The Syrian Civil War Takes A Toll On The World


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US troops pulled out of Syria in October of 2019, ending their involvement in the violent and chaotic Civil War.

Gabrielle Daley, Editor-In-Chief

Since 2011, a civil war has been raging in Syria with multiple groups trying to take control of the country. Recently, controversy has arisen over President Trump’s removal of US forces in the Middle Eastern country. What is actually going on in Syria? Why was the US fighting there, and what are the consequences of the US moving out?

For many years prior to the outbreak of war, the economy in Syria was at a low, and unemployment was high. Syrians were aggravated by the actions politicians were making and the lack of freedom they had. In 2011, people began to protest in the city of Deraa after 15 school children were arrested and tortured for painting anti-government graffiti on a wall. Although they were peaceful protests called the “Arab Spring” in which the people demanded the release of the children, the government opened fired and killed four people. When the dead were laid to rest the next day, people at the funeral were shot at by the government. 

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A map of Syria

Syrians across the country were furious with this news. People demanded that President Bashar al-Assad resign; he refused and sent out his army to fight the protesters. By July 2012, Syria had entered a civil war. There’s still no singular rebel group, at one point there were 1,000 different groups against the president, but over the years that number has dwindled. Civilians who are fighting against the President are diverse and they’re all called the opposition. “The government was savage, they didn’t like how the people were reacting so they responding by killing them with arms. The people then got arms and a civil war started,” said Mohamad Sawam, a Syrian refugee and senior at West Springfield High School who left his country in 2013. His close cousin was shot and murdered in the violence in Syria.

Soon, the Islamic State (IS), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) got intertwined in the civil war. IS is a terrorist group that has extreme religious views, and they use violence against anyone who disagrees with them. They claim to be members of Islam and they found a safe zone in Syria and had easy access to weapons there. By 2014, they had taken over much of Iraq, which is next to Syria. They captured Raqqa, a large city in Syria in 2014, and continued to spread in the north.

There are three groups at war – ISIS, the government-backed troops, and the opposition. The opposition and President Assad’s forces are fighting their own battle with ISIS as they fight each other. Many foreign countries are involved in the war. Iran, China, Russia, and Iraq have aided Assad; and Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, France, and the US have aided the opposition. 

Since 2016, Turkey (which borders Syria) has attacked ISIS and Kurdish groups in Northern Syria. The Kurdish are the fourth most populous ethnic group in the Middle East, and they are the indigenous people of the Mesopotamian lands, and there’s a large population of Kurdish people in Northern Syria. The US got very involved in the war in April of 2017 when President Trump launched missiles into Syria after the Syrian government used chemical weapons on civilians. Later, the US aided the Kurdish and Arab fighters in Northern Syria in taking back Raqqa, the large city that ISIS took over years before. Since the US and Kurdish fighters joined forces, the Islamic State has lost much of its foothold in Syria. According to the BBC, ISIS had control of lands in Syria the size of the UK. Now, the ISIS has little over a few hundred square meters.

In October of 2019, President Trump announced that the US would pull out of Northern Syria.  According to Business Insider, around 1000 US troops were stationed in Syria since 2015. This made way for the Turkish to attack the Syrian-Kurds, which are strong US allies. The Kurds are feared around the Middle East because countries like Syria, Iraq, and Turkey think that they could possibly rebel and make their own country. There are Kurds across the Northern border of Syria in Turkey, and the Turks don’t like the threat of the Kurds across their border in Syria. The United States is Turkey’s ally, so Turkey wouldn’t attack the Syrian-Kurds while the US worked with them, but when the US left, they took advantage of their opportunity. 

“I think it’s a very dicey decision to move out of Syria because, for one, the Kurds were our allies. And I think that when any nation is seen abandoning an ally, it is a great risk in many ways. Not only are you at risk of being disloyal, but it’s very tough to forge alliances in the future,” said Mr. Gillane, a WSHS. President Assad’s forces are looking to further the government’s territory. They could grow stronger without US troops backing the Democratic Kurds. Syrians are now left feeling betrayed and helpless with the loss of US troops. Although the US troops are moving out, many are now moving in with the sole purpose of protecting oil fields.

The violence in Syria has gone on for years and has taken its toll. In 2018, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights recorded that 367,965 people have died. There’s also 120,000 average citizens that are fighting. Schools are destroyed, and students can’t learn. “We had to stop going to school at some point when things got worse it was dangerous too. We were scared to leave the house. Everybody was scared,” said Mohamad Sawam. Cities are decimated, the rich culture of the country is shattered. Sawam continued, “The Syria I grew up in is gone. Houses, everything is just destroyed.” 5.6 million people have left the country and 6.2 million have left their homes according to the BBC. Countries all over the world have taken in Syrian refugees, however, approximately 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The conflict in Syria is very complex and violent but its impact has been felt by the world and even our community.