict soon escalated into a Civil War, with the frail harmony between Sunny, Shiite and Kurdish groups threatened and the Syrian economy collapsing with over 2.1 million people impoverished.

Jihadi groups soon entered the conflict and expanded, like the Tahrir al-Sham, affiliated to Al-Qaeda, took north positions, while the Islamic State (ISIS) imposed their personal Sharia Law in the territories they occupied in Syria. Hezbolá also provided military assistance to state forces.

Due to its geopolitical significance, the conflict attracted major regional players. Russian aviation forces began bombings over ISIS targets in September 2015, while Turkey has faced the challenge of preventing the rearmament of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), the suppression of the Jihadist threat and the allocation of over 3 million Syrian refugees, while Saudi Arabia has supported rebel groups to put a halt on ISIS progress.

The Washington Post estimated that at least 10,000 rebels have received U.S. military training since 2013, while other reports suggest weaponry transference including TOW missiles.

International Crisis Group notes that all key players must be included to reach a comprehensive solution for the Syrian Conflict, including Iran, Russia, Turkey and the U.S. The agency says that Al-Assad is forced to resign “given the insurgency stemming from a generalized enmity against his regime.”

For her part, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, says “there cannot be a military solution to the conflict”.

According to Mogherini the only path to peace in Syria is the execution of an inclusive political process that fulfills the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people per the 2254 UN resolution and the 2012 Geneva statement.



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