A quarter of population, US$255 billion, and 5000 years of history: the price of Arab Spring for Syria
February 22, 2016
February 29th, 2016 | 15:13
The first full-scale, though fragile, ceasefire of the last five years has been established in Syria today. The sixth year of the conflict in the Middle East will start in March. The conflict started on the wave of revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, with anti-governmental rallies and manifestations. After the Middle East and Western countries supported the oppositionists, the public revolt grew into a civil and even religious war. Tens of thousands of Islamic radicals from all over the world have joined it. No one knows what Syria’s fate will be. Once prospering country fell victim to five years of bloody war: every fiftieth Syrian was killed, with every second becoming a refugee. Basing on data of international organizations. EADaily has calculated the price Syria has paid for the Arab Spring.
Population in Syria has decreased by a quarter
By data of the UN for 2011, the population in Syria was estimated at roughly 21 million. As many as 250,000 people have been killed within the five years of the war. These are the UN data too. Other international organizations provide even higher figures. For instance, the Syrian Center for Policy Research (SCPR) says 470,000 have been killed with 1.5 million being wounded. It turns out that the country has lost 11.5% of its population. The Syrian conflict is the deadliest one since the World War II. Another 45% of Syrians had to leave their homes. Nearly 6.3 million have been internally displaced with more than 4 million fled the country and are now in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and the EU. Summing up the killed, wounded and those who fled the country, one can say that Syria has lost nearly a quarter of its population. Life expectancy of those who are still in the country has decreased from 70 to 55 years.
Economy: 85% of total population is below poverty level
Five years of war cost Syria a $255 billion economic damage. Dozens of cities (2 million buildings) and infrastructures have been ruined, with the overwhelming part of oil and gas extraction capacities being in the hands of the Islamic State militants. It is not surprising that 85% of Syrians live below the poverty level. According to the UN, they need $7.73 billion as humanitarian aid right now. To restore Syria, at least $100 billion will be needed annually, says Alexander Dynkin, Director of the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations.
Only in nine years, the country will be able to reach the level of 2010.Abdullah al-Dardari, the ex-vice-president of Syria, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, says Syria’s GDP amounted to US$62 billion in 2010. Now, after five years of the civil war, it has shrunk to US$27 billion. Nearly 90% of production facilities and half of the residential buildings have been destroyed.
Islamic extremism: new life
The first in history terror state has emerged while the Middle East monarchies, Turkey and the West are trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad through a bloody war. Now, the Islamic State that is banned in Russia poses a threat to the world, while not so long ago, at the very beginning of the Syrian conflict, it was just a not large coalition of Islamic fundamentalists advocating for recreation of the “caliphate” in al-Shām (Syria). Due to the war-caused power vacuum in many territories and the connivance of the Middle East and Western countries, ISIL has turned into the most dangerous for the world order army of terrorists that has grown many thousand strong within a few months. That army controls nearly one-third of Iraq and Syria and poses a threat to the domestic security of both the Old World and the New World.
ISIL’s terror assaults in U.S. and Europe killed more than 200 people last year alone.
This has reanimated Al Qaeda – the terrorist organization the terror attacks of which on September 11 2001 let U.S. invade Afghanistan. The terror group has not abandoned its plans to recreate the medieval Islamic caliphate. The Syrian wing of Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies operated successfully in the conflict and has become the striking force of the “moderate opposition” within the five years of the war in Syria. This questions the current ceasefire and complicates the conflict’s resolution. Involving in the war and enlisting the support of some other countries of the Middle East and Turkey, Jihadists have made the Islamic public believe that the conflict is a religious war of the true believer and humble Sunnites against unfaithful Shiites and Alawites. Bashar al-Assat is an Alawite too.
Syrian tragedy of Europe
The war for Damascus as no other war showed the tragedy of the Europe-supported Arab Spring. U.S. is far and separated by the ocean, while the EU has already tasted the fruits of its “democracy” in the Middle East. Last year alone, 900,000 migrants arrived in Europe, and another 100,000 have already arrived since the beginning of 2016. Europe has faced migration crisis and occurred on the verge of collapse. Despite the right of free movement, part of the countries in Central Europe have actually closed the borders for refugees coming via other countries of the EU, for instance, Serbia, Macedonia and Austria. Greece – the main country to bear the brunt of migrants – can no longer withstand the refugee flows, while many other European countries openly oppose Brussel’s refugee quotas.
The reason is not just refugee flows and expenses. The culture and lifestyle of refugees so strange to the Old World has already led to Islamization and growing crime rate in the EU. The latest inflow of migrants has even resulted in bacchanalias like the incident that happened on the New Year Eve in Köln. Nearly a thousand of migrants gathered in the square of railway stations then and launched group attacks on women. Reuters reported that the Police registered 600 claims by the attacked women, with sexual assaults accounting for 40% of total attacks. Two rapes were registered then.
The Arab Spring had another consequence for the EU – nearly five thousand of the EU citizens have joined “Jihad” in Syria and Iraq. As one could see in Paris attacks, they return to Europe and create terror networks. Further Islamization of the Old World due to the unwillingness of the refugees to adjust makes it more attractive for expansion of terrorists.
Heritage: 5000 years of history is lost
What is nearly impossible to restore in Syria is cultural and historical monuments destroyed mostly by Jihadists. According to The Antiquities Coalition, a U.S.-based NGO, hundreds of historical and cultural sights having a history of five thousand years have been either damaged or fully destroyed during the five years of the war in Syria. Six of those monuments were under protection of UNESCO. For instance, the tomb of Mohammed bin Ali – one of the most honored figures in Shia Islam and Prophet’s cousin. It was one of the two tombs the ISIL terrorists exploded in Palmira. In total, extremists have destroyed over 50 tombs in the territories they controlled in Syria. In Rakka, which is considered the capital city of the Islamists, the terrorists destroyed basalt statues of lions dating back to the 8th century BC. Once they were installed at the entrance of the Assyrian Palace Gate. The deadly battles of the government troops and “moderate opposition” have seriously damaged ancient mosques in Aleppo and Daraa dating back to the 7th century.
One of the “brightest successes” of “moderate opposition” was the attack on St. Thekla’s Monastery in Maalul. Jabhat al-Nusra militants, Syrian wing of Al –Qaeda destroyed the interior of the ancient Christian monastery. They even burnt icons for heat.
Yet these are not all the cultural and historical losses Syria has suffered during the last five years. Since 2011, by data of The Antiquities Coalition, artefacts worth US$2 billion have disappeared from the territories seized by Jihadists.
PDF of the article in English here
PDF of the article in Russian here