An uprising that was inspired by the Arab Spring is now a violent conflict, with no end in sight.
It has been two years since the start of the Syrian conflict. What began with peaceful demonstrations in the streets of Deraa has morphed into a nationwide conflict with sectarian, ethnic and regional overtones.
“We are two years into this, it’s stalemate. Refugees are flowing out at a very high number, about a quarter million this last month, there’s a million outside already. We’re going to see tons more refugees. Damascus could very well look like Aleppo in a year’s time – largely destroyed with whole neighbourhoods completely flattened. Assad is not giving up.”
– Joshua Landis, a Syria expert
In that time, tens of thousands of Syrians have been killed and more than a million forced to leave their homes.
A regime that has run Syria for decades is fighting for its survival and in no mood to compromise. And on the rebels side, a group of disparate forces are united by the common goal of defeating the rule of Bashar al-Assad.
It is an uprising that was inspired by the Arab Spring and is now its most violent conflict, threatening to destabilise an already turbulent Middle East. It is a situation with no end in sight – and its impact is likely to last for generations.
So what impact has this war had so far?
The United Nations estimates some 70,000 people have been killed in Syria in the last 24 months. About three million others are without homes – essentially refugees in their own country.
So far, at least a million people have escaped to safety beyond Syria’s borders, to neighbouring countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. And it is thought that number could be much higher.
“We need to not lose sight of the fact that this was a populist uprising – to uproot a dictatorial regime – that was faced with the utmost brutality and Bashar al-Assad seems like not giving up, however, we’re not giving up either on our rights to transform Syria into a democratic, civil state. We’re optimistic about where we are heading. I think the balance of power on the ground is shifting and I think that Bashar al-Assad will get that message.”
– Yaser Tabbara, legal advisor for the Syrian National Coalition
Besides the loss of life, the war in Syria has also taken a toll on the economy and infrastructure.
The economy is severely affected and finding out just how much has been destroyed will be difficult. But it is clear that two years of fighting has set back the country considerably.
In 2010 before the uprising, Syria’s gross domestic product was valued at about $57.5bn. Now it has fallen to just under $30bn – a drop of about 35 percent.
The Syrian pound (LS) has lost about half its value. It used to trade at about LS47 to the dollar, it now goes for around 85, and well above 90 on the black market.
And in terms of infrastructure, homes, roads and bridges across Syria will need rebuilding. One in five schools is damaged or destroyed and one in every three hospitals can no longer provide services.
So, where is the Syrian conflict heading and what are the prospects for its end?
To assess the current situation, the possible outcomes and next steps, Inside Syria, with presenter Hazem Sika, is joined by guests: Yaser Tabbara; legal advisor for the Syrian National Coalition, and the Syrian opposition coalition in the United States; Joshua Landis, a Syria expert and director of Center of the Middle East Studies, and associate professor at the University of Oklahoma; and Danny Makki, the co-founder of the Syrian Youth in Britain – a group of Syrians advocating democratic change through dialogue.
“I think when you discuss the Syrian crisis now … in terms of violence, there is a balanced playing field. The violence which is being perpetrated by the opposition groups, the rebels, is almost on the same scale. There is an element of strategic parity on the ground. I’d just like to say that Damascus is not going to turn into Aleppo … Damascus is actually relatively safe, internally speaking, there’s conflict on the outskirts but the centre of Damascus is relatively safe.”
Danny Makki, the co-founder of the Syrian Youth in Britain