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War in Syria: Protecting Civilians, Defending Lives

[vc_row][vc_column width="1/1"][vc_column_text]world this weekThe Civil War is Syria is without a doubt, the worst humanitarian crisis mankind has seen since the second world war, leaving behind quarter million casualties (both wounded or missing), while displacing half of the entire Syrian population. Syria has become the largest battlefield and a sight of instigation of Sunni-Shia sectarianism the world has witnessed never before, leaving deep boundary conflicts in many regions of the Middle East followed by spread of terrorism. It has evolved from the peaceful protests by the masses against the government in 2011 and turned into a violent insurgency that has drawn numerous nations. It is now a civil war of government against its people; partly a religious war against Assad’s minority Alawite sect, involving Shiite fighters from Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, against Sunni rebel groups, more importantly it has become a proxy war featuring Russia and Iran against the United States and its allies. 1 Ronald Matthews, an expert on Syria at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, while addressing a session on Middle East, described the entire Syrian Civil War as: “What started as an attempt by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to shoot Syria’s largest uprising into submission has devolved into a regionalized civil war that has partitioned the country into three general areas in which U.S.-designated terrorist organizations are dominant. In Syria’s more diverse west, the Alawite and minority-dominated Assad regime, and a mosaic of Shia militias trained and funded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), hold sway. In the center, Sunni moderate, Islamist, and jihadist groups, such as ISIS and the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al- Nusra, share control. And in the northeast, the Kurdish-based People’s Protection Units (YPG) have united two of three cantons in a bid to expand “Rojava”—Western Kurdistan”. As the country has haemorrhaged people, neighbouring states have carved out spheres of influence often based on sectarian agendas that tear at the fabric of Syrian society, with Iran (and now Russia) propping up the Assad regime; Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the U.A.E. supporting the Sunni-dominated opposition; and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) supporting the YPG’. Worsening Humanitarian Crisis The real victims are the Syrian masses, who have witnessed unimaginable atrocities as described by Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, chairman of the United Nations panel investigating human rights abuses in Syria, “everyday decisions – whether to visit a neighbour, to go out to buy bread – have become, potentially, decisions about life and death”. Witnessing such horrific events, and taking into consideration that conclusion to this conflict is far from over as power nations such as the US and Russia are conducting air-strikes in Syria, it is now on the international community to protect the citizens of Syria. 2Like all conflicts, children are worst affected by atrocities. A recent report by UNHRC revealed that armed opposition groups have also executed children fighting for the regime, often at close point range. Both the government and rebel forces have used “weapons that are guaranteed to cause civilian damage” said Geoffrey Mock, a senior Middle East specialist at Amnesty International. Children dying from such accounts 20% of the entire conflict. Syrian government continues to use guided bombs and radar guided rockets as stated on many accounts by UN and other monitoring agencies. Insurgent groups have used “hell cannons”, an improvised artillery devices fitted with explosive gas canisters that cause widespread damage. Syrian warplanes and attack helicopters have destroyed civilian designated targets like mosques, schools and shopping markets in rebel occupied areas with “barrel bombs”, large containers filled with explosives and projectiles and other weapons. 3“As the government lost control ion its territories”, said Mr. Ahmad of the Violations Documentation Centre, “they began using new tactics by dropping air bombs.” More than a quarter of children population are dead. The UN and other monitoring agencies have reported continuous torture and “inhumane” activities in both of their controlled territories, especially crimes against women and children. Not long ago, thousands of photos surfaced in the media, showing detainees beaten or dead under Syrian captivity. The photos were smuggled in the media by former Syrian military photographer. “The photos show torture and insanity of the Assad government” stated the Secretary of State, John Kerry. The Syrian government has also been accused of using chlorine-filled barrel bombs. An attack in 2013, which killed hundreds and incapacitated thousands (some estimates were upward of 1,500) in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus controlled by the opposition, when the area was bombed using sarin a nerve agent known to be part of the Syrian military’s stockpile. There are also reports that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has used mustard gas in northern Syria. The UN has accused Syrian government of attacking civilian designated locations such as hospitals and using them as a “weapon of war.” Doctors from various agencies have recorded around 300 attacks on civilian designated areas, especially the hospitals, most of which were carried out by pro Assad soldiers in the rebel controlled territories. The death toll estimated by the Syrian American Medical Society estimates a range between 200,000 to more than 600,000 in January 2016, especially those who have been under constant siege and are at risk of starving. