Aleppo has fallen

boy-standing-in-refugee-camp-in-gevgelija-serbia-dsc_8453After years of fighting and an incalculable bloody human toll, insurgents agreed to a ceasefire.  Rebels said fighting would end on Tuesday evening and insurgents and the civilians who have been trapped in Aleppo will leave the city for opposition-held areas of the countryside to the west.

What brought us to this war?

Syrians complained about high unemployment, widespread corruption, a lack of political freedom, and state repression under President Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded his father, Hafez, in 2000.

In March 2011, pro-democracy demonstrations in the Arab Spring movement erupted in the city of Deraa. The government used deadly force to crush the protests, but instead of quashing them, the protests grew nationwide.  Assad’s resignation was demanded.

The government crackdown and the unrest grew.  Opposition supporters began to take up arms,to expel government forces from their towns. Assad vowed to crush “foreign-backed terrorism” and restore state control.The violence rapidly escalated and the country descended into civil war.

The intervention of regional and world powers, including Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States escalated the  fighting, and turned Syria into a proxy war zone.

Jihadist groups have also seized on the chaos.  Daisch is battling government forces, rebels and Kurds.

Air strikes by Russia and a US-led multinational coalition intensify the danger.  Russia launched an air campaign in September 2015 with the aim of “stabilising” the government. Moscow stressed that it would target only “terrorists”, but activists said its strikes mainly hit Western-backed rebel groups.  Six months later, having turned the tide of the war in Assad’s favour, Putin ordered the “main part” of Russia’s forces to withdraw, saying their mission had “on the whole” been accomplished.

Shia powerhouse of Iran is spending billions of dollars a year to bolster the Alawite-dominated government, providing military advisers and subsidised weapons, as well as lines of credit and oil transfers. It is also widely reported to have deployed hundreds of combat troops in Syria. Assad is Iran’s closest Arab ally and Syria is the main transit point for Iranian weapons shipments to the Lebanese Shia Islamist movement Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to support government forces.Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, which is seeking to counter Iran, has been a major provider of military and financial assistance to the rebels, including those with Islamist ideologies.

Turkey, a supporter of the rebels, has meanwhile sought to limit US support for Kurdish forces battling IS militants in northern Syria, accusing them of being affiliated to the banned Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Assad says the US is responsible for widespread atrocities and must step down, has provided only limited military assistance to “moderate” rebels, fearful that advanced weapons might end up in the hands of jihadists. Since September 2014, the US has conducted air strikes on Daisch in Syria, but it has avoided attacking government forces.

The UN says 250,000 people have been killed in the past five years. However, the organisation stopped updating its figures in August 2015. One monitoring group estimates 470,000 deaths,.

More than 4.8 million people have fled Syria, most of them women and children.

Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have struggled to cope with one of the largest refugee movements  in history.  About 10% of Syrian refugees have sought safety in Europe.  Political divisions and nationalism have risen as countries argue over sharing the human burden. A further 6.5 million people are displaced inside Syria.

As people cross the Mediterranean, hundreds drown every week.  Coyotes and traffickers charge enormous sums to transport terrified men, women and children in unseaworthy boats.

The US has essentially denied entry to these terrified people.  And now we have a new policy called “extreme” vetting.

With the fall of Aleppo, people are being shot as they are running.  They didn’t get out in time to cross a sea, walk a continent, or beg for bread.  There is no better circumstance to breed terrorism than in the place of fear and hopelessness.  I hope we can realize this and start a new way – a human way. Not the “Me First” way.

I have watched the desparate social media pleas for help, and I am helpless.


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