Featured image source

The Syrian civil war has entered its seventh year with the death toll rising. There are numerous multi-dimensional factors that have contributed to the civil war. Here are five major factors that led the country to the brink of destruction.

  1. History
  • Religious and political differences date as far back as 656AD, when the conflict between Sunni’s and Shi’ites began. The quarrel grew in the seventh century after the Sunni’s killed Husayn – the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, who was a Shi’ite.
  • Sunni are the dominant sect of Islam, roughly making up 85 per cent of the world’s Muslims.
  1. Rewinding to 1982
  • Previous President Hafiz al-Assad crushed an uprising in Hama, led by the Muslim Brotherhood. According to Amnesty International, over 25,000 people were killed, including civilians.
  • Fighting broke out in Syria between residents of the north-central city of Hama and the government’s armed forces -which reflects the conflict going on today.
  • Dan Snow emphasises in his documentary on Syrian history:

“What is happening in Syria now is the same [as] what happened in Hama in 1982; the people want freedom and the regime is suppressing it.

  1. Fast-forward to The Arab Spring 2011
  • Domino effect of pro-democracy demonstrations that started from Tunisia, moved on to Libya and Egypt and consisted of people from various religious and ethnic backgrounds uniting to oppose the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
  • President al-Assad controversially used force to combat the protestors in the Arab Spring, the act made the Syrian opposition and many of its citizens angrier. Crackdowns on protesters increased.
  • Over the next month, soldiers moved tanks into restive towns and cities to combat “armed criminal gangs”. This triggered an armed conflict and led to the formation of the rebels, according to BBC Middle East News.

  1. al-Assad’s regime
  • al-Assad is an Alawite, a very small sect of Islam. The Alawites have a long history of persecution at the hands of the Sunni majority. It’s a large problem the past two presidents of Syria, al-Assad and his father Hafiz al-Assad, are Alawites.
  • Bashar al-Assad was elected president with a significant 88 per cent vote for al-Assad from the Syrians. However, many communities still formed major opposition groups to challenge his regime.
  • In 2012, President al-Assad was urged to accept a peace initiative proposed by UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, but Assad ignored the calls and ruled out any negotiations with the rebels.
  • al-Assad was subsequently branded as as corrupt, indecent and a bad leader by his opponents. He was accused of putting his own country through a great deal of suffering.
  1. Main Actors

    Five broad categories:
  • Rebels; Anti-regime
  • ISIS and terrorist groups; extremist who split from rebel forces
  • Loyalists; regime forces and their supporters
  • Kurdish groups: not wanting to over throw al-Assad
  • Foreign powers
  • There are believed to be as many as 1,000 armed opposition groups in Syria

  • Explanation of the different actors

In March alone, 1134 civilians were killed. While there is a generalisation that terrorist groups, such as ISIS, are responsible for majority of the deaths, the largest civilian causalities were at the hands of the Syrian regime and international coalition forces. As it stands, 470, 000 people have been killed, 55,000 children and an estimated 11 million people have fled their homes since 2011.