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03/15/2013

What does Syria's civil war look like two years later?

Syria
A Syrian boy chants slogans as he holds Syrian opposition flags during a protest marking two years since the start of the uprising in the al-Myassar neighbourhood of Aleppo on March 15. (Giath Taha/Reuters)

The fuse that lit the Syrian civil war was a group of young boys from Daraa scribbling graffiti on a photograph of President Bashar Assad in early March 2011.

‘The people want the fall of the regime’ they wrote.  

The boys were arrested and tortured. On March 15 some residents took to the streets to demand their release. Small protests had also broken out in other parts of the country. From there, Syria’s national uprising began.

The brutal response from the regime towards peaceful demonstrators unleashed a cycle of violence that spiralled out of control.  Two years later, at least 70,000 are dead, millions more have lost their homes and left the country.

Time’s Rania Abouzeid has this wonderful piece that asks what the war looks like:

“The Syrian war looks, too, like dusty shoes spilling out of a cardboard box by the open door of a deserted, partially destroyed home in a town that, like many, is devoid of civilians. The box is near a child’s black-ink drawing on the wall, of a helicopter. There are a little girl’s white sneakers with blue butterflies near a woman’s black wedge-heeled slipper, a man’s lace-up dress shoes, and a toddler’s orange patent-leather sandals. Things are in their place; their owners are gone. It also looks like things that are out of place, like a kitchen sink in somebody’s grassy, rubble-carpeted garden. The Syrian war looks like the millions of people who have become refugees or are internally displaced. It looks like others who say they’d rather die in their homes than live off of handouts in a tent.

Boy

A child gets a Syrian flag painted on his face during a protest against Syria's President Bashar aAssad, in downtown Bucharest March 15. (Bogdan Cristel/Reuters)

What does the Syrian war look like? It looks like significant number of people who, for reasons of ideology or patronage or fear, believe that Assad’s regime the best option. It looks like a growing number of people, even those within the rebel ranks, who eye the increasing clout of Jihadists and other Islamists and fear what they may turn Syria into.

What does the Syrian war sound like? It sounds like the women of an extended family, aunts and sisters, mothers and grandmothers, sitting in a room where thin mattresses line the walls, discussing what kind of a Syria they want to live in. They’re in darkness because there’s no electricity.”

Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at The Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour

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