Syria war: ‘Worst man-made disaster since World War II’
Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail| 16 March 2017|17 Jumadul Aakhir 1438
Six years to the day since protesters poured into the streets of Daraa, Damascus and Aleppo in a “day of rage” against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s uprising turned global war is far from over.
Six years of violence have killed close to half a million people, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research, displaced half of the country’s prewar population, allowed the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) to seize huge swaths of territory, and created the worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory.
International diplomatic efforts have repeatedly failed to bring the protracted conflict closer to an end and the growing role of outside actors has changed the nature and trajectory of the war.
The UN estimates the war has pushed close to five million people to flee the country, many of whom have risked their lives seeking sanctuary in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of others exist precariously in tents and tin shelters in Syria’s neighbouring countries.
An entire generation of Syrian children has either been pushed out of school or forced to cope with interrupted curriculum’s, makeshift classrooms, or unqualified teachers. According to UNICEF, 2016 was the worst year yet for Syrian children. Nearly three million children – the UN estimated amount of Syrians born since the crisis began – know nothing but war.
The country’s healthcare system, particularly in places like Aleppo, is decimated. More than four-fifths of the country live in poverty.
Basic infrastructure, such as the electricity grid, water lines and roads, is in shambles. As of 2015, 83 percent of Syria’s electric grid was out of service, according to a coalition of 130 non-governmental organisations.
On Monday, in an address to the UN Human Rights Council, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein described the war in Syria as “the worst man-made disaster since World War II”.
Zeid added that his office had been refused access to the country and that no international human rights observers had been admitted to places where “very probably tens of thousands of people are currently held. They are places of torture”.
“Indeed, the entire conflict, this immense tidal wave of bloodshed and atrocity, began with torture,” he said, citing as an example the torture of a group of children by security officials over anti-government graffiti in the southern city of Daraa six years ago. “Today, in a sense, the entire country has become a torture chamber, a place of savage horror and absolute injustice,” he said.
UN investigators have accused the government of “extermination” in its jails and detention centres.
Global watchdog Amnesty International said in a report last August that an estimated 17,700 people had died from torture or harsh conditions while in government custody since the beginning of the conflict. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) put the number at 60,000.
Many others have been executed, and far more have simply disappeared. Thousands more have died in prisons run by rebel groups and hardliners like ISIL and groups affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Intervention by regional and global players into what started as an uprising of the people against a repressive government has transformed the conflict into a proxy war as international efforts repeatedly stall.
Russia’s October 2015 military intervention helped prop-up a gutted Syrian army and, with the assistance of thousands of Iranian-backed fighters, has helped put Damascus firmly back in control on the battlefield.
The Russian-backed push on the battlefield culminated in the government takeover of rebel-held east Aleppo late last year, dealing the opposition its biggest defeat of the conflict.
As pro-government forces steadily captured rebel territory over the past year, a series of “local truces” in areas crippled by years of government siege saw the transfer of thousands of fighters and civilians to Idlib, the last opposition-held province in the north. The UN has said the deals amount to forced displacement and are thus war crimes.
Earlier this week, increased bombing in the government-besieged district of al-Waer in Homs, the city’s last rebel-held bastion, pushed rebels and their families to sign on to a similar evacuation deal.
Recently renewed diplomatic efforts to bring an end to war have all but stalled, as a nationwide ceasefire agreed upon by Russia and Turkey at the end of last year falls apart.
Source – Al Jazeera