By Halimah Elmariah
March 15 will mark the four-year anniversary of the still-unfulfilled Syrian Revolution, one episode of the Arab Spring, to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad and to call for sociopolitical reforms. The anti-government protests escalated into a brutal civil war, where opposition supporters gained arms to defend themselves against police and military forces, and began fighting for control of Damascus and other cities, according to BBC.
Four years later, the future of Syria is as uncertain as ever with the death toll climbing to 220,000, according to the United Nations. Roughly 1.5 million Syrians are internally displaced, and nearly 4 million have become refugees in neighboring Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, making Syrians the second-largest refugee population in the world after Palestinians.
The Guardian reports that an entire generation is “growing up displaced and uneducated,” referring to a UNICEF report that concluded 2.6 million children have not been to school in almost four years.
The flood of refugees fleeing the war-torn country has burdened the economy of neighboring countries like Lebanon, which also houses Palestinian refugees and where 1 in 5 residents is a refugee, writes The New York Times.
Syria’s public infrastructure has also experienced a major blow as a result of the intensifying civil war. Al Jazeera English reports that at least one million homes have been demolished, almost 4,000 schools have been destroyed, and at least 30 percent of hospitals are no longer functional.
The Syrian Centre for Policy Research, with the support of the UNDP and UNRWA, conducted a report on the civil war found that the life expectancy in Syria has dropped by more than 20 years due to violence and the destruction of the country’s infrastructure.
An investigation into alleged human rights violations conducted by the U.N. accused both the Assad regime and rebel fighters of committing war crimes, including rape, torture, and enforced disappearances, writes the BBC. In August 2013, the Syrian government was accused by Western powers of utilizing chemical weapons against its citizens; however, Russia and the Assad regime blamed the rebels, writes the New York Times. In 2014, a mission led by the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons disposed of Syria’s chemical weapons store, after the US threatened the Assad regime with military intervention, according to BBC.
ISIS has also taken advantage of the broken nation that also faces sectarian overtones, with the country’s Sunni population against the Shia President Assad, BBC writes. Additionally, Al-Qaeda militants are competing for territory, weapons, and influence, further complicating the already distraught country, The Guardian reports.
As Syria enters its fifth year of civil war, the international community faces growing pressure from the United Nations, NGOs, and activists to take diplomatic action to end the turmoil. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently indicated that the United States and other countries are seeking diplomatic methods to end the Syrian conflict, reports Reuters. Kerry’s remarks in a CBS interview imply that the U.S. is willing to negotiate with Assad; however, a spokesperson for the State Department later clarified that Washington would never negotiate with the Syrian leader, writes Reuters.
Last year, world leaders convened in Geneva twice for peace talks aimed at reaching a solution to end the Syrian conflict; however, the peace talks only reached an impasse leading to further stalemate, reports The Guardian.