Well, That Escalated Quickly: What’s Happening in Syria

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A mural of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In a nutshell

Violence in Syria has reached an all-time high as civil war rages on.

There are two sides fighting:

  • The government, headed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
  • The rebels, who say Assad’s presidency has been too violent.

This all began around March of 2011.

The violence has quickly escalated over the past year. Now Russia and the United States are acknowledging that there’s a possibility the rebels just might win over the current regime.

Darth Vader aside, it actually reminds us a little of the fight between the Emperor’s Galactic Empire (Assad’s Syria) and the Rebel Alliance (the, uh, rebel alliance, formally called the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces):

And we all know how that ended.

Who’s fighting whom? And why?

Photo from Flickr user Rami Alhames

There’s the president, Bashar al-Assad: he’s been in charge since 2000.

Initial unrest began in March, after a revolution was sparked in Tunisia and began to spread through other countries in the Middle East – chiefly, Egypt, which overthrew its autocratic ruler.

In Syria, Assad came down with a heavy hand. People were killed and tortured. In the midst of this conflict, entire villages were wiped out. The government is literally fighting against its own citizens. Imagine President Obama ordering the military to start bombing America’s cities and you start to get the picture.

Then there are the rebels. Protests originally started peacefully, in a small city, over young kids being tortured. But as Assad cracked down, the rebels got angrier.

So now, fighting has reached the point of civil war. It’s estimated that the conflict has killed almost 40,000 people, including a high-profile journalist who was covering the story.

What are the latest developments in the civil war? I’ve been seeing a lot of headlines.

Two weeks ago, the government apparently cut Internet access, though it was restored two days later.

On Thursday, a car bomb in a small town near Damascus killed 16 civilians, including seven children, and injured 25.

And on Tuesday, an estimated 125 to 150 civilians, belonging to the same sect as Assad, were killed in a massacre. However, some suspect that it was pro-government forces that waged the attack.

Oh, and Assad’s forces are now using what are called Scud missiles on his own people, which are much more lethal. What does this mean? That they’re getting desperate.

Surprisingly, Russia’s deputy foreign minister admitted that Assad and his regime were “losing control” and there was a real possibility that the rebels could win.

But what does “losing control” mean?

Photo from Flickr user Rami Alhames
Destruction in Aleppo after bombs in October.

It means that foreign governments, including the United States, realize that the tables are turning. Underdog rebel forces are getting stronger.

Here’s what Russia’s foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, said:

“We must look squarely at the facts, and the trend now suggests that the regime and the government in Syria are losing more and more control and more and more territory.”

Russia also shared plans to evacuate citizens from Syria.

How is the rest of the world reacting?

Glad you asked.

President Obama said on Tuesday that the U.S. will recognize rebel forces as officially and diplomatically representing Syria.

Other nations have recognized the rebels, like Britain, France, and Turkey, as well as a multinational group of more than 100 countries known as Friends of Syria.

What will happen next?

Well, it looks like things are starting to go the rebels’ way.

But should they overthrow Assad, they might be too disorganized to be able to represent the country. So what will happen in the long term is unclear.


The Kicker

If you care about this story, here are some things you can do:

Small:

Follow @SyriaCampaigns on Twitter >>

Follow Syria Deeply on Twitter >>

“Like” the Syrian Free Press on Facebook to get updates on the conflict >>

Medium and Large:

Donate to help a Syrian family, orphan, or widow >>

Donate to help Syrian refugees >>

Help Save the Children in Syria >>

Organize a flash mob for Syria >>

Images used under Creative Commons licensing.

Lily Altavena

Lily is currently a TV news producer in Dallas, Texas. Previously, she was a production assistant at MSNBC. She is also a recent NYU grad. She interned for Ann Curry's team at NBC News, The New York Times, The Village Voice, and the education nonprofit She's the First. Her interests range from politics to education to comedy. She is not actually a dinosaur. Follow: @lilyalta.

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