There has been a war raging under the public’s noses, and only now are the nations paying attention.
The Syrian War started mid-March 2011, and since then has grown into a conflict that has displaced over 6.5 million Syrians and has killed 140,000. It has been a war against humanity. The inciting incidents were widespread peaceful protests aimed at the purpose of pushing for the release of political prisoners. The government’s response to these protests, rather than listening and giving the effort of serving the public, responded with force. This action effectively began the building of a wall between the people and the government, which today is nearly irreparable.
Beyond this initial incident the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad’s, active ignoring of his public, turned into belligerent refusal of their demands for both meaningful political reform and to cease the attacks against them. Assad also spent most of his time denying his responsibility for the response. Not only were the protesters and innocent civilians being subjected to torture from the state military, there was also the state-sponsored militant group, the Shabiha, who were fighting alongside the security forces.
Those being oppressed started to organize into groups such as the Syrian National Council and the militarized Free Syrian Army. What began as peaceful protests were quickly stoked into a firefight. All hopes for peace dwindled, and there was little ground for those trying to avoid the impending civil war. With the return of artillery from the opposition forces, came reports that those who were supposedly fighting for the people were subjecting civilian to the same type of torture they were receiving from the government.
This is where the true tragedy of the Syrian War lies, with the people who have lost their homes and watched their country crumble. Though nationalism has little pull in a civil war, for there are many differing opinions of what it means to be loyal to one’s country, it is those whose ancestors grew up in the land who were being forced out by an uncaring government and an aggressive and selfish opposition.
Now the conflict has reached such a point that people can no longer ignore the plight of innocent Syrian civilians. A recent point that has served as a beacon to the publics ignorance were the pictures of the drowned bodies of young Aylan and Galip, two brothers fleeing the conflict of their native Syria to the Greek island of Kos. The pictures show Aylan’s body lying face down on the beaches of the Turkish town of Bodrum.
The images shocked the public into recognizing the human aspect to a war they had before only heard whispers of. It marked an aspect of foreign policy that has left many refugees without home. These events have served to highlight the public’s lack of information on the difference between a migrant and refugee, with this conflict being brought into the forefront of conversation as the global community is being pressed to give a response to this big humanitarian crisis. It is a terminology that hasn’t been greatly defined before now, but will be a definition of upmost importance in the coming months and years. Nations who wish to close their borders to the insurgence of Syrians mainly use the term migrant to define someone who has left their home of their own volition looking for better opportunities. In seeing the Syrian refugees as this gives the illusion that their need is less dire or that
their difficulties are of their own choosing. Looking at the history of the crisis though it is obvious that this isn’t the case. The people leaving Syria are being forced out and have been since the beginning of the crisis, more closely pertaining to the definition of a refugee.
The Syrian civil war began as a conflict against people, and that trend has carried to the present day. What began as protests, a form of public response, is still growing from that initial seed. In the early days of the crisis Turkey was already foreseeing, or rather preparing for the worst-case scenario, as they saw refugees begin to trickle across the border. This initial group soon turned into a flood though after the events of the Jisr ash-Shugur Operation where a Syrian Army attack cleared out the town of around 41,000. As numbers increased, refugee camps were set up for the influx of Syrians, and many of the surrounding countries started to formulate their responses to the refugees. This has continued into the modern day, and has shown no signs of slowing. As António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said of the crisis “The Syria crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them.”