Brutal war in Syria enters 10th year as Assad regime consolidates power

The brutal conflict in Syria enters its 10th year on Sunday with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which is consolidating its grip on a war-ravaged country with a decimated economy where foreign powers are weakening.

When the Syrians took to the streets on March 15, 2011, they could hardly imagine that their anti-government protests would turn into a complex war mixing rebels, jihadists and outside forces.

At least 384,000 people have died since then, including more than 116,000 civilians, the war observer for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.

The conflict has displaced more than 11 million people inside and abroad.

“Nine years of revolution illustrate the extent of the suffering we have known between exile, bombings and the dead,” said Hala Ibrahim, a rights activist now living in the city of Dana, Idlibprovince. .

“I left my university, my house was bombed,” said the woman in her thirties. “We have lost everything.”

Originally from the city of Aleppo in the north of the country, Ibrahim left in late 2016 after the regime took over rebel-held areas and sought refuge in Idlib.

The northwest region – Syria’s last rebel stronghold – is the regime’s last target.

With military support from Russia, Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Assad has regained control of more than 70% of the war-torn country.

A fragile ceasefire entered into force in the northwest earlier this month, and Turkish and Russian authorities have agreed to launch joint patrols in Idlib.

Syrian forces and Russian warplanes have bombed the region heavily since December, killing nearly 500 civilians, according to the Observatory, and forcing nearly a million people to flee, according to the United Nations.

“Ruin and misery”

Siham Abs and seven of his children have been living in an IDlib IDP camp near Bardaqli for two months near the Turkish border.

Many of those who could not find a place in the camps slept in the fields or sought refuge in schools, mosques and unfinished buildings.

In Bardaqli camp, tents made of plastic sheeting are lined up along muddy paths.

Abs said she and her family would like to wash, but don’t know where. “I am 50 years old and have never known such difficult moments,” she said.

The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, said on the eve of the anniversary: ​​”The sufferings of the Syrian people during this tragic and terrible decade still defy understanding and belief.”

The Syrian conflict was born nine years ago from unprecedented anti-government protests in the southern city of Daraa.

Protests spread across Syria, but violent repression quickly saw rebels take up arms with support from the Gulf countries and wrest key areas from government control.

Jihadist groups have also emerged, including the Islamic State group which swept large parts of the country and neighboring Iraq in 2014.

“A decade of fighting has brought ruin and misery,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote on Twitter this week.

“There is no military solution. Now is the time to give diplomacy a chance to work. “

But in recent years, these efforts have failed.

Five foreign powers operate in Syria, Russia and Iranian forces supporting the regime.

Despite the announced withdrawal of US forces last year, US troops are still stationed in the northeast of the country, in a semi-autonomous Kurdish area.

After the fight against IS, Washington’s main objective turned to reducing Iranian influence.

“$ 400 billion in destruction”

Israel regularly conducts air strikes against Syrian, Hezbollah and Iranian military positions.

And neighboring Turkey, which supports local armed groups, has deployed its troops across the border.

“The horrible and enduring nature of the conflict is evidence of a collective failure of diplomacy,” said Pedersen.

The war has ravaged Syria’s economy and infrastructure.

The United Nations estimated in 2018 that the conflict had caused almost $ 400 billion in war-related destruction.

“Basic services, hospitals and schools need to be rebuilt” across the country, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Saturday.

“Houses and land must be cleared of unexploded ordnance. Jobs and other sources of income must be created and maintained. “