(Photo by James Gordon)
Before it becomes old news, it’s important to understand what is going on in the Middle-East because, well, it just matters.
WHO: Bashar al-Assad is the head hauncho of Syria, but he didn’t really want to be. He studied medicine and was on the path to becoming a doctor when his very politically savvy father, Hafez, died unexpectedly in 2000. Hafez was president through his military career, so not sure if he was elected or not. Crazy thing was, he was actually grooming his older son, Bassel, to take over presidency. Again, unexpectedly, the young 31-year-young Bassel ended up dying in a car crash. Because of this, Bashar was actually pulled back into the Syrian Army to give his presidential credentials. On top of that, parliament actually changed the minimum age for presidency from 40 years-old to 34 years, just so they could usher in the young guy.
So, Bashar became president and walked into a messy backyard. The economy was state-controlled which meant there were a lot of problems on working on an international level. Now, I’m neither here nor there on whether states should become insular economies, but I do know it’s bad when there is deep-seeded corruption of officials in the government (like using the people’s money to have lavish parties, buy mansions and yachts like it ain’t no thing. Where doesn’t that happen?) So, on top of the money problems, there were relationship problems with surrounding states: religious differences with Israel, a military occupation in Lebanon and tensions over water with Turkey. Not good.
So, Bashar did what he thought was right. He promised economic reforms and tried to make everything better, but he didn’t and the people were pissed. What could they do other than rebel?
Well, Bashar did not like that. In 2006 there were travel bans on dissidents, in 2007 parliament passed a law requiring chat forums to be public, in 2008 and 2011 YouTube and Facebook were blocked and Human Rights groups repeatedly reported that opponent of Assad were tortured, imprisoned or killed like it was no-big-deal.
WHAT: January 26, 2011 the wide-scale protests began. Now what? Syrian civil war, that’s what’s up. It’s considered the last tricklings of the Arab Spring, that wave of uprisings and protests to flow through the Middle East. It happened in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. I’m sure you heard something about it. Anywho, this Syrian cuffuffle is garnering lots of international attention for so many reasons. Not only have over 140,000 people beens killed and millions displaced into neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, but there are remnants of cold-war-proxy-stuff. As in, Russia is supporting Assad and the West is supporting rebel groups (collectively the Free Syrian Army) who are fighting like crazy against the government. These battles are happening mostly in Aleppo, Damascus and Homs, all them major cities.
Recently, the rebels chose a new military leader, Abdul al-Ilah al-Bachir, to boost morale in the fight for justice.