Syria: What it Was & What it Became

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Six years since the conflict in Syria started, close to 500,000 Syrians have been killed in the fighting, more than a million injured, and over 12 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes- out of a prewar population of 23 million.

How it All Started:

On March 15th, 2011, the year when the Arab Spring progressed, peaceful protests broke out in a couple of Syria’s cities. The citizens were protesting after 15 boys were arrested and tortured for writing graffiti supporting the Arab Spring. One of the boys, 13- year old Hamza Al-Khateeb, died after brutal torture.

Although the protests were peaceful, the Syrian government, led by dictator Bashar Al Assad, responded with violence. Hundreds of protesters were killed, many more imprisoned. More protests broke out, with the same response from the government. The Free Syrian Army, a group of fighters who had one purpose- to overthrow the government and give the people a chance at democracy, formed soon after.

Citizens continued to protest for they were unhappy with the dictator, and the government, wanting to silence its citizens, continued to respond with violence. However, the people weren’t about to give up.

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At first, the government punished its citizens for speaking out with tear gas and bullets; soon after, they turned to missiles and bombed civilian homes, schools, and hospitals.  According to Physicians for Human Rights, nearly 400 attacks on 269 different hospitals have been documented since the war in Syria began, 90% of them by the government and its allies.

But that wasn’t enough to satisfy the government; chlorine attacks and even chemical attacks soon became a common occurrence for people living in Syria.

“You have to get used to the sound of cannons and bombs. You have to hear the planes and bombs, and yet you have to continue. People go out even if there is a plane above. If you care, you will never go out of your home.”- Rami Zien, a 23-year-old freelance photographer in Syria.

**Warning: watch at your own risk**

Impacts of the War:

Six years later, and Syria is a completely different place. The war between the citizens and the government is still ongoing, with no end in sight. Pretty much all of Syria’s cities now consist of ruined homes, schools, and buildings. Those still living in Syria are barely surviving with next to no electricity, food, or safety.

Most children in Syria haven’t gone to school since the beginning of the war since going anywhere is too risky. Many parts of Syria, including Eastern Aleppo, are under siege, making life even harder.

“People were being isolated, starved, bombed and denied medical attention and humanitarian assistance in order to force them to submit or flee.”- Emergency Relief Co-ordinator Stephen O’Brien.

A city that has it especially bad is Aleppo; what many people remember as a beautiful busy city, is now almost completely wiped out.

What can you do? Educate yourself. Speak out. Raise awareness. Support Syrian refugees if you know any. For those on the verge of death in Syria, any type of help is appreciated.