The conflict in Syria is extremely troubling. The country is currently in the middle of a gruesome civil war that is changing the face of the Middle East entirely. For almost two years now, the forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime have been fighting against those opposed to it, tearing the nation apart. Hundreds of thousands have fled to neighbouring countries and, even worse, over 60,000 Syrians have perished in this civil war. As time goes on and the war continues, things seem to be getting much worse. The conflict is shiveringly close to the capital city Damascus, where the death toll, as well as refugee toll, will double.
Needless to say, the situation is dire and it’s time that the international community, including Canada, steps in. Canada hasn’t really had a major role in Syria thus far, something that’s being discussed more and more often as the situation there worsens. Kyle Matthews, senior deputy director of the Will to Intervene Project at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University, wouldn’t even put Canada’s aid in the top three or four countries.
“The Canadian response so far has been … sanctions against the Assad regime and it’s had limited effects, because we’re not major trade partners with Syria,” said Matthews. “We’ve also come down pretty hard in public diplomacy, criticizing the Russian government, which hasn’t really had a strong effect either.”
Canada has also provided a significant amount of money to Syrians and has offered humanitarian assistance to help with the displaced people, accepting a little over 5,000 refugees. Overall, Canada’s response has been appreciated, but the aid is small compared to the conflict Syrians face.
It is important to look at the strain neighbouring countries have been feeling as well. Many Syrian refugees have been crossing the Syrian border into neighbouring countries and they’re starting to lack the resources to support them all.
“Already Lebanon is starting to be put under enormous strains because of the refugee flows coming into the country, as well as flows of weapons coming from Syria,” said Matthews. “We have Jordan that’s being destabilized and Turkey is in […] trouble as a NATO partner.”
The crisis in Syria is nowhere near finished and things can only get worse from here. I think we have to play the tables much more seriously and re-engage both of the political and military level with NATO. We cannot stand and watch while human rights are being abused, people are dying daily and a reckless dictator is doing all he can to maintain his leadership in a politically torn nation. It’s time for the international community to step in before this situation becomes even more volatile. That was the ultimatum offered by Kyle Matthews.
“Either we take things seriously now and try to do something or it’s going to probably implode and turn into a regional conflict, which is gonna involve a lot more money and a lot more involvement from the international community in the years to come.”
We have to start somewhere. Whether it involves a no-fly zone where one is needed, or a transport plane, or increased humanitarian aid measures. It’s these little moves that can make a difference and help avoid a full-scale Middle Eastern crisis.