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights estimated that more than 180 civilians have been killed due to coalition airstrikes, and as of mid-August more than 370 people have lost their lives. The agency also estimated that “more than 4.5 million of Syrians were forced to flee to neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt which together have taken in more than 4 million of registered Syrian refugees, and to Europe, which received nearly 700,000 asylum applications from Syrians since 2011”. While it is proving difficult to get data on the civilians dying in the conflict especially in the Islamic State, however many international agencies have confirmed loss of over 28,000 civilian deaths and mass killings; with 27,000 casualties because of artillery and rocket attacks; moreover, an estimation of 19,000 casualties have been reported because of Syrian air raids; At least, 9,000 casualties have been recorded under captivity on both the sides; more than 1,000 have been killed under intense interrogation and torture; agencies also estimated a casualties of 650 doctors; and more than 550 civilian died from starvation, dehydration or lack of basic medical care; and many more died from American and Russian air campaigns against ISIS and rebels. Finally, as of January 2016, Syria has faced a massive economic loss of $200bn and four out of every five Syrians live under poverty – 30% out of which live under extreme poverty. Syria's education, health and social welfare systems are also in a state of collapse. 4 Finding Solution – A ray of hope Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, called for an immediate stop to the war while warning nations of a crisis “so inhumane” which would consume nations, boundaries and adversely affect entire globe. However, there is still a ray of hope. First, ending the violence is absolute necessary and will remain always a first priority. Nations will be irresponsible if they continue to provide military support to parties in Syria that are committing atrocities and violation of human rights and international law. It is absolutely necessary for the Security Council to impose Embargo on trade of arms and weapons. Both the sides should sit on the table and initiate a dialogue. The second most important step is, protecting civilians. The UN and other intergovernmental agencies have been involved in relief programs. But the government continues to impose strong restrictions and are not giving adequate access to the humanitarian agencies; it has reduced the entry of medical convoy and have also reduced humanitarian aid as it remains to be unsympathetic to the opposition. Moreover, the rebels have also acted similarly. The humanitarian aid has also been reduced from the international communities. There has to be an end to the sieges and humanitarian aid should be allowed to internal front lines and international borders. Third, there has to be an initiation of strong political process. Both the parties have systematically blocked the efforts of two senior diplomats, Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi. The presidential elections received a severe blow, and the voting received minimal turnouts. It is important for the United Nations to appoint a Special Envoy. Moreover, regional communities have a special responsibility to play here. It is also important for regional power nations such as Iran and Saudi Arabia to initiate dialogue and reverse a destructive competition in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere. It is also important for international agencies to support Syrian Civil groups and keep the options open for communication. Fourth, it is important for parties to take responsibility for heinous crimes. Recently a resolution created by the International Criminal Court failed to pass in the Security Council. It is important for member nations not to stop ICC or steps such as these to initiate peace, but rather support the credibility of actions in Syria. The Syrian people have the right to impunity and legal support. Fifth, it is important for nations not to ignore influx of foreign fighters and role of external militant organizations in the conflict. Foreign fighters are playing role on both the fronts, increasing the level of violence and destabilising peace in the process. It should not be an issue of regional or military interests of any nation to promote or support these initiation of foreign influx, neither it should it blindfold the actions and repercussions by these groups in Syria. It is important for nations to eliminate any threats from Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq without ignoring regional threats and from al-Sham. The ISIS is a growing threat to communities all over the globe; it is crucial for regional to avoid sponge of attacks and call for peace on a whole.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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