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【世界導覽】How the Syrian civil war unfolded

An Entangled Mess:
How the Syrian civil war unfolded
The origins of a tragedyHow the Syrian civil war unfolded


The Syrian civil war began in 2011. Since then, on-going violence against civilians has led to the deaths of millions of people and the displacement of half the country’s population.


As of December 2016,  6.3 million people had been internally displaced and another 4.81 million Syrians had fled their country. Of those who left, many have since arrived on Europe’s Mediterranean shores, defying the odds in a journey fraught with danger and chilling, sometimes deadly, sea crossings.


The situation in Syria is one of the worst civil massacres in history, and yet there is no end in sight to this war. This is not a ‘simple’ war between two parties, where the defeat of one will bring victory to the other side; this war involves not only local rebel groups and the Syrian government but also the competing interests of world powers like Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States.


In hopes of influencing the outcome of the war and its aftermath, multiple foreign forces with overlapping, and at times conflicting, agendas are involved in the Syrian civil war. This has only served to intensify the crisis.


A war with different agendas

Declaring that “Assad must go”, the United States has funded various armed groups fighting for the overthrow of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and led a coalition conducting airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. At the same time, Russia is supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the survival of the regime, which is critical to maintaining Russian interests in the country.


The relationship between the Assad government and ISIS is further complicating the situation. Assad tolerates ISIS, and draws their focus towards their mutual enemies – the local rebels. As long as Assad remains, so will ISIS.


From Syria to Europe

The continuously rising numbers of refugees is expected to result in Europe redoubling its efforts to relocate asylum seekers to Turkey in the latter half of this year.


Refugees aiming to reach Europe from the east or south must travel dangerous routes, swim through frigid waters and live through perilous smuggling operations. For many, this is the last journey of their lives, made in search of peace – a distant dream in their home country.


As long as this war continues, the world will witness more cruelty and less humanity. For all of us, at the local, national and international level, we must ask ourselves how, as global citizens, we can help create an “exit sign” to get ourselves out of this entangled mess.


Let us pray that 2017 will be a year of healing and reconciliation.



International and Mainland Affairs Section, Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong