The Abyss of Syria

Bashar al-Assad is showing no signs of relenting. It is time for international bodies to prevent Syria from slipping further into abyss

By Adil Beig

When the Arab Uprising hit Syria in early 2011, Bashar al-Assad, like every other Arab dictator, reacted with force. Hundreds of protestors were killed, resulting in the escalation of violence. Since then events have made Syria a playground for international powers where every player tries to outplay the opponent.
Today’s raging civil war in Syria is a reflection of historical political predicament. Thousands have died across Syria during the past five years. In Aleppo, schools, hospitals, residential buildings and other infrastructure has been reduced to rubble. More than the militants, civilian population has been the target of air strikes. In the situation of immense crisis, people are dying due to the lack of humanitarian aid, yet there is no let-up in strikes being carried out by the Assad regime and his international allies. Such a situation shows the real face of Arab politics, where people exist merely to let dictators rule.
Everything that has been happening in the Middle East since the 2011 uprising is shaped in the region’s complex historical foundation. The region has witnessed a lot of bloodshed resulting from various indigenous and extraneous factors. This all started with the signing of the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916 – which laid the present day boundaries of the Middle East – and, subsequently, Balfour Declaration in 1917 that marks the foundation of Israel. Since then, the region has been marred by a litany of problems, with seemingly no end in sight.
After the end of World War II and the subsequent decolonisation that followed, the Middle East faced the biggest challenge with the creation of Israel as a state and a colonial extension of the West in the region. States deeply divided on sectarian basis unified against the creation of Israel as a state, which they see as an illegitimate state. The defeat of Arab states at the hands of Israel in war, and the struggle of Saudi Arabia and Iran to emerge as the regional powers, with both of them trying to broaden their sphere of influence by aligning with different powers, hampered this unity.
One of the essential reasons for this ignited cycle of violence and the creation of different militant outfits is the illegitimate intervention of the West in the region from time to time. Equally important, however, is the role played by regional rivalries and other major powers. In late 2010, what started as a protest against police brutality in Tunisia has brought sweeping changes in the region. The Arab Spring, as it was called, eventually turned an opportunity for the people to get rid of the dictatorial regimes. The brutal state response to mass demonstrations, thus, started a chain reaction of protests which brought the Middle East to the brink of chaos.
None of the countries affected by the Uprising really achieved the freedom people desired. A level of stability and change, of course, took place in Tunisia. Other than that, countries like Egypt, Libya, and Syria remain entrenched in the morass of instability and chaos. Libya is ruining itself in a civil war. Egypt is yet again under the clutches of a military dictator.
The civil war in Syria has now entered into its sixth year. With more than 4.5 million people having fled from the country and around 6.5 million people internally displaced, the country is facing a situation of grave humanitarian crisis. Bashar al-Assad is showing no signs of relenting. It is time for international bodies to prevent Syria from slipping further into abyss.

—The writer is a research student at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi