CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION
‘Syria has become the great tragedy of this century.’ ‘ Antonio Guterres
Adversities of Syria are not hidden from the world. In March 2011, the cataclysm day for Syria when it acknowledged the brawl of Syrian civil war since then it has been the controversial misery of Syrians who are swapping away from their hometowns to take safer refuge for them and their fellow beings. United Nations High Commissioner also trailed stats that of about 9 million people who needs fast track help. Out of which more than 3 million Syrians went out to their neighbors like Iraq, Turkey, Jorden and Lebanon; Europe was home form 1,50,000 and 6.5 million lost their native homes for safe internal displaced refuge.
Legion number of countries and international organizations came up for help and burden sharing but no big result of comfort and console has been drastically acknowledged which can fade out blight of Syrian people and their situation. Germany of European Union accepted almost 85% of the Syrians population. But as we examine Countries who are rich in Muslim population like Saudi Arabia & U.A.E; shows no single sign of admission of Syrian people. Nothing can be more astonishing than the fact about behavior of these Muslim nations despite of being refugee more than 50% among refugee people.
This research will make an endeavor to determine the status and rights of these Syrian refugees on the basis of related laws, policies, conventions etc. Crucial analysis shall be made at different levels; regional, domestic and international. This research study is bridle for Syrian Refugee Crisis; The researcher will promptly examine and analyze the global retort especially from the Middle east countries, European countries and India.
The dissertation, contained of one-year research and fieldwork; frames out a groundwork and cage for states who resides in and out of the Middle East region and that can troll up burden-sharing responsibilities of the refugee people and can abide by them through present laws and policies; it will drastically integrate Syrian and no-Syrian refugees by short and long term acceptance into nations. The dissertation talks about and alarms for burden-sharing through Comprehensive Plan of Action which can established on chief requirement in cooperation and accordance with the states and activists that can actively play up roles and are a part of UN and civil society.
The dissertation begins with the call for a Comprehensive Plan of Action for the Syria crisis, setting out a series of recommendations directed towards a range of actors: the host states; the Middle East region; the EU; the US and the Americas; the key UN agencies; and the rest of the international community. A solution-oriented Comprehensive Plan of Action would incorporate temporary protection programs in at least three regions to absorb refugees fleeing Syria (Syrian nationals and Palestinians) on a short-term basis; expanded resettlement programs prioritizing pre-existing non-Syrian refugees from the Middle East; and expanded emergency programs, such as humanitarian, special visas and family unity visas already in place to prioritize displaced persons from Syria.
The dissertation maps the interplay of laws and policies at the domestic and regional levels in four of the five countries receiving the bulk of Syrian refugees i.e, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey etc. after setting out the legal framework for a global Comprehensive Plan of Action. The key protection gaps between existing legal obligations and implementation on the ground are addressed by the dissertation. The dissertation makes recommendations for how the host states can address the gaps in protection. The findings are then linked to international obligations of responsibility sharing by the dissertation and the key mechanisms that require states outside the region to offer asylum and humanitarian status to the refugees in their territories . The dissertation clearly shows that how a Comprehensive Plan of Action incorporating such recommendations allows the international community to use existing legal frameworks to both lift the unsustainable burden currently held by a few host states towards this huge refugee population, and to close the protection gaps for the refugees remaining in the region. To make a conclusion on dissertation, it shows how only a global Comprehensive Plan of Action with the components of existing legal frameworks can prevent the Syrian conflict- and widening Iraq conflict– from spreading and becoming a protracted refugee crisis that could last a decade or more.
The components of the Comprehensive Plan of Action are summarized below with a brief background, and the recommendations set out before discussion of each of the Middle East host country’s laws, policies and existing protection gaps affecting the refugees fleeing from Syria.
WHO IS CONSIDERED TO BE A REFUGEE?
The rationale upon which international refugee law rests is not simply the need to give shelter to those persecuted by the state, but……to provide refuge to those whose home state cannot or does not afford them protection from persecution.
A person whose life is under constant threat or the living conditions are not conductive for his healthy survival and he runs for shelter to another nation is termed to be a Refugee. He still possesses a de jure national status and thus, he should be treated differently to a stateless person. However, the exact definition is, any person who ‘owing to well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or unwilling to avail protection of that country”
The person’s state of mind which is supported by objective elements determines the refugee status of a person. There are certain unfilled gaps in this definition as it does not include the contemporary problems related to refugee protection. The definition fails to include people seeking refuge due to environmental disasters, people displaced internally due to hostility, internal disturbances and civil wars or people having different sexual orientations.
