Conflict Alerts # 340, 4 March 2021
In the news
On 1 March, the United Nations released a report by the Commission of Enquiry for Syria. The report explicitly holds the Government of Syria and armed groups in the region responsible for the detainment and mistreatment of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. The report highlights the government’s role in suppressing dissent by arresting and detaining civilians in detainment camps for more than a decade. It also gives insights into the war crimes committed by ISIL, HTS, the FSA, the SNA and the SDF.
On 2 March, three human rights groups filed a complaint in France against the war crimes committed in Syria. The groups have urged the French government to investigate the use of chemical weapons in the conflict, based on first-hand testimonies collected from numerous witnesses and victims. The three groups had previously filed a complaint regarding the same issue in Germany last year.
On 25 February, the United States conducted an airstrike on Iran-backed militias operating in Syria. The airstrike was conducted on the Syrian-side of the Syrian-Iraq border and killed around 22 militants. The strike also destroyed multiple militant facilities in Al Bukamal along with three trucks carrying munitions from Iraq.
Issues at large
First, the ongoing civil war in Syria. The war began during the Arab Spring uprising in 2011 when the Syrian populace began protesting for the removal of their despotic leader, President Bashar al-Assad. Unable to control the uprising, President Assad invoked a complete military crackdown on protestors, resulting in a bloodbath. In retaliation, rebel groups began opposing the government in armed conflict. Not long after, the civil war in Syria turned into a proxy war in which Iran and Russia backed Assad’s government, and The Gulf States, Turkey, Jordan and the US supported the rebels. The war also gave rise to religious extremist groups like Hezbollah and ISIS, creating further unrest in the region.
Second, the civilian population caught in the crossfire. The UN report mentions that none of the warring factions respects civilian rights in line with international legal obligations. From the use of chemical weapons to numerous detention camps around the country, the civilian population has been repeatedly targeted and abused. The pandemic has also made certain that the crowded detention camps are deathtraps for innocent civilians.
Third, the international community and their response. The involvement of various armed groups in the conflict has made the decisions of the international community divided and unproductive thus far. With the US and Russia taking opposing sides, the international community has had a restricted approach toward the conflict. When countries like the US try to promote a peaceful resolution, militias in the region disrupt it blatantly.
The war in Syria is nowhere close to a finish. From the UN report, it is evident that innocent civilians have had to endure the brunt of the war. The parties involved are not ready for a compromise or cooperative initiative despite the plight of the civilians. Similar to the conflict in Yemen, the role of external powers has increased the intensity of the war and divided the country significantly. All this unnecessary carnage can only end if all parties involved respond to the UN’s call for a complete ceasefire.