When Will We See Light at the End of the Syrian Conflict Tunnel?
by aupara123 on March 6, 2016 - 10:04pm
Many conflicts are currently taking place around the world, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq, and the multifaceted Egyptian conflict. The Syrian conflict is one that has lasted for nearly five years, as it began in the spring of 2011 during the period commonly known as the Arab Spring. Media worldwide have covered this complex issue, and each of them tells the story from their own perspective. The text below will piece together the events that led to the current Syrian conflict, the impacts it has had such as the massive migration, the immigration to Quebec and finally the attempts the world community is making at putting this conflict to an end. The information comes from articles written by the BBC News and Reuters from Great Britain, the Montreal Gazette from Quebec, as well as the New York Times and Time Magazine from the U.S.A.
Syria’s population is composed of people from primarily two religions, namely the Sunni and the Shiite. The Sunni represent the majority of the population whereas the Shia community is the minority. The Alawite community is a branch of the Shia community.
Before 1920, Syria was under the control of the Ottoman Empire, before its fall in 1920. From 1920 to 1946, Syria was a French colony and France gave more power to the Alawite people; they were not a threat as they were a minority, poor and uneducated. The Sunni, on the other hand were already powerful. In 1946, Syria gained its independence and until 1970, Syria was under a coup d’état, which caused political instability in the country. In 1970, Hafez al-Assad, an Alawite, became Syria’s president and brought back political stability. He reigned over Syria until his death in 2000, where his son, Bashar al-Assad, succeeded him and created a dictatorship. He has been at the head of the county ever since.
The Arab Spring started in Tunisia in the spring of 2011, sparked by a young man who set himself on fire in protest after being banned from selling fruit to earn a living. The people defied their respective dictatorships as revolts took place in many countries of the Middle East and North Africa. This was the beginning of Syria’s crisis, which began as a non-violent struggle during the uprising phase, and quickly evolved into a civil war. The conflict is viewed in three different “wars”: a Civil War between al-Assad`s regime and the Syrian opposition; a Religious War opposing Sunni rebels against the Alawite government domination backed by Shia organizations and countries such as Iran; and a Cold War where al-Assad is supported by Russia and the Syrian opposition is backed by Western countries. Beyond these three “wars”, the battle against the jihadist militants of the Islamic State, which now controls large sectors of Syria and Iraq as part of its self-proclaimed caliphate, makes the Syrian conflict even more complex.
Since 2011, the Syrian conflict has resulted in over 250 000 Syrians killed, cities destroyed and millions of people fleeing the country or moving to different locations in Syria. Russia’s direct involvement in the Syrian conflict over the last few months, with air strikes on both IS and Syrian Opposition targets, has allowed al-Assad to have the upper hand and regain the grip on Syria.
From 2011 to 2014, 9 million Syrians were refugees or displaced. Nowadays, there are more refugees in the cities than in the refugee camps, which are stretched to their limits every single day. For example, the refugee camp Zaatari, in Jordan, welcomes 2000 new Syrians per day. Lebanon and Jordan have the most refugees. The refugee camps provide very poor conditions to its occupants. It is in the desert with extreme temperatures, overpopulated, dirty, lacking sanitary systems, and people need to have money guaranties in order to leave the camp. Although many refugees choose to go to refugee camps, many of them seek a higher quality of life and attempt to reach the European coast by crossing the Mediterranean Sea by boat. There, “3 770 migrants are reported to have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2015” (“Migrant crisis: Migration to Europe explained in seven charts”, BBC News, 18 February 2016), including a two year-old boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach in September 2015. The two Syrian smugglers who responsible for the boat on which was the little boy were sentenced to more than four years in prison (“2 Men Sentenced in Death of Alan Kurdi, Syrian Boy Who Drowned in September”, The New York Times, March 4, 2016). This boy’s family was not the only one to cross the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, “more than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, sparking a crisis as countries struggle to cope with the influx, and creating division amongst the EU countries over how best to deal with resettling people”. The European country that takes in the most refugees is Germany.
The United States and Canada also welcome refugees. In fact, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to welcome 25 000 refugees by the end of February 2016, which resulted in UN’s Ban Ki Moon visit to Canada. One of the provinces to take in refugees is Quebec, where “4 673 Syrian refugees [have] landed in Quebec since 2015” (“Sponsors face the challenges of settling Syrian refugees”, Montreal Gazette, February 25, 2016). Quebec has been unbalanced as to the type of migrants it is welcoming. Indeed, a lot more privately sponsored refugees arrive in the French-speaking province than government-assisted refugees, and are spread throughout 13 cities. The majority settle in Montreal. There has been a tendency for refugees who get settled in cities with little or no Syrian community, such as Drummondville, to leave soon after their arrival for an Anglophone province such as Ontario. Private sponsors from Quebec are doing their best to help with the refugees’ integration, even though there is often a delay between the time they arrive and the time they can find a place to live and be fully independent. The language barrier is a major problem, and the waiting list for beginners’ French classes is growing, as is the size of classes in the elementary schools. Quebec is facing challenges with the Syrian immigration, but is coping well nevertheless.
Recently, the U.S.A. and Russia brokered a truce, signed in late February 2016 by the opposing Syrian parties, which involves a two-week cease-fire. The truce is still generally holding, despite mutual accusations of violating the agreement to cease hostilities. External stakeholders are hopeful that the truce will create momentum for peace talks.
To conclude, the conflict in Syria has been going on for almost five years. The Arab Spring has led to a civil war in Syria, with many lives and cities destroyed. As a result, thousands of families have fled the country, seeking refuge in neighbouring countries in the hope to find a better life elsewhere. Countries, like Canada, have taken in refugees, but the adaptation for them is often challenging because of the language barrier and lack of money. I think that welcoming refugees in our country and providing them with peace is a noble act of solidarity. It is not easy for them when they arrive, nor is it easy for the host countries, but the fresh start to life is better than the life they have left behind. It is important to help each other. It is difficult to be hopeful on a short-term resolution of the Syrian conflict, despite the truce, as war leaves deep scars generating mistrust and revenge. Let us hope it will soon be in a period of peace so that those who have fled can find a home of their choice.
The location from which a source comes from is crucial to the interpretation of the article and of the information provided. A city who writes an article will tend to write about what impacts them. For example, the Montreal Gazette is a Quebecer newspaper and covers mostly what happens locally and what impacts Montreal and its whereabouts, such as the immigrants who arrive to Quebec. The newspapers that are known worldwide, such as the New York Times, Time Magazine and the BBC News, will cover subjects from their points of view and will usually be focused on topics of national and global interest. If, for instance, articles on the same topic are written by Bashar al-Assad’s regime and by the BBC News, the information provided and the message will most likely be very different. In fact, the information used in writing this text is from Western sources, which are more supportive of the Syrian opposition, thus the articles are written with some subjectivity despite the appearance of objectivity. The location from which a source comes from impacts the information that will be provided and the point of view from which it is written. This is why it is important to have different sources on a same issue, ideally from sources supporting opposing views, to be able to compare the information provided.
Perry, Tom, and Suleiman Al-Khalidi. "Russian Bombs Take Toll in Syria as Islamic State under Pressure." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 20 Jan. 2016. Web. 06 Mar. 2016. <http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-insight-idUSKCN0U....
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Solyom, Catherine. "Sponsors Face the Challenges of Settling Syrian Refugees." Montreal Gazette. N.p., 25 Feb. 2016. Web. 06 Mar. 2016. <http://montrealgazette.com/news/sponsors-face-the-challenges-of-settling....
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