Due to its geographic location, democratic government, religious tolerant society and goodwill, India continues and will continue to be the host country since time immemorial for a large number of refugees not only from neighboring countries but also from other parts of the world as well.
India though is not a signatory of the 1951 Refugee convention but it has ratified a number of other human rights treaties which imposes obligation to provide protection to refugees. Some of the enlisted conventions are International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR Art. 13), UN Declaration on Territorial Asylum 1967, Convention on the elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Universal Declaration of Human Right 1948 (Art. 14), International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and Convention against Torture and Cruel Inhuman or degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). No treaty, convention or law can be compartmentalized and excluded to respect the human rights of refugees. These treaties impose a positive duty on India to provide protection to refugees as long as they fear persecution at the hands of their governments.
SALIENT FEATURES OF UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION RELATING TO THE STATUS OF REFUGEES, 1951
The Convention, at length, elaborates the definition of the Refugees and very specifically categories under Article 1(A) (2) that refugee must have a fear of discrimination or harassment. Since the Law is an evolving subject area and majority of actions, be it like ‘ remedies available and liabilities imposed, are based upon the interpretation of the relevant term /Clause of a Treaty or Section of a Statute. In the present subject matter, the term used in the definition of the Refugee, includes the observable fact – ‘well-found fear of being persecuted…’ is of prime importance as determination of the status of Refugee is based upon it. Before moving further, it is necessary to understand, at glance, the observations made by the Court while interpreting the said term. Federal Court of the Canada have observed in the case of Joseph Adjei v. Minister of Employment and Immigration that ‘We would adopt that they will adopt the ratio decided by the Court in the case of Pratte J.A. in Seifu v. Immigration Appeal Board (A-277-822, dated January 12, 1983) that a person seeking refugee need not necessarily have suffered persecution in the past but it is only sufficient to merely demonstrate that he has a sense that he/she might be harassed. The Supreme Court of the United States during a hearing of same kind of the Case has observed that the term used in the Article 1 of the Convention that merely fear of the harassment of persecution is sufficient to establish to the fear.
‘For a person to fall within the definition of a refugee, a person must satisfy two cumulative conditions: one, he must be outside his country of residence owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted on specific grounds; two, he must be unable to return to that country, or owing to such fear be unwilling to return to it”. House of Lords while interpreting the Article 1(A) (2) has particularly examined that a person seeking asylum of refugee is required to illustrate that he has genuine fear of persecution. Handbook for determining the status of Refugees spells that acknowledgment as a Refugee is necessary in a way that it declares him/her as a Refugee.
As mentioned above, the 1951 Convention deals with the rock solid definition of the Refugee and further deals with important rather I would say fundamental aspects dealing with the asylum seekers like – duty of the Refugee towards the Country to maintain the public order on one hand and on the other talks about the rights he/she is entitled to like ‘ nondiscrimination against race, religion or origin of the Country freedom to participate their religion and education thereof under Article 4 of the Convention. It further provides for national treatment same as its citizen under Article 7 . It also talks about the Juridical Status of the Refugees under Article 12 regarding domicile, Article 13 regarding rights related to movable and immovable property and Article 15 provides for Right of Association as ‘As regards non-political and non-profit-making associations and trade unions the Contracting States shall accord to refugees lawfully staying in their territory the most favorable treatment accorded to nationals of a foreign country, in the same circumstances.’ Article 16 of the Convention talks about legal assistance available to the refugees. Chapter III of the Convention talks about the employment for the Refugees and categorize it further into three parts ‘ Wage – earning employment under Article 17 , facility for self-employment like agriculture, industry or any other wishful activity under Article 18 of the Convention and lastly, practicing the Professional expertise under Article 19 . As far as welfare of the Refugees in terms of food and other related issues are concerns, Chapter IV of the Convention which is divided in to Article 20 to 23 deals with the ration, housing arrangements, education and relieves available publically. Article 24 of the Convention, which is also of prime importance, states that:
‘1. The Contracting States shall accord to refugees lawfully staying in their territory the same treatment as is accorded to nationals in respect of the following matters:
(a)… remuneration, including family allowances where these form part of remuneration, hours of work, overtime arrangements, holidays with pay, restrictions on home work, minimum age of employment, apprenticeship and training, women’s work and the work of young persons, and the enjoyment of the benefits of collective bargaining;
(b)… Social security (legal provisions in respect of employment injury, occupational diseases, maternity, sickness, disability, old age, death, unemployment, family responsibilities and any other contingency which, according to national laws or regulations, is covered by a social security scheme), subject to the limitations’ It further provides for the right to compensation for the death of a refugee resulting from employment injury or from occupational disease and the benefits of agreements concluded between them, or which may be concluded between them in the future .
