ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has been in the news, on social media, and flowing out of the mouths of presidential candidates lately, but do we really know the story behind it? Let’s take a few steps back to understand the beginnings of the issue(s) in Syria. (This is an admittedly over-simplified summary, see links below for more sources.)
After a long reign of the Assad family, in 2011, Syria broke out in protests for less government and more democracy. President Assad quickly responded with violence including torturing and killing those who disagreed with him. Civilians began forming protest groups and arming themselves against his governing. Soon. 1,000+ rebel groups surfaced and a civil war broke out. ISIS is the most recognizable, known for wanting to form a united Muslim territory and enforce its extremist beliefs.
Why is the U.S. involved in this fight? When rumors of chemical weapons being used by both sides surfaced, the US, UN, and friends feared they would have to intervene with military force. In fear of such intervention, President Assad agreed to dismantle any chemical weapons. However, last September (2015), the US began air strikes in Syria against ISIS (now referred to as ISIL–Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). The States want ISIS & President Assad eliminated. Unfortunately, Assad has Russia and Iran on his side.
What else? We have not just violence or a struggle for power, but a massive humanitarian crisis at hand. According to Mercy Corps, over 16 million are in need of assistance. Due to the violence in the country, millions of Syrians have and continue to flee from their homes. With few belongings and little money, families are walking for miles with no food, resources, and with fear of being attacked by snipers and other soldiers. Refugee camps are overcrowded, money is incredibly tight, and countries are afraid of letting foreigners resettle on their soil.
So now what? While the war in Syria wages on, the numbers of displaced persons only continues to increase. Staying informed on the issues is the first step in helping, which you’ve done by reading this article. Other brief synopses of the issues can be found here–this offers a more thorough analysis with links to more information as well. Sharing the news with friends is also an important step in aiding the refugees. Share posts like the one from the Erase Indifference blog with your friends to get them informed too.
And? Of course, donations to organizations like Mercy Corps help provide food, water, and shelter to those seeking safety.
-Annie Kate Swain