Zachary Antoyan is a political science junior and Mustang Daily liberal columnist.
It has been two years and 17 days. Two extremely grueling and violent years, spent in an attempt to oust a family that has kept hold of Syria for more than four decades.
What started out as peaceful demonstrations and acts of politically motivated graffiti escalated into a full-fledged civil war, so far resulting in the deaths of an estimated 70,000 civilians. The lines appeared clearly defined: It was the authoritarian regime against those who wished for freedom.
Riding the wave of the Arab Spring in 2011 that saw the call for more rights and freedoms throughout the Arab world, the Syrian uprising was supposed to pave the way for those changes. Instead, the fractured opposition poses just as much a humanitarian threat to the Syrian people as the old regime does and all the while has both sides scrambling for any advantage.
At first, it appeared to me the popular uprising was just an attempt to fight for a Syria with more freedoms. I distinctly remember reading this phrase of someone within the conflict more than a year ago: “The situation is very tragic. We demand humanitarian corridors for medicine and food and clean water. We just want to live as half-humans, not even full human beings.”
The notion that things were so bad as a result of the violence that people didn’t even consider themselves or want to be “full human beings” floored me. Why weren’t we, as a country or even as individuals, doing anything about this? Why aren’t we helping these people by aiding the opposition?
While I was in the region during this past summer, I met three refugees from Syria. Two of them had defected from the Syrian Army, and the other had crossed the border with her family to find a safer place to live. They never once spoke of the cause of the opposition, and to them, the opposition was no better than the regime that had oppressed them for so long.
Both sides commit atrocities, and neither has a mind to end the collateral damage that kills and displaces more than three million people. Amnesty International has consistently provided evidence supporting the claims made by those I spoke to. There is no side that fights for the people in this war, only those who would seek to take advantage of a people and a bad situation.
It is at this point we must distinguish between the popular uprising the Syrian civil war started as and the convoluted mad-grab for power and influence it is now. With the numerous factions that make up the Syrian National Coalition consistently mired in a lack of direction and control, getting aid to those who need it has become a nearly impossible task.
The United States has been giving non-lethal assistance to the opposition for some time now and is looking to double those efforts in the future. There are, however, many who would argue that what we give is going into the wrong hands.
The Al-Nusra Front, is one such faction of the coalition that many are wary of. With previous ties to Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups, foreign policy leaders are worried the aid goes toward the setup of a state that harbors an anti-western sentiment. Of course, this is all speculation. But the threat of supporting a cause that ends up backfiring is something we know all too well (think: Iran).
So it is here we find ourselves in a difficult situation. On the one side, we wish to see an end to a brutal conflict and support go to those who need it within the country. But on the other, we must deal with the ramifications of supporting a cause that might turn against us, might not give that aid to the civilians and continuously disregards civilian casualties (all of this done in the name of a freedom for a people who are desperate for an end). World leaders have been meeting about the crisis, but a consensus on what to do, or who to support, has yet to be made.
If there is a way to reconcile this, then I do not know it. I can only hope those who are close to danger are delivered far from it, and done so soon.
This is Zachary Antoyan, thinking if he had to choose, he would totally be an Earth Bender. Have a good week.