Refugees and Asylum at a glance
For centuries, people have been discriminated and forced to flee their homes because of conflict, political, racial and religious persecutions, natural disasters and inhuman treatments that took place in their societies. In exile, they sought either refuge or the protection of other countries. Human beings have migrated since the earliest societies. The first migrants were tribal people in search of food, water and resources. They were not yet refugees or asylum seekers; they were mere gatherers or hunters who began exploring new lands to settle. The land, provided for much of their basic needs and soon, ‘territory became associated with property’ . Conflicts emerged in order to gain or protect one’s territory, just like governments were created to organise and defend this very territory. In those early years, governments instituted laws and policies for security reasons in order to guard their natural resources. Not much has changed since then. The migration regulations that exist today were also introduced to enforce security throughout countries, as well as to fight terrorism or illegal traffic of people, drugs or weapons.
But what happens should governments fail to protect their citizens and if people become displaced for any reason? In such a case, they become refugees, asylum seekers, stateless or internally displaced persons. The first refugees abandoned their homes due to religious persecution or conflicts that emerged in their societies. But the highest number of refugees ever recorded, was produced during and after the two world wars. This led to the necessity of creating a structure that could help these people. In the 1950s, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was created, replacing the previous refugee agencies that existed under the League of Nations. Its mandate was to provide refugees with international protection, as well as to seek ‘permanent solutions for the problem of refugees by assisting governments and [‘] private organizations to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of such refugees, or their assimilation within new national communities’. Today, there are 43.3 million displaced people worldwide, of which 15.2 million are refugees, 27.1 million are internally displaced persons, and 1 million are waiting for their asylum application to be adjudicated, according to UNHCR’s 2009 report on refugees, asylum seekers, returnees, internally displaced and stateless persons . Many of them flee to neighboring countries to find protection. However, others, attracted by a higher standard of living, prefer western countries as destinations. The number one refugee hosting country in the western world is Germany, followed by the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada. Europe hosts a mere 16% of the world’s refugees, most of whom come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Serbia or Turkey . In terms of asylum applications, however, the European Union receives almost 200 000 asylum claims per year, becoming the main destination for asylum seekers in the western world and in second position after South Africa. This means that the European Union is playing a major role in deciding the fate of refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world.
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Since time immemorial people have been fleeing their homelands during troubled times; both manmade and natural. Middle East is more prone to civil wars and conflicts. Syrian crisis is the latest scare on the face of humanity. It created worst ever refugee crisis of modern world. Through the prism of Syrian conflict we got to see the ugly side of almost all States whether it be European Union misusing public order clause to prevent refugees or Eastern European countries which are on a frenzy to build new taller, stronger border fencing. Even if we look at rich Arab states we can see through their hollow claims of Muslim brotherhood (Ummah). A glaring example would be Saudi Arabia (home to holiest cities in Islam), they have a ghost city ‘Mina’ which has capacity to host 10 million people. This tent city is used for pilgrims for 1 month every year. Through this research we would dive deep into the legal/religious rules and conventions governing the area of refugee laws and would try to find solution to the present refugee crisis.
The working hypothesis for this research is that most of the countries are not fulfilling their responsibilities towards refugees and are misusing/misinterpreting laws to deny rights to refugees.
OBJECTIVES OF THE DISSERTATION
The project work has been designed to fulfill following objectives, which could contribute and facilitate to enhance the understanding of Syrian Humanitarian crisis under refugee law regime in India & the world:-
1. To understand and the analyze concept of refuge in Islam and need for the propagation of correct ideas.
2. To make a comparative study of laws in US, EU, Middle East and India on Refugees & Asylum Seekers.
3. To study and analyze the global refugee law framework, and to study recent judicial trends in this field.
SCOPE OF STUDY
This research work is a detailed study of international and Middle Eastern refugee law framework so as to find out their adequacy or inadequacy in preventing humanitarian crisis and to make suggestions in this regard.
