- Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio chosen as 266th pope
- Wrestling eliminated from Olympic competition
- North Korea tests Hiroshima sized nuke
What began as sporadic demonstrations and small gatherings in the Middle Eastern country of Syria a little more than a year ago have now grown into one of the most violent and turbulent social uprisings in recent memory. Protestors have stormed the streets, vying for the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad and an end to any semblance of the current Syrian system, citing resentment at the country’s perennially increasing unemployment rate, rampant government corruption and the lack of an effective constitution.
Al-Assad and the Syrian army have retaliated mercilessly, using whatever tactics necessary to reassume control over the troubled nation. Soldiers have been ordered to fire into crowds at will using any weaponry ranging from tanks to sniper rifles, and have even went as far as confiscating flour and running water from civilians for days at a time. Assad is attempting to smother all pro-democracy protests, and claims that all protestors and those participating in demonstrations against him will be branded as terrorists. He is convinced that they have all been organized by rival nations as a power struggle. Any reform introduced to Syria will only be done under the terms of Assad himself.
Conflicts escalated even further when members of the Syrian armed forces proposed the idea of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a small, lightly equipped armed forces unit comprised mainly of defected soldiers and enthusiastic protestors to defend civilians.
Since its inception, the turmoil has only gone downhill.
Death toll estimates of at least 8,000 people have been given.
In fact, al-Assad and the Syrian national army have gotten so out of control that nations bordering Syria in the Arab League have even begun to consider arming the protestors against the attacks of the military.
“We will back the opposition financially and diplomatically in the beginning but if the killing by the regime continues, civilians must be helped to protect themselves. The resolution gives Arab states all options to protect the Syrian people,” an Arab ambassador said in Cairo.
Much of the violence has centered on the city of Homs, the city believed to house the largest number of FSA members. It is one of the larger threats to the al-Assad regime.
The city first came under heavy fire soon after the establishment of the FSA, when al-Assad ordered a constant barrage of mortar and tank fire down on the city, hoping to eliminate any FSA opposition.
Syrian activist Hadi Abdullah said to reporters last week, “It’s the most violent in two weeks. It’s unbelievable – extreme violence the like of which we have never seen before, with an average of four rockets every minute.”
Nations outside of the Arab League have imposed harsh sanction on Syria as well. Many countries have stopped trade with Syria altogether, landing a critical blow to the economy of the impoverished country.
Reports say that with the sanctions on exporting goods and products from Syria to the rest of the world, Syrian products can only be exported to Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. The reserves of the central banks of Syria have decreased by over 50% over the last year, and are still on the decline.
However one looks at the situation, it does not appear as if the unrest in Syria will ease up any time soon. Syria is becoming widely regarded as a relatively leaderless and formless nation. New leaders need to emerge soon and establish long term networks of trust and solidarity among the Syrian people. Otherwise, what is already a weak and unstable central government will only continue to spiral even further into civil war.