Wednesday 1 April 2015

Is Syria being driven back to the Dark Ages?                           

It certainly appears that that is where Syria is headed. The Syrian conflict is entering its fifth grim, terrible year. It has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people, displaced more than a third of the country’s population and left roughly half of them in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Thousands of homes have been destroyed and disease in commonplace.

Muslim Arabs first invaded Roman territory under Abū Bakr, who was the first Caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate. He entered Roman Syria in the 7th century. Now we are in the 21st century and Abu Bakr al-Baghadi, the 43-year-old leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) wants to create a new Caliphate with him as the Caliph.                                                                  

Just prior to the Second World War, Adolf Hitler, the leader of Germany  had ambitions to be the leader of all of Europe and in the process, he almost destroyed Germany.

Syria at the time of this writing is almost destroyed as a nation. Its leader, President Bashar al-Assad whose forces responded with violent crackdowns when the people began asking him to resign, has slowly brought his nation to a state of oblivion. The armed opposition consists of various groups that were formed during the course of the conflict, primarily the Free Syrian Army, which was the first to take up arms in 2011, and the Islamic Front formed in 2013. In that same year, Hezbollah entered the war in support of the Syrian army. In the east, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL also known as ISIS) the jihadist militant group originating from Iraq, made rapid military gains in both Syria and Iraq.

By July 2013, the Syrian government was still in control of approximately 30–40% of the country's territory and 60% of the Syrian population. The Syrian government is reportedly responsible for the majority of civilian casualties, often through indiscriminate bombings.           

In addition, tens of thousands of protesters and activists have been imprisoned and there are reports of torture in state prisons.  Millions of Syrians have been left in poor living conditions with shortages of food and drinking water.

The war in Syria contradicts the edicts of the Geneva Conventions. In four incidents investigated by the UN inspectors, confirmed the use of sarin gas. The Syrian army also began using  cluster bombs on its citizens in September 2012. In December 2012, the Syrian government began using Scud missiles on rebel-held towns, primarily targeting the City of Aleppo. A barrel bomb is a type of improvised explosive device used by the Syrian Air Force. Typically, a barrel is filled with a large amount of TNT, and possibly shrapnel (such as nails) and oil, and dropped from a helicopter on the people below. The resulting detonation is devastating. The Syrian Air Force is using thermobaric weapons against residential areas occupied by the rebel fighters, such as during the Battle of Aleppo and also in Kafr Batna.  The BBC reported on the use of napalm-like incendiary bombs being dropped on a school in northern Syria.

Bāssel al Assad, the older brother of President Bashar al-Assad, is reported to have created the shabiha in the 1980s for government use in times of crisis. Shabiha have been described by the United States as a notorious Alawite paramilitary, who are accused of acting as unofficial enforcers for Assad's regime. It has also been classed as a terrorist organization. Bāssel al Assad died in a car accident on 21 January 1994 at age 31.

Since the start of the civil war, Iran has expressed its support for the Syrian government and has provided it with financial, technical, and military support, including training and some combat troops. Iran and Syria are close Allies. Iran sees the survival of the Syrian government as being crucial to its own regional interests. For this reason, Iranian security and intelligence services are advising and assisting the Syrian military to preserve Bashar al-Assad's hold on power.

As the conflict in Syria continues, Syria’s destination of the Dark Ages becomes closer. One of the starkest indications of what four years of conflict have done to Syria comes from space, with new satellite images showing that mass destruction and displacement have extinguished more than four-fifths of the country’s lights. That means that millions of Syrians are without electricity. At night, they really are experiencing life in the Dark Ages.

Six percent of Syrians have been killed or wounded and life expectancy has dropped by 20 years since 2010. For Syrian civilians, the war has meant a downward spiral of death, uncertainty, poverty and displacement. About half of Syria`s  prewar population has fled from their homes according to the United Nations, and nearly 4 million people have become refugees abroad, putting large burdens on neighboring countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

Residents of Damascus, which is firmly controlled by government forces and associated militias, have grown used to long lines, rising prices and limited supplies of gasoline, heating oil and even bread. Families who were middle class are now living on the streets as beggars.

Refugees are living in storefronts, in garages, underneath bakeries. They are also refugees living inside of other people’s homes. In many instances, there are four or five families living in one house, under one roof. There are labor camps that used to be set up for seasonal laborers near the borders of Syria in Lebanon.  Now those camps have just been taken over by refugees and they live in absolutely horrendous conditions. Some Syrian refugee camps are flooded and they’re muddy. There’s even raw sewage everywhere. They are not at all hygienic. The refugees have been given nothing. They aren’t getting medical checks, the children have skin diseases.  Most of the parents complained that their children had diarrhea and stomach conditions. Mothers give births without the help of medical personnel. The words absolute squalor has true meaning in these camps.

If ISIS conquers Syria, then the people of that nation will really be living in the Dark Ages. For example, for the average person, mobile phones, laptops and computers will be banned. The citizens will be treated cruelly and harshly. Punishments will continue to be draconian. Public beheadings with knives will be regular. Anyone whose religion is anything but Islamic will be slaughtered. Examples of extreme barbarity include publicly amputating the hands of men accused of theft and people discovered using mobile phones receiving 30 lashes. Whipping is also a common punishment for simple infractions. ISIS will be particularly brutal towards women not wearing the niqab. Girls will be forbidden to go to school. There will be an increasing number of checkpoints inside the cities and villages and those at the main exit points will stop anybody leaving who does not have a valid excuse. Visiting a sick relative will not be considered a valid excuse.

ISIS now controls about one-third of Syria, to the north and east along the Turkish and Iraqi borders. Flush with cash and arms acquired in their lightning summer offensive in Iraq, the group has extended its grip across Syria’s breadbasket, including oil and gas reserves and profitable agricultural land. If they extend their grip across all of Syria, I have this message for Assad, the current president of Syria. “Welcome to the Dark Ages.”

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