This war is not blackandwhite. You might think it's the brave rebels versus the evil dictatorial regime, and that's part of the story. But it's not all of it. Not by a long way.
Confused about Syria? Us too. But this quick 10point explainer will help. To help us navigate this tragic conflict, we spoke to two Australians with a unique view on the troubled nation.
And we spoke to Father David Smith, a Sydney Anglican priest who this year travelled to Syria on a humanitarian mission.
A country smaller than the state of Victoria with almost the exact same population as Australia (22.5 million to our 23 million) which borders Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon. Syria has both deserts and fertile areas and is steeped in history dating back to biblical times.
2. The Syrian regime
The Syrian Civil war is a conflict between its longserving government and those seeking to boot it out of office. The Assad family has held power in Syria since 1971. First it was Hafez alAssad, then Bashar alAssad.
Unlike many regime leaders in the middle east middle, The Assad family is not religiously extreme. They are Alawites a relatively obscure www.footballBengalsshop.com branch of Islam which is not particularly hardline. So the people have not been protesting against hardline www.footballbengalsshop.com/WOMENS-REY-MAUALUGA-JERSEY.html Islamists, as happened in other countries which participated in the Arab Spring uprisings.
But people are still angry at their government. As Rodger Shanahan points out, what they're angry about is the failure of longpromised economic and political reforms.
3. The Civil War begins
Rodger Shanahan says the catalyst was the jailing on March 6, 2011, of some children who painted antiregime graffiti. Some were killed in detention, and this led to public protests which spread around the country fuelled by the failure of the government to punish the perpetrators.
Another theory says the war started with demonstrations which mirrored those in neighbouring countries, and which soon led to a security crackdown. In April 2011, the Syrian Army fired on demonstrators and the protests became a fullscale armed rebellion.
4. The rebellion grows July 2011, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) had formed. As Dr Shanahan explains, the FSA never existed before that. "Local areas formed their own militias with the aim of toppling the government without any coordination or centralised command or control," he says.
"The militias were a combination of local area tribal groups, deserters from the military [who had been conscripted despite holding antigovernment beliefs] and disaffected locals."
Then a combination of Jihadists, some from Syria and some from elsewhere, joined the FSA. Some even came from the faraway Caucasus region where accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev originally hailed from.
So in other words, you had genuine Syrian freedom fighters joined by people with their own Islamist agendas. But because the FSA was underarmed and undermanned, they had little choice but to form. a loose coalition with these volatile new kids on the revolutionary block.
5. But that couldn't be further from the truth."
Father Dave illustrates his point with a communication he had with a Syrian woman which he published on his blog. The woman's name is Ghinwa and she wrote by text:
"The situation is very bad now in Latakia province. 7 Alawite villages were massacred. We know about the killing of 136 villagers all killed on sectarian bases. A friend of mind lost 21 member of his relatives.
"All of my friends who were documenting the name and the events of massacres in Latakia against Alawites are now being threatened to be killed by FSA and Al Nusra terrorists On TV we are shown something different. It is only a propaganda. They're trying to say that Alawites are not being killed or displaced. The truth is being hidden by mass media. . This is sick My sister now is very ill I guess a part of her illness is caused by sadness we are afraid."
A quick recap. Alawites are the ethnicity of the ruling family. The fact they were allegedly being killed by rebel groups suggests the rebels are not all angels.
6. Civilian casualties
"There are accusations of atrocities on both sides," Rodger Shanahan confirms. We should believe some of them, absolutely. There's no accurate confirmation, but it's a nasty horrible civil war with people on both sides getting killed.
Dr Shanahan says there is evidence that opposition car bombs have killed countless civilians in the name of taking out a government target. But there are equally distressing reports that government soldiers executed civilians. Others, shockingly, were executed for taking a moral stance and failing to follow orders to execute civilians.
Like we said, it's a bloody mess. Literally. The death toll in the war is now said to be well over 100,000.
7. The president's wife
Allow us to break up this tale with a story of the president's wife. Her name is Asma alAssad and she was raised in Britain by Kids Rey Maualuga Jersey Syrian parents. She's smart, glamorous and she worked as an investment banker before meeting her future husband in Britain in 2000 just months before he became president.
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