“As of February 2018, more than 5.5 million Syrians have fled the country and 6.1 million people are displaced internally.”
On March 15, the Syrian civil war will enter its eighth year. The war that started seven years back has killed more than 465,000 Syrians including more than a lakh children and injured over a million of population. It has also led to the displacement of over 12 million people from their houses.
Beginning Of the War:
It all started, when many Syrians complained about high unemployment, widespread corruption, a lack of political freedom and state repression under President Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded his father, Hafez, in 2000.
In March 2011, pro-democracy demonstrations inspired by the Arab Spring erupted in the southern city of Deraa. The government’s use of deadly force to crush the dissent led to the nationwide protests demanding the president’s resignation.
As the unrest spread, the crackdown intensified. Opposition supporters took up arms, first to defend themselves and later to expel security forces from their areas. Mr Assad vowed to crush “foreign-backed terrorism” and restore state control.
The violence soon rapidly escalated and the country descended into civil war as hundreds of rebel brigades were formed to battle government forces.
Control of Islamic State(IS) over the North-Eastern Syria:
Jihadist groups have also seized on the divisions, and their rise has added a further dimension to the war. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance formed by what was once the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, controls large parts of the north-west.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State (IS) group seized control of large swathes of north-eastern Syria. It now controls only a few isolated pockets of territory after being driven from its urban strongholds by Russian-backed government forces, Turkish-backed rebel brigades, and a Kurdish militia alliance supported by the US.
Russia, who believe that President Assad’s survival is critical for maintaining its interests in Syria, launched an air campaign in September 2015 with the aim of “stabilising” the government. Moscow stressed that it would target only “terrorists”, but activists said its strikes repeatedly hit Western-backed rebel groups and civilian areas.
The intervention has turned the tide of the war in Mr Assad’s favour. Intense Russian air and missile strikes were decisive in the battle for rebel-held eastern Aleppo in late 2016, while Russian special forces and mercenaries helped break the long-running IS siege of Deir al-Zour in September 2017.
On the other hand, The US, which says President Assad is responsible for widespread atrocities, supports the opposition and once provided military assistance to “moderate” rebels. It has also conducted air strikes on IS in Syria since September 2014, but has only targeted pro-government forces on a few occasions.
In April 2017, President Donald Trump ordered a missile strike on an air base which the US said was behind a deadly chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.
Recently, in January 2018, the US said it would maintain an open-ended military presence in SDF-controlled territory to ensure the enduring defeat of IS, counter Iranian influence, and help end the civil war.
Impact of the War on People:
This seven year war has badly affected the lives of the Syrians. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, reported in December 2017 that it had documented the deaths of more than 346,600 people, including 103,000 civilians.
In February 2016, a think-tank estimated that the conflict had caused 470,000 deaths, either directly or indirectly.
Children represented a small proportion of deaths, about 9 percent, in the first two years of the war. But since 2013, that proportion has more than doubled. The Lancet Global Health report, stated that nearly 1 in 4 civilian deaths are are children.
Meanwhile, almost 70% of population is living in extreme poverty. Six million face acute food insecurity amid shortages and inflated prices. In some areas, people are spending 15-20% of their income to secure access to drinking water.