The Syrian War: A conflict that began in Syria has involved practically the whole world

By Ovilia Martin

Most Americans are aware of the ongoing civil war in Syria. However, fewer know and understand the true causes behind it. It all began in March 2011, when pro-democracy citizens began protesting after “the arrest and torture of some teenagers who painted revolutionary slogans on a school wall,” according to BBC. Security forces started to shoot at the protesters, killing some in the process. This fueled more protests, this time across Syria, calling for the resignation of President Bashar Al-Assad. As the opposition against Assad gained strength, its supporters turned from peaceful protesting to using weapons to defend themselves.

From this point, as the opposition was fighting full-fledge against government forces, Syria officially had a civil war on its hands. According to the UN, by June 2013, 90,000 people had died due to the war. By August 2015, the death toll had risen to an estimated 250,000.

What was once a country’s fight against Assad, a nasty and corrupt dictator, had turned into a multi-layer conflict. There is now fighting between religious sects, namely the Sunni Muslims who hold the majority in Syria, against Assad’s Shia Alawite sect. Despite being the minority, the Shia Alawite sect is still trying to hold onto power. On top of that, radical jihadist group ISIS has gained followers and is getting more and more powerful.

The war has expanded further, and now other countries are involved as well in a proxy war. A proxy war is a conflict between two nations where neither country directly engages the other. On one side is Russia and Iran, who have teamed up with Assad. Opposing them is the United States and its allies.

Russia is supporting Assad because first and foremost, the country does not want the Western powers to win the war. However, there are other reasons too that are not as obvious. Russia is in a good position to be on Assad’s side because it has a naval base in Syria that allows access to the Mediterranean. Another reason has to do with money. The Russian government has benefitted from the sales of weapons to the Syrian military. Russia has taken on the role of protector to the Assad regime, making sure to block things from passing in the UN that could damage it.

Iran is also on this side of the war. Iran has the largest Shia majority in the region and therefore is extremely willing to help protect Assad’s Shia-run government. Another important reason why Iran is on this side is because the country is very much against ISIS.

The United States is allied with the Syrian rebels and other Persian Gulf States, all of whom are Shia Muslims. Along with fighting against Assad’s corrupt government, the United States is avidly against ISIS — the only thing that Iran and the United States have in common in this conflict. Last fall, President Obama decided to intervene militarily for the first time.

Turkey has also recently been involved in the civil war. It is hard to place Turkey in a category as aiding the rebel cause or going against it. Turkey worked with the United States to train and arm Syrian rebels, and over one million Syrian refugees have camped out in Turkey, putting a strain on the country’s resources. However, the Turkish army has devastatingly bombed the Kurds.

The Kurdish (or the Kurds) are one of the indigenous people of the Middle East, residing in parts of what is now Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Armenia. There are approximately 28 million Kurds in the countries in this region, and they have been looking for borders to call uniquely their own for decades. Of course, no existing country wants to relinquish control to the Kurds, so all that needs to be known is that Turkey hates the Kurds. Yet, the Kurds are great fighters, and one of the only groups successfully hurting ISIS in the fight against them. The fact that Turkey decided to harm the Kurds is detrimental to the war on ISIS.

There is no way of knowing when this war will end. The conflicts are numerous and run deep. The war is the reason for the incredible refugee crisis happening throughout the world. It has given new momentum to radical groups like ISIS. It has exposed age-old conflicts between nations. It is an intricately layered and somewhat confusing war involving religion and politics that began in Syria but has extended its arms much, much further.

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