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The Syrian Arab Republic, or Syria, is a part of Middle East. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), it borders the Mediterranean Sea and is located between Turkey and Lebanon, sprawling a total land area of 185,180 square kilometers, which is slightly more than 1.5 times the size of Pennsylvania. The Middle Eastern nation, which sustains a population of approximately 17 million people, is home to diverse religious ethnicity. It is inhabited by 87 percent Muslims, a vast majority of them being Sunnis, with an Arabic, Kurdish, and Armenian background. Christians and Jews make up the remaining 13 percent.
The country, which is a modern-day Presidential Republic, was plagued by political unrest soon after it was granted independence from French rule after World War I on April 17, 1946. Ever since, the nation has been plagued by a long history of major uprisings, in the form of military coups and anti-government protests.
Currently, the Syrian Arab Republic is grappling with the after-effects of the Syrian Civil War, which is one of the worst humanitarian crises of the contemporary times.
According to BBC News, the crisis, which started five years ago in March 2011, in the southern city of Deraa, was initially triggered by Pro-Democracy protests that erupted in the city after a face-off between the security forces and public. The tussle took place in response to the arrest, torture, and death of some teenagers who had painted revolutionary slogans on a school wall.
By July 2011, the protests had morphed into a full-fledged civil war, claiming 90,000 lives by June 2013 and 250,000 lives by August 2015, as reported by the U.N. and shared with BBC News. Since then, according to Mercy Corps., the war has either killed or unsettled around 11 million Syrians from their homeland, which is more than half of the country’s pre-war population.
The emergence of the international terrorist group, ISIS, has only complicated matters by adding a new dimension of religious extremism to the existing sectarian angle of the conflict, which from the first day has pitted the country’s majority Sunni Muslim population against President Bashar Al-Assad’s Shia Alawite sect.
At present, around 5 million helpless families are seeking refuge in the neighboring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt. Furthermore, nearly 1 million more have applied for asylum in the safety of the European world.
The ongoing crisis continues debilitating the already weak economy of the Syrian Arab Republic, which, before the unrest, was a source of pride for the nation and “envy” for many regional countries of the world on many fronts. According to the Huffington Post, it had one of the finest healthcare systems in the world, along with a healthy track record of public education and significant economic growth and development, before the war. It is highly disappointing to see what havoc war can play by ripping through a society that once showcased a delicate ethno-religious balance through institutionalized tolerance and respect for minority rights.
Today, however, things are no longer the same. As per reports from the CIA, the Syrian economy has been on a downward spiral and shrunk by 62 percent from 2010 to 2014. This is not at all surprising as all the major economic health indicators, such as demand and supply, purchasing power, inflation, employment levels, foreign exchange reserves, and the balance of trade have taken a beating. Even the Syrian pound has witnessed a sharp decrease in value, making it unable to compete with the hard currencies of the developed world. As a result, political stalwarts and think tanks around the world are busy wracking their brains to find a solution to the current Syrian crisis, with no plausible solution available, at least in the near future.
By Bashar Saajid
Edited by Leigh Haugh
Central Intelligence Agency: The World Fact Book – Middle East: Syria
Mercy Corps: Quick facts – What you need to know about the Syria crisis?
BBC News: Syria – The story of the conflict
The Huffington Post: How to Resolve the Syrian Crisis and Alleviate the ISIS Threat
Image Courtesy of Rafael Medina’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License