If you were asked to name the biggest stories in the news today, what would you say? Maybe something about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, those spooky clowns? Or how about the mass destruction of the Syrian people and their country? That’s right, while we were all worrying about who the next president would be, or if there was a creepy clown in Latham, thousands of lives were extinguished on the other side of the world. Unbeknownst to many, a brutal civil war between Syrian government forces and separatists has been ravaging the country since 2011, and according to PBS, 470,000 – nearly half a million- people have perished in the bloody conflict. The civil war began in 2011 when they Syrian people began to revolt against the oppressive and authoritarian regime of president Bashar al-Assad, who hammered the protesters with intense violence, sparking an armed revolt. The rebels mostly consist of deserters from the Syrian army who came together to form the Free Syrian Army.
Since the rise of ISIS in the region, beginning roughly in 2015, Western powers like the United States and Russia have become increasingly involved in the war. While both countries agreed to perform airstrikes against ISIS, the situation has devolved into somewhat of a cold war reminiscent proxy war, with the Russians and Assad on one side, the US and the rebels on the other, and the Syrian people in the middle.
The tactics that the Russian supported forces have been using to force the rebels into submission is truly horrifying. One particular event stands out. On September 21, 2016, a UN convoy of supplies was headed into the decimated city of Aleppo, where thousands of civilians are trapped without food or water. As they entered, they believed they were safe because of a recent cease-fire. Nothing could have been further from the truth. That day, the entire convoy was destroyed by Russian warplanes. This atrocity fit in perfectly with Russia and Assad’s scorched earth policy of “Starve or Submit”- a tactic defined by a destruction of supplies, leaving the enemy too demoralized and malnourished to continue resistance..
With the fragile ceasefire now in shambles, the citizens of east Aleppo, an area still controlled by rebels, sit in fear of the next bombing runs. The Russians and Assad are preparing to annihilate the 250,000 people trapped there in a bombing campaign that is comparable to genocide, according to the New York Times. “Make life intolerable and death likely. Open an escape route, or offer a deal to those who leave or surrender. Let people trickle out. Kill whoever stays. Repeat until a deserted cityscape is yours.” This is the mindset of the Assad forces.
But, if nearly half a million people have died, and a quarter of a million more sit and wait for death, then why have we heard so little? Our news and media is filled with trivial stories about the Kardashians and Trump, so I ask you, keep the desolated people of Syria in your thoughts and prayers.