Idlib Governorate. The last remaining rebel stronghold in war-ridden Syria and a continuous target of conflict and attack from the Syrian regime. But also a place that 2.9 million people call home.
The Syrian Civil War, a 6-year long, bloody conflict between the Syrian Arab Republic and the Syrian rebels, has been a fierce fight for political freedom and a new government. In 2011, a peaceful uprising from rebels wishing for increased independence from the Syrian government and a less corrupt government came in the form of a demonstration in Homs. But these minor demonstrations, as they were met with an unchanging regime, rapidly turned into massive protests. And the government was quick to respond with brutal shows of violence.
Soon, these peaceful protests had dissolved into a full-blown war. On June 12, 2012, the United Nations officially declared Syria to be in a state of civil war. A meaningful and nonviolent means of reform had been crushed by water cannons, tear gas, live fire, and the blindness of ignorance and greed.
The main ally of the Assad regime is Russia, who aided them in supply and also in actual conflict against the rebels, as maintaining the regime in Syria was key to their interests in the country. Meanwhile, the United States cautiously backed the rebels, providing them with military training and supplies, but rarely aiding them in conflict. However, the United States did launch occasional air-strikes against the Syrian regime, as part of their campaign against ISIS and the war against terrorism.
And now, it has all boiled down to Idlib, the city housing the last rebel stronghold opposing the oppressive regime.
The United States had warned Syria and its Russian allies—the first warning from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on September 1st, and the second warning from President of the United States Donald Trump, on September 4th—not to “recklessly attack” the city. The concern was the humanitarian issues that come with such a strike. The assault would endanger hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians living in the area and could displace as much as 700,000 Syrians. But only hours after the warning from President Trump, Russian planes struck western Idlib.
Earlier this year in July, the Syrian government and the rebels had come to a reconciliation agreement stating that the refugees would hand over their military hardware at the moment, as well as all their weaponry once ISIS was removed from southern Syria. Those who did not want to participate in this agreement was to be allowed to relocate to Idlib. Idlib was supposed to be a relatively safe haven. Yet the current debris of demolished buildings and civilian casualties say otherwise.
Secretary Pompeo said that the attack on Idlib was something that Syria and Russia had “agreed not to permit,” and that it should be viewed as an “escalation of an already dangerous conflict.” There are concerns that this perilous situation will escalate even further, with the possibility that the Syrian government will use chemical weapons against the rebels in Idlib.
But even after these warnings, Russia is still on the offensive. Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia, told the Western nations not to “play with fire”, implying that Russia will not back down from this fight anytime soon.
A regime that destroys its own innocent civilians in the pursuit of complete dominance. A government indulged in its own corruption, sacrificing its people for extended power. A civil war that annihilates both buildings and dreams of a freer country alike, spreading authoritarianism under the cover of the word, “republic”. Conflict upon conflict, chaos upon chaos, placing yet another mark of radical violence onto history’s already marred face, and increasing doubt that any room for peace is left.
At this rate, not much will be left at all.
Amid the rubble and dead bodies, there will still be people whose hearts remain unscarred and whose minds remain untwisted from the violent hatred they have experienced first-hand. There will still be people that will advocate for peace rather than combat. But, as the death rate continues to rise and people continue to lose their homes, these numbers will soon dwindle to an alarming few.
If this conflict continues to displace and harm mass amounts of innocent civilians, it must be stopped. And against the rising opposition, it is the duty of the United States, as a democratic country, to protect the lives and rights of these civilians until the fighting has come to an end.
– Lauren Cho (’22)
Featured Image: Abdurrazzak Sekirdy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images