Yesterday (March 15) marked 4 years since the beginning of violence in Syria. Protests had been going on since January 2011, but larger scale unrest began in mid-March, with demonstrators in Damascus, Aleppo, and Daraa calling for the release of students who had been arrested for drawing anti-government graffiti. On March 18 and March 20, 2011, clashes between the protesters and the government caused several deaths.

The conflict escalated from mass protests to armed rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad’s government. July 2011 saw the formation of the Free Syrian Army, who vowed to fight state security forces that were attacking civilians. Supported by the Arab League, Assad continued to send troops to break down demonstrations and fight the rebels. Thousands of people of arrested, and the Human Rights Watch reported the existence of 27 torture centers in July 2012. Between then and July 2013, jihadist groups joined some of the rebel groups in northern Syria. In November 2013, the Islamic Front was formed. With both sides receiving military help from foreign powers, violence and chaos spread, to the advantage of terrorist groups. Many of the forces who had rebelled against Assad joined the Islamic State fighters. Currently, the north-eastern part of Syria is controlled by ISIS.

The effects of the ongoing flood of violence on cities, markets, schools, hospitals, life expectancy, employment rates, and energy supplies are devastating. The education system has collapsed (half of the children have stopped going to school), cities are deserted (air footage of Homs, previously Syria’s third largest city, shows empty, half-ruined buildings, and no signs of human life; the city used to be a major industrial center, with over 650,000 inhabitants, most of whom were killed or became refugees), communications (including terrestrial ones like bridges) are suspended or destroyed, unemployment boomed from 15% to 57.7%, and according to Newsweek two-thirds of the population are deprived of basic necessities, including food. The costs of the war for Syrian economy go up to $200 billion so far. The number of refugees exceeds 3.3 million and 1.5 million Syrians have migrated as workers. Injured people are as many as 840,000, while almost 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives since 2011. Life expectancy fell from 80 years to 55. Satellite images of Syria have circled the web, showing how few signs of life there are left in comparison to 2010. Images of Homs, the deserted city where some rebel forces used to camp until the recapturing of the area by government troops one month ago, speak of a tragedy beyond repair.

image source: Daily Mail