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Saturday, 21 March 2015

4 years on, have the lights gone out in Syria?

This week marked the 4th anniversary of the beginning of the bitter conflict in Syria. The situation, already one of worse in Middle Eastern history, has horrifically deteriorated in the last year. 12 months have seen over 70,000 people killed, the highest death rate in the world, and the highest death toll since the start of the conflict. With over 100,000 injured and millions displaced it is hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

On the eve of the anniversary, a coalition of human rights groups posted an image of the country taken by satellite. It shows that 83% of the lights in Syria have gone out since 2011. That means no schools, no hospitals, none of the basic needed to survive in most of the nation.

As in all wars, it is the civilians now who carry the cost of conflict, with the vast majority of those killed being unarmed people just trying to survive.

The press might have you believe that the horror is all the result of the so called 'Islamic State', but the reality is that Assad's regime is mostly responsible - dropping barrel bombs and
high impact munitions on heavily populated towns and cities. IS certainly has the brutality, but the state still has mass of weaponry used to crush its opposition.

So have the lights on gone out on this once proud nation, which boasts the oldest city in the world, Damascus?

I was privileged on Wednesday to host a meal in my home for two Syrian Sanctuary seekers. Both have tough tales to tell, one a great writer. They both articulated that the main issue facing Syria is Assad. They believed he has fuelled IS because while the opposition fight among themselves, they pose no real threat to his regime. My guest argued that many fight with IS not because of Islamic Ideology but because Assad has killed their families and destroyed their homes. When Assad is gone, my guests were convinced that Syria could return to some kind of normality and IS would be quickly dismembered.

The articulate and strong reasoning of these two men gave me some kind of hope. One day Assad will be gone, and these intelligent and skilled Syrians will return with millions of others to rebuild their homeland. There will be lights and parties and poetry back in Syria one day. Until that time comes, we need to stand with the Syrian people and never let the light of hope fade away.

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