ISSN 2330-717X

An Empty Syria Without Syrians – OpEd

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The war in Syria is so demonic and unyielding that half of its population has had to leave the country within recent years, in fact one of every five displaced person in the world today is a Syrian. The conflict has triggered the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since the World War II. The level of deprivation and destruction is high, with most of the people being killed by bombs or starvation. According to the International Organization for Migrant (IOM) 1.2 million houses have been damaged in the country, and the availability of water has decreased by 50 percent and only 43 percent of hospitals are fully functioned.

A recent report issued by the United Nations estimated that since 2011 around 250,000 people had been killed in the Syrian war and 13.5 million people were in urgent need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria. Most of the displaced persons are moving to Turkey and Jordan via cross border activity (under UN Resolution 2165 and 2191) and others are travelling to Europe by boats. Unfortunately many people cannot make their way to Europe due to immense hazardous boat journey, and around 3,695 have died during cross border activities (IOM). Despite these horrific results, many European countries are reluctant to accommodate the refugees for various reasons.

Before the war Syria was a culturally rich and beautiful place — it used to be a repository of a vast history of the Roman and the Ottoman Empires, including archaeological sites, grand mansions and holy shrines. Time magazine published on its front cover filled with delightful pictures of the sandy beaches of Syria, and tourists used to travel from Turkey to Syria to visit the magnificent castles of Krak des Chevaliers, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din or even the Citadel of Aleppo. Now unfortunately these places are left in ruin with rebel trenches, and tanks are seen moving around while shells hit the castles.

There are rivalries in the Syrian battlefield. On one the hand the Russia, Iran and Hezbollah block is supporting the Assad-led government and on the other Saudi Arabia,Turkey, US, UK and France are supporting the Sunni-led opposition party in Syria. One can say that Syria is being used by global powers to gain regional dominance or regime change. The civil war in Syria has also given path for Islamic State for terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Enormous negotiations and talks have been led by the UN and the Assad government and  the opposition, but these have failed due to a trust deficit and the main demands held by the opposition party to stop the human genocide and release the prisoners, while government’s demands are for full participation without preconditions.

There are serious indications that while the US, Russia and UN are showing concerns in the Syrian case, both the US and Russia are putting diplomatic pressure on each other to resolve the conflict by mutual consultations.

Although both have included the Arab league to strengthen the process, as it was discussed at International Syria Support Group (ISSG), the best possible solutions would be to give the UN control of the country as a “mandate territory” that would allow the UN to deploy its peace keeping forces in the region and to form a Syrian government under the national unity of the UN mandate. This  would also allow the UN to have amandate for declaration of a cease fire that would be observed by the international communities and with the expansion of badly needed humanitarian assistance.

One day all of us can only hope that the prolonged Syrian crisis will end and change the course of history and that can be taken as a future challenge for the upcoming next generation.

*Hassan Sohail, Researcher at Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS)

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