The country marks a decade of civil war with millions displaced, more than 400,000 killed
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A decade has passed since the Arab Spring’s uprising spread through the Middle East and hit Syria. Protests wracked Southern Syria and eventually advanced to the capital of Damascus — the home of the country’s leader, Bashar Al-Assad.
The protests called for Assad’s resignation, but unlike what happened in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya where rulers were forced out of power, Assad and his regime did not back down. Syria’s military quickly trained its deadly force on the peaceful protesters, drawing condemnation from international leaders and human rights groups.
Today, 10 years into a civil war the country is in ruins. According to the United Nations, more than 400,000 people have been killed. It is estimated upwards of 1 million have been injured. Half of the country’s pre-war population have been thrown out of their homes, with the UN estimating that more than 5 million have become refugees outside the country’s borders and another 6 million internally displaced.
“We are obviously seeing one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes,” London-based human rights lawyer Toby Cadman told Fox News.
The tragedy has “morphed,” said Cadman, co-founder of the human rights law firm, Guernica 37, “from a pro-democracy revolt against the authoritarian Assad regime” to “massive armed warfare, with Syrian artillery blasting the rebel stronghold city of Homs and elsewhere.”
Simply put, the international law specialist said, the world is watching “a country waging war on itself.'”
In 2012, reports surfaced of Assad using chemical weapons on his own people. The reports were verified by the UN and other organizations. “While he didn’t admit to that, he did claim he was going to get rid of his illicit arsenal,” said Cadman, “He didn’t.”
Later, “along the border between Turkey and Syria,” said Cadman, the situation worsened “when the radical Islamist group ISIS moved into the conflict…taking over towns like Kobani and many others.”
According to the human rights attorney, “what started as a peaceful protest has descended into this conflict of which there is no accountability.”
The clash inside of Syria’s borders became a proxy war with Iran and Russia propping up the Assad regime. Regionally, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have supported the rebels.
The US has dipped in and out of the conflict. The Obama administration backed the rebels by attacking the Islamic State. The Trump administration launched a missile attack in 2017 in retaliation for yet another regime chemical attack. Just a month into office, the Biden administration launched a rocket attack as well against facilities in eastern Syria that the Pentagon said are used by Iranian-backed militia.
Now, Assad finds himself still in charge, having regained control of much of his country. But Syria is in shambles; the healthcare system is on the verge of collapse, the economy on the ropes with the currency losing much of its value. Some 80% of Syrians now live in poverty while 60% are at risk of hunger.
Ironically, it’s expected Bashar al-Assad will soon be re-elected in an upcoming so-called democratic election. The al-Assad family has ruled Syria since 1971 when Hafez al-Assad and his Ba’ath Party took control of the country. After his death in June 2000, his son Bashar succeeded him.
Despite the country’s decimation, al-Assad has shown no sign of willingness to compromise or participate with the UN or other international bodies to rehabilitate his shattered country.
“There’s no future for any peace and prosperity in Syria as long as the Assad regime remains in power,” stated Cadman.
To that end, Cadman and his human rights law firm, has called for Assad’s British wife Asma to be indicted by UK authorities for inciting and encouraging the commission of war crimes, through speeches being sympathetic to her husband’s policies.
Cadman doubts the Syrian government will cooperate. Likely it will just serve as one more effort by an international community that so far has failed to bring the once beautiful country back into civilization while the world community — and mostly Syrians — pay the price.
Greg Palkot currently serves as a London-based senior foreign affairs correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 1998 as a correspondent. Follow him on [email protected].