“Bashar, next is your turn!”

Syrian refugees who had escaped from their homeland country cross the borders of Jordan (provided by Photojournalist Joong-deok Lee)

[No. 215 / Syrian Refugee Crisis Report (1)]

Outbreak of and Development in Syrian Civil War

In March 2011, there was spray painted graffiti on the wall of a high school located in a Southern city (Daraa), Syria, made by some teenagers with the following words.

“Step down from power. Doctor (President Bashar’s nickname), next is your turn!” There have been news coverages of “Arab Spring” running broadcasted by Al Jazeera every day in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen starting from this year and the youngsters in the neighborhood simply mimicked the slogan as a prank.

The police immediately arrested those minors and their parents request for release of their kids, but they were discharged three months later only after being given scars on their body caused by horrible tortures and pulled off of the nails. Some of them were killed even before being released.

The furious families and neighbors were demanding punishment against those with responsibility for it, however, the Syrian government put them down with guns and tanks. News of the government’s brutal suppression of the protestors was spread quickly nationwide through social medias, the ire of citizens against the Syrian government and President Bashar was spreading like a wild fire to in all corners of Syria. It was the worst tragedy in this century and the beginning of the civil war of Syria.

Land of the Bible and the Ancient Civilization

Syria had been called a “Hidden Treasure” before the Syrian civil war. Given the fact that Syria has no diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea, whereas Syria and North Korea are strong allies which made Syria look a veiled far-away country, in fact Syria is a land of the Bible familiar to us. First of all, it is the place where Saul persecuting churches met the resurrected Jesus on the road of Damascus. The background scene of the book of Acts Chapter 9, in which Saul asked “Who are you, Lord?” and confessed his sin and then was baptized by Ananias afterwards, has been preserved as it is. Moreover, there is a village named Maaloula in Syria, where Aramaic language as the language Jesus then used has been still used now, and that it is one and only case in the world.

In addition, with a nickname of “cradle of ancient civilization”, Syria already established a powerful city-state such as Ugarit, Mari and others 3500 years ago and was a hub of Europe, Africa, Asia continents and center of international transactions. The Silk Road from China and the Spice road from the Arabian Peninsula both end in Syria.

Syria is a land of the Bible and the civilization in which there are rows of historic sites including “Palmyra”, a mega city, stood in the middle of deserts in the Roman century, and “Crac des Chevaliers” established in the Cross Army century with a greatest preservation of the original form amongst thousands of strongholds.

Land of Violence and Pain

In 1946 Modern history of Syria has begun when it was emancipated from and organized in France. In 1970, then defense minister Ḥafeẓ al-Asad seized power in a bloodless coup, and long held on power until his death of illness in June, 2000. His second son Bashar al-Asad inherited political power from his father and was elected President in July 2000, and he has been in power for 19 years.

There is a following saying in Syria. “A dog does not bark until it has crossed the border.” That being said, Bashar al-Assad’s regime, taking page from the 5th system of the North Korea, has thoroughly monitored the Syrian people and hold its absolute power. However, the civil war has been worsening and deteriorated by the nationwide resistance since March, 2011 and by the alliance made of between the Free Syrian Army organized by the soldiers who had made a breakaway from the Syrian government army and the anti-government movement.

Then, for taking the initiative of the Middle East, the opponents’ supporters such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar and others have formed Arab League, against Bashar al-Assad’s regime supporters such as Lebanon’s Shia movement Hezbollah and Iran, and then it escalated tensions.

Sunni Muslim militants ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) whose goal is to establish Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has declared the Syrian city of Raqqa as the capital city of the State, committing atrocities and expanding its occupied territory in 2014. To support Bashar al-Assad’s regime driven to be on the verge of an absolute crisis, Russia has actively engaged in there. Not to be outdone, the U.S. started supporting for the opponents.

SDF (Syrian Democratic Force) led by mostly Kurdish group, having been subject to discrimination by the Bashar al-Assad’s regime, fought against the ISIS. In addition, the Turkish Army took part in with their fear of an extension of the Kurdish group in Turkey, which leads to a land of violence and death with no resolution. Currently, more than 2/3 parts of the Syrian territory was taken back by the Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the Norther East, by the Kurdish group, and the Northern West, by the opponents.

In accordance with a report issued by UNHCR, more than 500,000 Syrian people were killed and over 6,000,000 people sought shelter overseas by August 2019. More Syrian people than the number of overseas refugees became domestic refugees in Syria. Syria’s population before the outbreak of the Syrian civil was 22 million, which means more than half of Syria’s population is refugees. The Syrian refugees are, as of the end of August in 2019, 3.7 million in Turkey, 930,000 in Lebanon, 670,000 in Jordan registered now in the UNHCR, and 750,000 in German according to statistics from last year.

Would they, who left their homeland seeking for freedom and peace, at risk of their lives, be actually enjoying the true freedom and peace in the new land now? <continued> [Good News Prayer Paper]

By Reporter Simeon Kim