Buzzing Blogosphere: The Syrian Crisis – 4 years and counting!

Take a minute and Google the term Syrian Crisis and your blood will freeze the moment you see the results. The sheer magnitude of lives lost and homes uprooted will make you question why it is not making front page headlines in every country. The Syrian war that started in the year 2011 has affected 11 million people. Known to be the worst humanitarian crisis of our times, the Syrian war is on for over 4 years now. In the time you have taken to read this, many more people would have lost their lives and homes. The Paris attacks perpetrated by ISIS have made the Western world take notice and look for ways to weed out the terrorist organization. While the entire issue is too large to fit into a single post, in our this week’s Buzzing Blogosphere edition, we take a look at the reason, impact and situation of the Syrian crisis through some blogs around the world.

Buzzing Blogosphere: The Syrian Crisis - 4 years and still on

Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain emphasizes the measures that we need from the UN, the fight against Daesh and how a change in the regime is become an obsession beyond rationality.

“The UN and the international community cannot treat Syria as any other region where it has exercised the entire gamut of peacemaking. The presence of the terror groups in Syria, specifically Daesh, and proliferating information/communication technology make a deadly combine which will outpace all efforts with their dynamic threats. To that end the UNSC may have been correct in laying down timelines which do appear unrealistic. The process cannot afford to be become tardy and without energy. There is little room for maneuver and the US will have to act as the driver while taking along the detractors such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. In fact visible attempts of US rapprochement with Iran, in the post nuclear deal times, would give much speed to the peace process.”

Kimberly Rodrigues writes her perspective on the crisis. She expresses her views in relation to the Jewish crisis in 1930 and how this event is not totally about race, religion and caste.  

“Refugees are born out of political disharmony. Nobody would voluntarily leave behind their homes, braving dangerous and often deadly situations unless they were out of options that would guarantee their safety. A refugee crisis, has at its core, a common “us” vs “them” perception. And this perception lowers the odds of refugees being granted asylum. Most often, the West European continent and the USA are popular choices for such displaced individuals.

However, the political conflict that has caused a refugee crisis, often gets overshadowed by issues of race, religion and gender. The Syrian crisis in this regard shares similar tones with the Jewish Refugee Crisis of 1930. Jewish Refugees in the 1930’s were accused of being anarchic, communists, and were despised as they were believed to “taint the Aryan stock.

Saeed Naqvi who is a noted foreign correspondent for over decades, gives a brief summary on the crisis. He has travelled across these unsafe lands and shares his experiences over the years.

“I was on my way to West Asia when a remarkable article by James Glanz and John Markoff in The New York Times confirmed my worst fears. It read.

“The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy ‘shadow’ internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.” Washington was four square behind dissidents in Syria.

“The effort includes secretive projects to create independent cell phone networks inside foreign countries, as well as one operation out of a spy novel in a fifth-floor shop on L street in Washington, where a group of young entrepreneurs who look as if they could be in a garage band are fitting deceptively innocent-looking hardware into a prototype “Internet in a suitcase” – all part of what is being called “Liberation technology movement”.

“The suitcase can be secreted across a border and quickly set up to allow wireless communication over a wide area with a link to the global Internet.”

“The State Department is financing the creation of stealth wireless networks that would enable activists to communicate outside the reach in countries like Iran, Syria and Libya.”

This was the state of play when I found myself in Damascus in the company of Edward Lionel Peck, an Arabist and a former US diplomat with 32 years of experience in the Arab world”

The biggest challenge that stares at us is the education of the children who have left the country. Vikas Pota, CEO of Vary Foundation talks about how big the Syrian refugee education challenge is.

“The experience of conflict zones from Rwanda to Bosnia is that those in secondary and vocational education tend to see the greatest disruption to their education.  Refugee teenagers are often forced to work since their families, who have spent all their savings on the journey, can no longer support them. Education for older teenagers remains a Cinderella cause – donors tend to focus slim resources on the primary years.   For the future of Syria it is essential that this generation of young people are given skills to help rebuild the country and to avoid the hopelessness that could see them sucked into violent extremism.

The international community also needs to give financial support to countries such as Lebanon that are becoming overwhelmed by the pressures placed on their schools by the influx of newcomers. This can have a negative impact on the Lebanese children in class, who can be held back while Syrian children, who speak only Arabic, take class-time to learn rudimentary English or French.  To aid integration, more international funding needs to be given to ensure that the settled population in refugee host countries does not see a decline in education quality.”

Fatema Alhashemi talks about the impact of outside actors on Syrian crisis. The struggle for peace efforts is a collaborative one from different economic superpowers and it is difficult to narrow down the impact of these as these efforts are not consolidated.

