Syria: Keeping Up With The Conflict | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Syria: Keeping Up With The Conflict

Comment Writer Helena Shaw argues we should try to broaden our knowledge of international affairs and get to grips with the Syrian conflict

On Sunday, the Syrian government forces captured the towns bordering the last rebel enclave surrounding the capital, Eastern Ghouta. This comes after weeks of ferocious assault that the citizens have been subjected to including airstrikes and artillery bombardment. Due to this capture, aid from the UN is being prevented from entering and the citizens are not able to flee, being surrounded by both rebel and government forces. This action by the government has severed supply routes and hindered the rebels and is attacking the civilians with chemical weapons, raising the total death toll of the attack on Ghouta to within the thousands.

Does this all sound like gibberish to you? Then welcome aboard!

Firstly, we must recognize that the ‘Middle East’ is not one homogenous place

I will be the first one to admit that until relatively recently I was ignorant of the majority of the situation in the Middle East, let alone Syria. Of course, I knew that there was conflict, someone was fighting someone else, and religion was often mentioned, and we definitely needed to sort it. But other then that I was completely lost, in fact I thought the ‘Arab spring’ referred to a place, not one of the most important revolutionary periods in recent history.

What’s more I’m willing to be that I’m not alone in my ignorance.

So why do so few of us know what is actually going on?

And why are we afraid to admit and learn more?

The simple answer is, its really bloody complicated.

Firstly, we must recognize that the ‘Middle East’ is not one homogenous place. Whilst the conflicts may hold similarities, it is a smorgasbord of different religions, cultures, and people, all shoved together by colonial powers in countries that don’t really work and tend to promote a minority rule. Here we have a root to the problem, where conflict was born from the beginning. Understandably with a place so large, 3500,000 square miles (almost as big as America, but without the patriotism, but with similar amounts of Russian interference), it’s hard to understand what’s going on and pinpoint one conflict.

Whilst the government aimed to quell and prevent protests by releasing prisoners of war and amending the constitution, they quickly turned to violence

Furthermore, the situation is not clear cut. With most wars in history we have been taught to see black and white, good and bad. But unfortunately, with Syria the situation is not so simple, there are many players, all with different faults and all being influenced by international backers. So, when it comes to reporting the news or forming an opinion, it’s easy to get lost.

As you can see the Syrian conflict is a hard pill to swallow, and most the information we get on it can flow right over our heads. So, I’ve done the dirty work for you. Here is your cheat sheet to the Syrian civil war, so next time it comes up you don’t have to awkwardly change the subject or admit your naivety and risk not being as ‘woke’ as you once thought you were.

Syria was created in 1920, post the first world war. Its president was Hafaz al-Assad who ruled for 30 years, and was succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad.

It’s time to recognise our ignorance and do something about it

Following the example of the Arab spring (rebellions and protests across the middle east), Syrian protests began. Whilst the government aimed to quell and prevent these protests by releasing prisoners of war and amending the constitution, they quickly turned to violence. With this, the protestors resolved to violence and so the Syrian civil war was born. With a death count of over 500,000 and 13.5million refuges the situation is dire and long. Why has there been no intervention you ask. This is due to a Russian and Chinese veto over UN resolutions, due to their interests in the Asad regime.

Bear in mind this is a very simplified version of the conflict and there are many more details that should be recognized. But it is due to these details that the whole situation is so complicated.

So, recognizing the complexity of the situation, is it permissible to not know what’s going on?

Yes and no.

It’s a complicated situation that tends be talked about between people in the know who don’t bother to simplify it, what’s more, there are many other situations going on in the world that your attention may be taken by. But just because it's complicated doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be asking. Asking for information, asking to be educated, asking for the information to be more a part of our society for young and old. It’s time to recognise our ignorance and do something about it. Knowledge is for the masses, not just for The Time’s subscribers.


16th March 2018 at 9:00 am

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