Simplifying Syria

Simplifying Syria

One of the biggest stories in the news recently has been the Syrian Civil War. While it has been going on over two years, many people in the United States are still very confused about the situation. While the US government is deciding whether or not to send a missile at the Middle Eastern country, many American citizens can’t tell you who their leader is or even why Syria is in a civil war. To me, the issue is that there is a large amount of info, but there is no guide to what the information is important. In the following story I look to create one by answering five key questions, where, what, when, who and why.


Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in the Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south and Israel to the southwest. Syria is relatively small, about the size of Louisiana. It was established in 1918 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, but its history goes back much further than that. Mesopotamia, the region in the Middle East where Syria now resides was once the location of the first great human civilizations. The capital city of Syria, Damascus, was founded before 2000 B.C.E. Currently the city has 1.7 million people. Syria in total has 22,530,746 people.


The simplest term for the war in Syria is ‘civil war,’ but this term does not show the whole nature of this war. Instead of ‘civil war,’ the correct term may be ‘revolution or religious uprising’. As the French did over 200 years ago, the people of Syria are trying to overthrow an oppressive leader. This is following the successful revolution in Tunisia, along with three other rulers forced from Arab countries, and 12 other countries currently in some form of protests over their leadership. These are all part of the Arab Spring. This is the name for the major uprisings in the Middle East right now, something Syria is now a major part of.



The first major protests occurred in March 2011. The first United States sanctions against the Syrian government were just two months later. After a year, the UN estimated 8,000 people had died in the fighting. By the second year that toll raised to an outstanding 70,000 dead. The UN also said that most fatalities were civilians. Just a month ago, the Syrian government used a deadly chemical weapon. Secretary of State John Kerry said the US estimates that 1,429 people died in the attack, and one third of those were children.


The rebels have almost no organization, and there is no true leader. This is a product of the fact that there are dozens of different rebel groups. Some large, some very small, but all spread out across the nation with different goals and beliefs. Despite the attempts of the Western and Saudi backed Syrian National Coalition, it is doubtful the rebels will ever fully organize. The Syrian government have no issue knowing who their leader is. The Syrian “president” is Bashar al-Assad. He has been president since 2000 and took over from his father. He was never elected, and rules like a dictator. Assad is one of the main reason this war happened in the first place.


The driving forces causing the Syrian Civil War is extremely similar to why all the Arab Spring revolts are occurring. People in the Middle East are fed up with the way their oppressive dictators have been ruling. Assad is part of the minority Ba’ath party. This party is Alawite, a subpart of the Shi’a sect, but roughly 74% of the population adheres to the opposing Sunni sect and close to 10% Christianity. While most of the Christians have stayed out, many of the rebels fighting now are Islamic. This war has become a religious war, and these rebels will not stop till Assad is no longer in power.