Syria’s Crisis Explained

The issue in Syria today is very multifaceted. There are several layers to it and a lot of different sides wanting different outcomes for the country, therefore trying to fully understand it today is very hard. To try and get a good understanding of it, I’m going to do some research on what is believed to have started the conflict, which is the protesting in 2011 in the city of Deraa. A BBC article I read says that initially people started protesting because “local people decided to protest after 15 schoolchildren were arrested – and reportedly tortured – for writing anti-government graffiti on a wall” [1]. Al Jazeera says “successful uprising in Tunisia and Egypt energised and gave hope to Syrian pro-democracy activists.” [2]. This is also known as the Arab spring ( A series of anti government protests, uprisings and armed rebellions that spread across the middle east in early 2011) [4]. BBC says that “the protesters were peaceful to begin with, calling for the release of the children, democracy and greater freedom for people in the country.” [1]. “The government responded angrily and, on 18 March 2011, the army opened fire on protesters, killing four people.” BBC says [1]. Anthony Sharwood says that in July 2011, the FSA (Free Syrian Army) had formed [7].

When it comes to the rebel fighters, it’s very confusing. The problem is there isn’t just a single group of rebels. BBC says that the opposition is made up of “Rebel fighters, political parties who disagree with Assad and those living in exile who cannot return to the country” [1]. Julia Zorthian from times says that groups like Al-Qaeda “Saw potential in the chaos and sent fighters into Syria” [10]. She then goes on to say that “The group split between what was to become the islamic state in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front” [10]. She says that ISIS main focus is on “taking and controlling territory from whichever groups stood in its way: the Syrian government, rebel groups, Kurdish groups and tribes.” [10]. BBC says that “Due to the chaos of the civil war, they’ve been able to move into Syria and gain land and power. So now both the rebel groups and Assad have to fight a separate group at the same time” [1].

Now although many people seem to be against Assad, BBC says that the President still has a lot of people in Syria that support him [1].  There was an election held back in 2014 and 88.7% voted Assad whilst his two challengers, Hassan Al-Nouri and Maher Hajjar got 4.3% and 3.2% (The turnout was 73.42%) [8]. Steven Sahiounie from Global research says that “it may be surprising to some that the Syrian people still support Pres. Bashar Al-Assad. The Western Media has gone to great lengths to portray him as an evil dictator. However, Syrian residents are not affected by western media, and have a different view on their leader” [9].

When it comes to other countries involvement, again, there is a lot of different allies and agendas so it can become confusing. BBC says countries such as the US and UK joined forces to attack ISIS fighters on the ground in Iraq [1]. Furthermore they say the US and UK have “specifically avoided hitting targets that might help Syrian government forces” because they don’t support the Syrian government [3].

Countries such as Russia supports the government in Syria and supplies the Syrian military with weapons says BBC [3]. Ian Black from the Guardian says “Putin has increased military support for Assad and signalled that he might do more” [5]. Russia is one of the most important international backers. BBC says that Russia “Has blocked resolutions critical of President Assad at the UN Security council” [12]. Putin says that it would be a mistake not to cooperate with Assad to fight ISIS [5]. BBC says “As well as killing Islamic State militants, Russia’s bombs have also reportedly hit “moderate” fighters like those in the FSA” [3]. Ian Black says that Iran has “Been solid in it’s support for the Syrian Regime, like Russia rejecting any suggestion that Assad should be forced to step down.” [5]. According to the Guardian “Iran military and political influence in Damascus is stronger than any other country, combined with the combat role played by Lebanese Ally Hezbollah” [5].  The Iran Primer says that President Hassan Rouhani is willing to sit down with any countries to discuss the conflict [11]. Saudi Arabia “remains committed to backing rebels fighting to overthrow Assad” [5].

Turkey has been a critic of Bashar Al-Assad since the start of the uprising. BBC says that “Turkey is a key supporter of the Syrian opposition and has faced the burden of hosting almost two million refugees” [12]. It’s policy however of “allowing rebel fighters, arms shipments and refugees to pass through its territory has been exploited by foreign jihadists wanting to join IS” [12].

According to Hassan Hassan from the Observer, Iraqi former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has stated that “Shia m

ilitias would move to fight in Aleppo once the battle in Mosul was over” [13].

Other countries around Syria such as Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq have taken in many refugees. BBC says that “the conflict in Syria has caused one of the largest refugee movements in recent history” [2].

Overall the conflict in Syria is very complicated and there isn’t a right side to it. There’s a lot of different people involved who wants different outcomes, therefore it’s hard to create a solution that everyone will agree with. What we do know is that Syria’s civil war has created the worst humanitarian crisis of our time and more than 11 million people have been killed or forced to flee their homes. Families all around the world are struggling to survive in Syria or make a new home in other countries, and we should all try to do our best to help them.


[1] BBC (2016) What’s happening in Syria? Available at: (Accessed: 19 December 2016).

[2] Jazeera, A. (2016) Syria’s civil war explained. Available at: (Accessed: 19 December 2016).

[3] BBC (2016) 10 questions on Syria – and why Russia is dropping bombs there. Available at:—and-why-russia-is-dropping-bombs-there (Accessed: 19 December 2016).

[4] Manfreda, P. (2016) Definition of the Arab spring middle east uprisings in 2011. Available at: (Accessed: 19 December 2016).

[5] Black, I. (2015) Syria crisis: Where do the major countries stand? Available at: (Accessed: 19 December 2016).

[6] McHugh, J. (2016) Causes of 2011 Syrian civil war: Timeline of Five years of Airstrikes, bombings, key dates and events. Available at: (Accessed: 19 December 2016).

[7] SHARWOOD, A. (2013) 10 simple ways to understand Syria. Available at: (Accessed: 19 December 2016).

[8] Damascus, A.P. in (2014) Bashar al-assad wins re-election in Syria as uprising against him rages on. Available at: (Accessed: 19 December 2016).

[9] Sahiounie, S. (2016) Why Syrians support president Bashar al Assad. Available at: (Accessed: 19 December 2016).

[10] Zorthian, J. (2015) Who’s fighting who in Syria. Available at: (Accessed: 19 December 2016)

[11] Iranian officials on Syria, possible solutions (2015) Available at: (Accessed: 19 December 2016).

[12] BBC (2015) Syria crisis: Where key countries stand. Available at: (Accessed: 19 December 2016).

[13] Hassan, H. (2016) Aleppo Elegy For A Doomed City. ‘The Observer’. (18/12/16) P.17  The Guardian [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 19th December 2016).



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