The political event that changed the Middle East forever
The political event that changed the Middle East forever was Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s bloody response to Arab Spring-inspired Syrian pro-democracy protests in March 2011. Back then it seemed like crushing a local rebellion but little did anyone know that it will balloon into the biggest humanitarian crisis today.
The protesters were upset about deteriorating conditions in Syria – rising prices, increasing unemployment, and rampant corruption being the prominent ones.
Religion-based fault lines were leading, the government had been playing divisive sectarian politics for long, and there was a rising cloud of distrust among people.
All these conditions created the necessary precursor for erroneous and impulsive decision-making on both sides. Assad, alarmed at such dissent, responded by killing hundreds of demonstrators and imprisoning a lot more. This fierce reaction led to military officials defecting to create the Free Syrian Army that had the ultimate aim to overthrow Assad. As we know, it was the first indicator of Syria descending into the Civil war, which is still ongoing (in its 8th year) with no signs of an end.
Very soon, the unrest spread, crackdown intensified, and foreign players, such as Iran, Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, jumped in to exert a more significant influence in the Middle East region. Syria turned into the world’s biggest battleground, where world powers fought to gain a substantial share of the influence pie.
The war has primarily been amongst those for or against Assad, with ISIS taking up terrorism and Kurds fighting for an independent state adding new dimensions to the conflict.
The number of casualties is alarming -The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, has documented the deaths of 560,000 people up to December 2018.
In hindsight, Assad could avert this mass casualty by not murdering his countrymen back in 2011.
Power makes people take twisted decisions affecting the lives of innocent civilians in shocking ways.