Syria. New approaches were made during the year to try to end the bloody civil war that has been going on for almost five years. After several delays, at the end of February, the first major ceasefire to date began during the war following pressure from mainly the United States and the Russian Federation, which supported each side. The ceasefire, however, did not include efforts against extremist groups Islamic State (IS) and the Nusra Front. In mid-March, peace negotiations were also opened during the UN mediation in Geneva. According to countryaah, the current population of Syria is 17,500,669. The talks were conducted indirectly, via agents, between government representatives and the opposition.
At a donor conference in London in February, a record $ 9 billion was promised in a single day to Syria.
In March, government troops expelled IS from the desert town of Palmyra, which the jihadists had taken up just a year earlier. Subsequently, attention was directed to ar-Raqqa, IS’s “capital” in Syria.
The United States accused IS of genocide of Yazidis, Shia Muslims and Christians in both Syria and Iraq. Later, a UN report also stated that the Yazidis were subjected to genocide.
In April, the government held parliamentary elections. Opposition forces called for boycotts and accused the government of using the election to strengthen their cards in the peace talks. The ruling Bath Party received 200 of the 250 seats, while the rest went to other groups and independent candidates. The elections were conducted only in areas controlled by the regime.
The cessation of fire initially led to the decline of the fighting, mainly in the south. But the ceasefire violations were countless and, not least, humanitarian aid was prevented from reaching those in need. A further stumbling block in the talks was the question of President Bashar al-Assad’s future role. Gradually the fighting increased again and in the summer the ceasefire was in practice overplayed.
Then the fighting escalated, not least about the hard-fought Aleppo war, Syria’s largest city and the strategically most important resistance pocket. Government forces surrounded the rebel-controlled eastern part and cut off supply routes to the area. The regime and the Russian Federation intensified their bomb attacks against the city, where up to 300,000 civilians were trapped, almost half of them children.
A new ceasefire was signed in September. It was deflated after a week since the US bombed a Syrian air base in what was reported to be a mistake. Shortly thereafter, a UN column on its way with supplies to Aleppo was destroyed in an air strike. The warring parties accused each other of the attack.
During the autumn, fierce fighting continued to rage in Aleppo and elsewhere. The UN reported that the number of people living under siege in Syria doubled in six months, to 975,000. This meant that civilians were cut off from the outside world without food, drugs and other supplies, and without the possibility of escaping bomb attacks. According to the UN, they were exposed to a deliberate tactic, mainly by President al-Assad’s forces. The Aleppo rebels were also accused of holding civilians as human shields when the government offered evacuation opportunities. Just before Christmas, eastern Aleppo was reported to be empty of rebels and civilians in what was described as the regime’s biggest victory during the war. Estimates of the number of dead in the war varied between 300,000 and nearly half a million.
However, battles continued to rage elsewhere. That IS was not calculated became clear when the group regained control of Palmyra in December. Just before the New Year, however, a new nationwide ceasefire was initiated on the initiative of Russia and Turkey and new peace talks were planned in Kazakhstan.
According to thereligionfaqs, the start of the uprising in Syria is often linked to incidents in March 2011, although there were already scattered demonstrations in January-February. The uprising continued the demands of the Damascus Spring in 2000, but went further with a regime change demand and that President Bashar al-Assad had to step down.
Although the uprising brought together different political, ethnic and religious groups behind the demands of democracy, the violent development spurred relations between different groups. This was particularly evident in increased contradictions between Sunnis and Alawites. The latter, through the Baath Party and the Assad era, gained widespread power, even though they constitute a clear minority in the population. The Sunni majority, on the other hand, has much of the economic power.
The rebellion came as a surprise to the Syrian regime, which had rejected such a thing in Syria – because, in its view, it was different from other Arab states that experienced rebellions during the Arab Spring. Syria had developed a considerable degree of political stability, but this was largely based on the suppression of political activity with the help of a strong police state. There were 15 different security services that came together under the term mukhabarat, which monitored large sections of the population. This was one of the explanations that the Baath regime managed to suppress opposition and hold power. At the same time, it was one of the reasons why the insurgency against the outbreak broke out and the demands of democracy got a lot of support.
The opposition to the Baath regime was, and still is, composed of actors from political and social as well as ethnic and religious groups. Demands for political changes in 2011 were set by various groups and individuals, inside and outside Syria. Eventually, the opposition organized itself into several coalitions – with different political roots and strategies. These included, in the first instance, the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the National Coordination Committee (NCC) in particular. While the SNC operated essentially from exile and was broadly composed of organizations and individuals, the NCC was rooted in leftist groups within Syria. While the SNC eventually advocated for foreign aid, the NCC insisted on finding a national solution based on dialogue.
Following international pressure, the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces (SNCORF) was formed in November 2012. It was supported by several countries, including Norway, with the rightful representative of the Syrian people. However, it had limited influence.
On the military side, deserted officers from the Syrian government forces established the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which at the start of the war became the opposition’s military branch. The importance of the FSA diminished as the war intensified.
The government sought early in the uprising to meet opponents with some reforms, including a national dialogue, but these were rejected by the opposition as insufficient.
Despite the security situation, local elections were held in December 2011. Elections for a new national assembly were held in April 2016. These were held only in government-controlled parts of the country, and rejected by the opposition.
In the spring of 2012, the situation had developed into a full civil war between the sitting regime and an opponent consisting of several militia groups without common ground and central command. The war greatly affected the civilian population. Both sides are responsible for extensive civilian abuse. The fighting was largely waged in the cities.
A number of militia groups emerged; mostly close to two thousand. These were usually completely local anchored, and largely operated on their own. Many joined forces in local constellations, many of whom joined the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Gradually, some major directions and groupings crystallized, including in addition to the FSA. In 2012, a Salafist movement emerged in the uprising, originating in a conservative, Sunni direction. Islamist, jihadist militia groups became a new direction. These were joined by foreign warriors from a number of countries, including Norway. One of them, Jabhat al-Nusra (from 2016: Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) was created with the participation of the Iraqi group later known as the Islamic State (IS), and was affiliated with al-Qaeda.
With the escalation of the 2013 war, heavier weapons, especially from the government, were also used. Civilian targets were increasingly hit. The use of chemical warfare agents (sarin) was also reported.
Trials of peace and war
With increasing attacks against the civilian population in 2012, diplomatic efforts intensified, following the failed attempts by the Arab League in November 2011. In February 2012, Kofi Annan was named Special Envoy for the UN and the League. The peace plan he drew up was supported by both the Syrian regime and the Syrian National Council (SNC). An adopted ceasefire was implemented but broken.