Syria's War: Revolution or Tragedy?

To resign would be to flee, and whether I stay, will be determined by the Syrian people in the 2014 presidential elections —Bashar al-Assad

The 2013 civil war in Syria was among the bloodiest of wars witnessed in the 21st century. The clash between the Syrian government and the rebels: Free Syrian Army (FSA), Al-Qaeda and other militias turned Syria’s dreams into a nightmare. By June 2013, the total death toll of Syria surpassed 100,000 (according to the United Nations).


About 4 million Syrians were displaced within the country and 2 million fled to other countries. The insensate chemical attacks, killing around 500 to 1700 people in Ghouta made things come to a head for the Syrian Government. There were widespread repercussions across the globe, and while the international community played its blame game for ‘political and regional dominance’, it showed little concern for the countless lives stuck in the crossfire.

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The Burden of Syria’s History

To comprehend the situation in Syria, one has to go back to its past. Syria gained its independence from French colonialism on April 17, 1946. Following its independence and the formation of a new Jewish state—Israel, a civil war broke out in the Middle East. This led to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, also known as al-Nakba in Arabic.

Hafeez Al Asad
Hafeez Al Asad

A lot of agitation followed up in the region and in 1949, Syria had to endure a succession of military coups. A further succession of coups ensued until, in 1963, the Ba’ath Party seized power. In 1970, then Air Force General, Hafeez al-Assad; father of the present Syrian President—Bashar al-Assad, took power of the Ba’ath Party.

Syria witnessed a lot sectarian clashes and violence, prior to the arrival of Hafeez al-Assad, who was an Alawite; a branch of the Twelver school of Shia Islam. Due to sectarian differences between the Shias and the Sunnis, Hafeez al-Assad’s leadership was not a consensus, which the Syrian masses could easily arrive to.

Robert D.Kaplan—a famous American journalist, compared Hafez al-Assad’s coming to power to “an untouchable becoming maharajah in India or a Jew becoming tsar in Russia—an unprecedented development shocking to the Sunni majority population which had monopolized power for so many centuries”.

Despite all the sectarian differences, the Syrian President was said to have a secular outlook but had a heavy hand on anyone who stood against the government. On 10 June 2000, Hafeez al-Assad died and Bashar al-Assad was appointed as the leader of the Ba’ath Party and the Army.

Later he was elected as the president unopposed in what the government claimed to be a massive popular support (97.2% of the votes). On 27 May 2007, Bashar was re-elected as president for another seven-year term. In his foreign policy, Bashar al-Assad has been an outspoken critic of the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

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Bashar-al-Asad at an interview

The Arab Spring & Syria

Following the Arab Spring (the revolutionary wave of demonstrations, protests and civil wars across the Arab world that began on 18 December 2010) anti-government demonstrations started in Syria as well. Protesters called for political reforms and the reinstatement of civil rights.

They also demanded for an end to the state of emergency which had been in place since 1963. The Syrian government tried to suppress the protests, but there were widespread repercussions which led to the formation of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Led by Riad al-Assad, the Free Syrian Army announced that it has no political goals except the removal of Bashar al-Assad as the president of Syria.

Too much has been lost in the name of independence. Some compare Bashar-as-Asad to Adolf Hitler, but one cannot just tag him based on a one-sided view. The liberals in Syria feel that Asad’s rule gives them protection from Islamic fundamentalism. The Syrian revolution might be vindicated, but how can one justify the death of millions in the name of ‘revolution’?  Perhaps, we all need to contemplate on this!

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