Syria is a country in crisis, and that crisis is rapidly becoming the world’s problem.
The civil war in Syria began over three years ago, in March 2011, with popular demonstrations that quickly grew nationwide. The demonstrations were part of the wider Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring, and protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in Syria since 1971.
What Has Happened Since March 2011?
* More than 100,000 people have been killed, according to United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. That number is 7,000 higher than the number issued by the UN last month.
* Almost 2 million refugees have fled from Syria in the past two years. This situation is starting to resemble what happened in 1948 and 1967, when Palestinians were forced out of their homeland permanently. According to UN and other humanitarian officials, this has serious implications for countries nearby such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, where most of the refugees have found shelter.
* One in six people in Lebanon are now Syrian refugees, while in Jordan the biggest camp has become the country’s fourth-largest city. This huge number means that these countries are becoming overwhelmed, and Western countries may be asked to accept tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, according to the UN’s refugee chief.
* At least 4 million Syrians have been displaced within the country, in addition to the 2 million who have fled Syria, meaning that a quarter of the population of Syria have now been driven from their homes.
The Syrian Crisis Is Rapidly Becoming The World’s Crisis
From The Guardian:
“We are facing in the Middle East something that is more than a humanitarian crisis, more than a regional crisis, it is becoming a real threat to global peace and security,” [UN High Commissioner For Refugees António] Guterres said.
Guterres compared the Syrian refugee issue to that of Iraqis during the last decade, when more than 100,000 were resettled away from the region. “If things go on for a prolonged period of time then resettlement will become a central part of our strategy,” he said. “We would like when the time comes … to be able to launch a resettlement programme as massive as the one for Iraqis.”
Speaking in New York at the United Nations headquarters on July 25, both UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon and U.S. Secretary John Kerry stressed the urgency of finding a political solution to the conflict.
This was Kerry’s first visit to the UN as the top diplomat for the U.S., and he seized the opportunity to call for Syria’s opposition coalition and President Bashar al-Assad’s government to commit to negotiations on a peaceful settlement to the country’s civil war, saying there “is no military solution.”
“There is only a political solution, and that will require leadership in order to bring people to the table,” Kerry told reporters.
However, the Syrian opposition, which remains deeply divided, has so far refused to participate in peace talks without an assurance that they would result in Assad’s exit from power.
But while these negotiations appear to be at a stalemate, is anyone noticing that this is the world’s most serious refugee crisis in a generation?
And as more and more Syrians flee their homeland, the effect on neighboring countries is inevitable. However welcoming they seek to be, the overwhelming influx of people into Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey has put pressure on local services such as schools, hospitals and job markets, and has created tension and hostility.
As a result, these countries are understandably starting to regulate and limit the number of refugees they can accept.
But no one knows when it will end. Have we learned nothing from the past?
Photo Credit: Trocaire