The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Part One



Credit// John Stenmeyer

By: Ashwini Selvakumaran

This past few eventful weeks, many things have happened. Earthquakes in Japan, the attacks in Paris...

It makes me sad to reflect on how our world is shaping up to be.

I feel however, that people are mostly focusing on the events that are receiving world-wide news coverage.

It's my duty to report, not only were the Paris attacks significant. But for some people, this is how they live their lives 24/7. Today, I'll paint a picture as significant as the Paris Attacks were. I'll illustrate some background of The Syrian Refugee Crisis. The first of a two-part series, this article will informs you about how it all got started.

Background
The Syrian Civil war is a conflict between its long-serving government and those seeking to boot it out of office. The Assad family has held power in Syria since 1971. First it was Hafez al-Assad, then Bashar al-Assad.
Unlike many regime leaders in the middle east middle, The Assad family is not religiously extreme. They are Alawites - a relatively obscure branch of Islam which is not particularly hard-line. So the people have not been protesting against hard-line Islamists.
But people are still angry at their government. And what they're angry about, is the failure of long-promised economic and political reforms.
What makes Syria different is that there a Sunni majority is ruled by a Shia minority. The Alawites, the sect to which President Bashar al-Assad and much of his army officer elite belong, are Shia. The majority of Syria is Sunni. 
Syrians voiced their concerns with the government and tried to bring upon a democratic reform. They began what was known then as peaceful protests, graffiti spraying on walls, and silent marches on the streets.
These protests however, did not go over well with the government, which responded with extreme measures including the kidnapping, torture and killing of protesters. Government troops began opening fire on civilians, who fired back in response.
Civilian rebel forces then began organizing and arming themselves to combat government violence, which led to government military powers destroying entire neighborhoods and towns. Combined, the rising tensions between the two groups created the current state of civil war.
Syria’s conflict has devolved from peaceful protests against the government in 2011 to a violent insurgency that has drawn in numerous other countries. It’s partly a civil war of government against people; partly a religious war pitting Assad’s minority Alawite sect, aligned with Shiite fighters from Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, against Sunni rebel groups; and increasingly a proxy war featuring Russia and Iran against the United States and its allies. Whatever it is, it has so far killed 220,000 people, displaced half of the country’s population, and facilitated the rise of ISIS.

Why Syrians are fleeing: three reasons

  1. Violence: Since the Syrian civil war began, more than 240,000 people have been killed, including 12,000 children. One million more have been wounded or permanently disabled. The war has become more deadly since foreign powers joined the conflict.
  2. Collapsed infrastructure: Within Syria, healthcare, education systems, and other infrastructure have been destroyed; the economy is shattered. An estimated 4.8 million people are in areas of Syria that are difficult to access because of the conflict. It’s hard for aid groups to reach them.
  3. Children’s safety: Syrian children — the nation’s hope for a better future — have lost loved ones, suffered injuries, missed years of schooling, and witnessed violence and brutality. Warring parties forcibly recruit children to serve as fighters, human shields, and in support roles, according to the U.S. State Department.
More information here.

Turkey is hosting more than 1.9 million Syrian refugees. Iraq, facing its own armed conflict, is hosting about 250,000 Syrians.
More than 1.1 million refugees are in Lebanon. Many have taken up residence there in communities’ abandoned buildings, sheds, spare rooms, garages, and in tent settlements on vacant land. Conditions are often crowded and unsanitary. Even so, families struggle to pay rent for these spaces.
About 630,000 refugees have settled in Jordan, mostly with host families or in rented accommodations. About 80,000 live in Za’atari, a camp near the northern border with Syria, and about 23,700 live in another camp.
So now that you have some background information on The Syrian Refugee Crisis, enough to chime in with your opinion (I hope) it's time to formulate some opinions on how to stop it. Look out for the second part of this article, next week. For now, let's try to bring upon positive changes to the world.

-Ashwini




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