During assembly on Monday, February 13, Abdullah El-Brown '18 spoke about the civil war in Syria and the attendant refugee crisis. His presentation was part of the Current Events Club's ongoing efforts to share objective information on national and international news with the student body. Abdullah spoke this morning, having worked on this issue for his role in the security council at THIMUN Qatar and given current litigation over the President's travel ban. His prepared remarks follow:
Many of you, I'm sure have heard about the conflict in Syria and its ramifications being felt the world over. Many of you, I’m also sure, may be a little confused as to exactly who is involved and why this is even happening.
In 2010, protesters, fueled by discontent and aided by the advent of social media, arose against the government in Tunisia. Following that was a wave of revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa later dubbed the “Arab Spring.” In many places, the protests simply died down or were repressed by the government. In other places,these insurrections led to a complete governmental change. In Syria, the crackdowns on the protests escalated into a full-blown civil war that continues until this day.
In 2012, the Syrian government began a bombardment campaign against cities containing rebel strongholds. In turn, both the United States and Russian militaries have intervened, acting in favor of their interests in the area. Both the US and Russia have officially maintained positions of combating Islamic State strongholds in the north of the country. Russia, according to their President, Vladimir Putin, is acting to “stabilize the legitimate power in Syria and create the conditions for political compromise.” The United States, on the other hand, under the Obama Administration has been acting in support of what they deemed “moderate opposition groups” leading to what some have deemed a proxy war between the two powers. The culmination of so many groups in conflict concentrated around cities like Aleppo has created a humanitarian crisis, the effects of which are felt around the world. UN casualty estimates place deaths at around 400,000 and displaced persons, both internally and externally, at around 11 million. A tremendous strain has been placed on neighboring countries to take in refugees from the area. These displaced persons have been scattered, with some nations accepting greater volumes than others. According the the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Turkey is the largest host with an estimated 2.7 million refugees, with nations like Germany taking in 600,000. The US is the 25th largest, taking in a population around 16,000. This number could either grow or remain stagnant due to the results of litigation taking place currently over a ban of refugees from nations including Syria. Last week, a federal judge in Washington issued an injunction halting the travel ban and then the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Administration’s request to reinstate the ban. While this is not the final resolution to the legal battle, the court cases did allow some refugees to be reunited with their families in America. Whether the administration will push the legal battle up to the Supreme Court or simply scratch it and start anew is yet to be seen.
Like its ramifications in America, the situation in Syria still is very much in limbo. While previous attempts at peace have reached no conclusion over alleged chemical weapons use by the Assad regime, there have been peace talks held recently in both Geneva and Syria. What remains in the fold for this conflict and for the US’ involvement, especially given a new administration, is both intriguing and so very unknown. What is certain is that the world will be watching, hoping for a peaceful resolution to one of the most destructive far-reaching crises of today.