Over the past few years, the demonstrations and protests against tyrannical governments in the Middle East brought about some of the most important changes in the region itself and world politics as a whole.
Long-time dictators were brought down in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Yemen while civil unrest is still ongoing in countries like Bahrain, Kuwait, Algeria and Jordan.
But the only Arab state where the mass protests against the government escalated into civil war was Syria which over the course of three years turned into what some have called the worst humanitarian crisis in modern times.
It all started in the mid of March 2011 when mass protests sparked by the detention and torture of 15 boys – aged 10 to 15 – spread to the other cities of Syria.
Angry demonstrations turned into rebellion when the Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad deployed military personnel to quell the uprising a month later. With the passage of time, militant organizations joined the anti-government and opposition forces, thereby prompting a civil war which is still ongoing – with no hope of reconciliation.
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Here’s a brief account of the Syrian conflict:
The United Nations said in a report released in July 2013, that at least 100,000 people had been killed in Syria.
An updated version provided by the U.K.-based anti-Assad group, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, states more than 146,000 people have been killed in Syria’s three-year civil war, one-third of which comprise of civilian deaths.
More than 56,000 of those killed were from pro-Assad forces and around 36,000 rebel fatalities were recorded by the Observatory.
As of December 2013, over 2.3 million refugees are living outside Syria and other 6.5 million people – of Syrian and others including Palestinians – are displaced within the country.
Problems such as impoverishment, poor sanitation, prostitution and child abuse are worsening living conditions by the day.
According to a November 2013 report by the Oxford Research Group, 11,420 children - aged 17 years and younger - had been recorded killed out of a total of 113,735 civilians and combatants killed as of end August 2013. And the primary cause of death was explosive weapons, killing 7,557 (71%) of the children whose cause of death was known.
UK-based ‘Save The Children’ stated last year that Syrian children are being misused as porters, security guards, informers and fighters, functioning as human shields.
"After three years of conflict and turmoil, Syria is now one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a child," United Nations Children's Fund reported on Monday. "In their thousands, children have lost lives and limbs, along with virtually every aspect of their childhood."
There is a disturbing amount of women who came as refugees from Syria to Jordan without their husbands or families. Some arrived with their children only, thus becoming even more vulnerable to sexual exploitation since they have no source of income and have kids to feed apart from themselves.
In the Zaatari relief camp, for example, fathers are selling their daughters, and husbands are auctioning their wives for $70 a day. Syrian women claim that they have nothing to hold onto or rely on anymore. They have lost their homes and their families in the refugee camps are forcing them to resort to prostitution.
Although it’s hard to determine when exactly militancy hijacked the Syrian opposition standing against Assad, reports suggest Hezbollah – a Lebanon-based militant group joined the government forces in 2013.
In 2012, the U.N. suspected the conflict had turned “overtly sectarian” between mostly Alawite and Shiite regime and Sunni rebels.
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Syria's civil war has wreaked havoc on the country's economy. It could take years to repair the damage, said a news report released on Wednesday.
“Gross domestic product has plunged nearly 40 percent since 2010, the year before the war began, as production has seized up, the regime been rocked by international sanctions and oil fields lost to rebels,” AFP stated.
Apart from the devastation caused by the conflict, basic necessities such as food and fuel have become more like luxuries which a large majority of the Syrians cannot afford, especially the internally displaced people and refugees.
It killed at least 281 to 1,729 people including civilians and rebel fighters.
A chemical attack was previously reported in March 2013 when almost 25 people had lost their lives.
Although both the government and opposition blamed each other of the massacre, it was Assad’s regime that eventually accepted that it would get rid of the chemical arms, thereby indicating it possessed the weapons when the attack occurred.
Following the Ghouta attack, the United States considered a military intervention against Assad.
However, owing to Syrian ally, the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Syrian government was forced to surrender its chemical weapons.
According to a deal that was struck last year in September, Assad agreed to abandon chemical arsenal that was allegedly responsible for the August 2013 massacre.