Syria’s brutal conflict entered its 10th year on Sunday with President Bashar al Assad’s government consolidating its hold over a war-wracked country where foreign powers are flexing their muscle.
When Syrian anti-government demonstrators first took to the streets on March 15, 2011, they could scarcely have imagined their protests would turn into a complex war entangling rebels, militants and outside forces.
At least 384,000 people have since died, including more than 116,000 civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor says. The war has left cities and villages in ruins, shattered the economy and displaced more than 11 million people internally and abroad, with many seeking refuge in neighbouring countries and Europe.
“We’ve lost everything,” said one of the displaced, Hala Ibrahim, a rights activist from Aleppo who now lives in Idlib province, the last rebel stronghold. “I left my university, my house which was bombed,” said the woman in her 30s.
“Nine years of revolution illustrate the extent of the suffering we have known, between exile, bombings and deaths.” Assad, with the military support of allies, has clawed back control of over 70 per cent of the war-torn country.
Neighbouring Turkey, which supports local armed groups, has deployed its troops across the border in Idlib province, now the last rebel bastion and refugee of millions of displaced people.
Around 200 protesters had gathered on the road near the town of Nayrab, some setting tyres alight or piling tree branches across the thoroughfare. The March 5 ceasefire has for now stemmed a deadly Russia-backed military campaign on Idlib.
Among those displaced, Siham Abs and seven of her children have been living for the past two months in a camp near Bardaqli, not far from the Turkish border. Many of those unable to find space in camps have been sleeping in fields or have sought shelter in schools, mosques and unfinished buildings.
The UN special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, on Saturday said the enduring war was “proof of a collective failure of diplomacy”.
“The suffering of the Syrian people during this tragic and terrible decade still defies comprehension and belief’’.
“Our message is clear: Stop hitting schools and hospitals,” Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore said. “Stop killing and maiming children’’. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote this week on Twitter that “a decade of fighting has brought nothing but ruin and misery. “There is no military solution. Now it is the time to give diplomacy a chance to work’’. — AFP