“What about the recent Russian intervention? Bonsey maintained that Russia’s intervention renewed interest in moving the political process forward. However, like Geneva I and II, disagreements between its main parties on Assad’s future in Syria will undermine the Vienna talks. Meanwhile, all warring parties in Syria believe in the possibility of a military victory; making the war on the ground potentially endless. Momentum, therefore, must come from regional and international actors, which could end the current stalemate.

In contrast, Kabalan contended that, besides IS and Assad, most actors in Syria do not believe the conflict has a military solution because it is a proxy war; they are not simply confronting Assad, but regional powers as well. Syrian actors believe that a political solution must occur to achieve victory. This may happen in Vienna.”

As the refugees struggle to find peace and normalcy, there are some happy stories as well. Reeta Tremblay tells how Canada is closely working with the UNCHR to settle refugees.

Canada is working closely with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR) to identify the most vulnerable refugees as well with the governments of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and several international and Canadian partners.  It has been suggested that Canada’s refugee plan falls well short of a real solution and appears as a very small step towards alleviating the world’s unprecedented refugee crisis since the Second World War.

In making refugee decisions, Harper’s government had followed an exclusionary policy, with very specific criteria known as ‘areas of focus’.  Included were those people who spoke English or French fluently; those residing outside the refugee camps; women between the ages of 20 and 40 who were victims of violence; and refugees with a family in Canada. It is generally agreed that the conservative policy to welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees included Christians and other minority groups (such as Ismailis) and excluded most of the Muslim refugees.”

Here is a story of Dr. Jason Peters who shares his personal encounter with the Syrians in Lebanon. His experience talks about how Lebanon, once a land filled with hospitable people is filled with Syrian refugees. He shares his story of a Syrian Christian family which has seen the worst of times because of the war.

“Understandably, this family refused to be interviewed on camera, or even to have their voices recorded. They were reared under a Syrian regime of terror and now they live in fear of ISIS. It is hard for us to comprehend how deeply traumatized many of these families are.

I also met with a former Syrian military officer. Years ago, he was sent abroad to study for his military specialty. While completing his training overseas, he became a Christian. Immediately upon his return to Damascus he was rejected by his Muslim family.

He reported that he has endured many trials, but that they have been “beautiful trials.” He also said, as so many have said before him, that “Jesus has been with me every day.” Because of his unique situation, he had the opportunity to immigrate to a European country but he chose to stay and to minister instead. He chose to be a light in the darkness of this overwhelming crisis.

He highlighted the distinctive shift in the challenges that Syrian Christians face. Formerly, Syrian Christians were threatened by the government. He shared that years ago he experienced intense struggles with Syrian police but noted that they would not kill him because of the government structure that was in place. Now, he said, with ISIS in control “any Christian is worth a bullet.””

Rory Cormac has a take on intelligence that takes the responsibility to provide reliable measures of security. He talks about why is it crucial, who is overlooking it and why the intelligence cannot act like a double edged sword. 

“Cameron has, however, been criticised for lacking a strategy in his use of air power. Many have agreed that air power alone cannot be effective against ISIS. In response, the prime minister has pointed to 70,000 moderate rebels read to assist the West. They are being presented as an integral part of a more holistic – and thought-through – strategy.

This raises key questions: who are these rebels? Do they really exist? Can they really be trusted? Will they be there when we need them?

The dramatic number alone has raised eyebrows, with many dismissing the number as fantasy.  So where did the prime minister get it? It seems from the Joint Intelligence Committee; Britain’s top level all source intelligence assessment body. This is nothing new. Prime ministers have been drawing on JIC intelligence since Churchill during the Second World War.”

The Syrian war is a dark time for all humanity. While Syrians are facing unspeakable horrors every day, there are some times when humanity shines brighter than all of the darkness. We can’t call them happy endings, but they are stories of triumph that give us hope. An account by Rachel Bliss.

“The Saturday before I left, I was given the wonderful privilege of sharing Jesus with three different groups of the mothers of the kids who will be in the GlobalFingerprints Lebanon program.

I decided to tell the story of Christmas from Mary’s point of view, taking the entire content of my story from Luke 1 & 2 and Matthew 1 (Joseph’s part). For some reason these ladies reminded me of Mary – simple and sweet, in a foreign land, deeply concerned about their kids, just doing what they needed to do to survive. Mary and Joseph also were refugees for a while when Jesus’ life was threatened by Herod. As I told the story, something popped out at me in the middle of the tale that I just had to highlight. Do you notice how every time God sends an Angel to tell Mary, Joseph, the shepherds – even Zacharias – a message, He also has the angel give them a sign or miracle to prove that what he is saying is true!”

The pain and the suffering of Syrians is beyond imagination. We pray for strength and blessings from all corners to help them cross these trying times. Till then keep praying for innocent souls caught in the crossfire and hope that this crisis ends soon. Do you have any thoughts or solutions for the Syrian crisis? Please share them in the comments below!

 

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