Syria Summary (June 2015)

Syria’s Background:

The nation of Syria is in South Western Asia and is North of the Arabian Peninsula. It is very close to the Eastern of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s borders are with Turkey, Lebanon, and Israel (Google Maps). According to topography provided by the CIA, Western and Eastern Syria is split in half by the Great Rift Valley. The West has steppe areas and it’s coast is sandy and rocky. The south western area of Syria also have a lot of mountainous plateau areas. Syria has a population of over 22.85 million (CIA).

Syria gained it’s independence in 1946 from the French. Syria started off as a republic but ended up becoming more of an unstable government after going through four different constitutions in ten years. In 1956, Syria created a pact with the Soviet Union. Two years later, Syria and Egypt became a single country under the name, United Arab Republic. In 1961, however, Syria decided to secede from the United Arab Republic. Since seceding, the Baath party took over Syria in 1963. Baath is a non religious political party who wants to unite all of the Arab world. (CIA), (HRW).

In 1970, Hafez al-Assad became president of Syria. While under his rule, Syria did go through a stable time. For many Syrians, Hafez al-Assad was a hero who had led Syria into a world of fairness, peace, and freedom. Syrians loved Hafez al-Assad so much that, they made him president for life.

Not all Syrians were a fan of him however. Hafez al-Assad was an Alawite. Alawites are a religious group who practice a unique kind of Islam who celebrate Christmas. Because of this, Sunni Muslims, who make up a majority of Syria, believe that the Alawites rejected the teaching of Islam and therefore do not like Alawites. This created some tension in Syria. (Vlogbrothers)

In 2000, Hafez al-Assad died of brain cancer. (NYT Article 1). Then his son, Bashar al Assad, took over Syria. Unfortunately, Bashar al-Assad turned out to be a dictator. Under Bashar’s rule, segregation of Sunni Muslims became bigger and the tension between Alawites and Sunni Muslims got bigger.

In 2010, the Syrian people began peacefully protesting against the government. Bashar al-Assad responded by sending these protestors to jail and eventually executing them. These events are called the Arab Spring. Since then the struggle between the Sunni Muslim majority and the Alawite minority has gotten more and more violent until the situation in Syria became a civil war.

In 2013, the Syrian Civil War was basically between the Syrian government that is led by Assad and a bunch of different rebel groups who are trying to overthrow Assad. Assad’s forces are made up of the Alawites while the rebel groups are usually made up by Sunni Muslims. While some of these rebel groups are fighting for freedom and democracy, others are fighting for purposes that are similar to the goals that groups like Al Qaida have. In fact some of the rebel groups are being backed by Al Qaida and other similar terrorists group.

In 2014, an extremist group began gaining a lot of power in the middle east. This group is now known as ISIS or ISIL. They saw an opportunity of expansion in Syria and took it. They began their advance in June 2014 and have been fighting both rebel groups and the Syrian army. As of June 2015, ISIL has captured Palmyra.(CNN)

Syria has been going through a civil war since 2010 and has not had stable times for about five years.

Syria Today

Today people in Syria are either Alawists or Sunni Muslim. They all speak Arabic (CIA). The government claims to be a semi-presidential republic (CIA).The government is being headed by Bashar al- Assad.

Because of the civil war, Syria has a high unemployment rate. Before the civil war, in 2009, Syria’s unemployment rate was at 12.6% (index mundi). Four years into the war, Syria’s unemployment rate went up to 57.7%. As of 2015, it is said that four out of five Syrians are currently living in poverty. On top of that, eleven million Syrians have been displaced by the war. The war has also killed 220,000 people in total, half of which is said to be innocent civilians (mercycorps). This has been a huge hit on both the economy of Syria.

Also because of the war, Syria generally has bad hygiene in most places. With unclean water and a shortage of medicine, the health situation in Syria has recently gotten really bad. An example of this can be seen in 2013 when there was a big outbreak of hepatitis. (Syria Direct).

After their pact in 1956, Russia has had a great influence and power over Syria. Russia has been helping Syria financially and has stopped the UN from interfering with Syrian matters repeatedly. Because of this, Syria usually does what Russia asks for. This can be seen with the chemical weapons incident when Russia was able to get Syria to agree to hand over all of their chemical weapons (Reuters).

Sources:

(Syria Direct)

“Hepatitis A Spreading in South Damascus amidst Poor Living Conditions.” Syria Direct. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2015.

(Reuters)

“Putin, Obama Discussed Syria Arms Control Idea Last Week: Kremlin.”Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 10 Sept. 2013. Web. 11 June 2015.

(mercycorps)

“Quick Facts: What You Need to Know about the Syria Crisis.” Mercy Corps. N.p., 15 May 2015. Web. 11 June 2015.

(alarby)

“Syrian Opposition Battles for Control of Strategic Al-Ghab Plain.”Alaraby. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2015.

(CIA)

Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. Web. 11 June 2015.

(BBC)

“Syria: Mapping the Conflict – BBC News.” BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2015.

(NYT)

Macfarquhar, Neil. “Hafez Al-Assad, Who Turned Syria Into a Power in the Middle East, Dies at 69.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 10 June 2000. Web. 11 June 2015.

(Vlogbrothers)

“Syria in Five Minutes.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 11 June 2015.

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