MODE OF CITATION
A uniform mode of citation has been followed throughout the course of this paper.
The doctrinal method of research has been used, which involve collection of data from both primary and secondary sources; primary sources like treaties, conventions, statutes, reports of the commissions and committees related thereto and Secondary sources like books written by various eminent authors and articles found in the journals and websites, e-journals. Use of internet also became very relevant to find out the most updated, relevant and apt information which helped me in exploring the subject from various dimensions. Inductive Methodology i.e. getting general results from specific points by analysis of literature studied has been also used.
This Dissertation is divided into 7 Chapters
1. In the first chapter researcher would provide an introduction to the issue. Researcher will attempt to answer the basic question: Who are refugees? What are the different definitions? And will take you through the journey of evolution of international refugee law regime.
2. In the second chapter researcher has written literature review on this topic. Although the topic is new and challenging, the researcher has put in his best effort to cover all the relevant literature on this area.
3. In the third chapter researcher will take you to the roots of Syrian crisis. From how it started to how it became the biggest refugee crisis of our time, researcher has tried to touch all the aspects of this issue viz. ISIS to al Nusra and Shia Militia to Kurds
4. In the fourth chapter we shall study the response of the first world countries, their legal framework, their challenges etc.. Germany and Sweden are providing positive response whereas France and Greece are still finding excuses.
5. In the fifth chapter we shall study the response of the middle eastern countries, their legal framework, their challenges etc.. Researcher will also explore the ideas of jiwar i.e. refuge in Islamic jurisprudence and check its compatibility with the modern concept.
6. In the sixth chapter we shall study the response of the India, our legal framework, our challenges etc.. Researcher in this chapter shall explore the past precedents and debate the requirement of Policy on refugees. It will also cover the need for reform of UN to make it more effective in dealing with these challenges.
7. In the seventh chapter the researcher has put down certain recommendations on this issue and this chapter being the last chapter also contains the conclusion.
CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW
The following section will provide a literature review on academic discussions of foreign policy, refugee policy, and the development of literature linking international relations and forced migration studies. It finds that there is a general gap in the literature linking perspectives of the above fields.
First, the study of foreign policy as a sub-field within the larger discipline of international relations began in the 1950s. Foreign policy is defined as ‘the strategy or approach chosen by the national government to achieve its goals in its relations with external entities,’ and foreign policy behavior is ‘the observable artifacts of foreign policy’ [And] may include the categorization of such behavior, such as along conflict-cooperation continua.’ This included foreign policy decision-making, bureaucratic and organizational politics, psychological aspects in formulation of foreign policy, and comparative foreign policy. The analysis of foreign policy borrows perspectives from the classic international relations schools of thoughts, realism, liberalism, and constructivism. Contemporary research in this field is increasingly looking at the interplay between different levels ‘ individual, nation-state, and international ‘ in formulating foreign policy. In addition, there have been more efforts to utilize findings from various social science disciplines.
Second, under the broader scholarship of forced migration studies, researchers have begun to comment on the use of refugee policies as a tool of foreign policy in the 1980s. According to International Factors in the Formation of Refugee Movements, receiving states can attract refugees and create a ‘pull’ factor with a policy that encourages admission, or with a restrictive policy that is poorly enforced. This becomes a tool of foreign policy since an open-door policy ‘usually implies condemnation of relevant government for persecuting its citizens, or at least failing to afford them protection. Teitelbaum argues along the same line with a more normative tone. He finds that mass expulsions from sending side can be used as tool to ‘destabilize or embarrass foreign policy adversaries,’ while for receiving countries, refugee admission can serve to ’embarrass and discredit adversary nations.’ In Refugee and International Relations, Loescher sums up these observations in that ‘government responses to refugee movements from neighboring or distant countries are greatly influenced by the relations between sending and receiving nations.’ These authors together highlight the connection between refugee policies and foreign policy.
In the 21st century, however, literature explicitly linking the greater disciplines of international relations and forced migration studies is still lacking. This is pointed out most openly in Refugees in International Relations, a compilation of essays resulting from a lecture series by both international relations and forced migration studies scholars at the University of Oxford. These essays point to the reasons why the two fields can benefit from learning from one another, as they overlap in the areas of ‘international cooperation, globalization, human rights, international organizations, regime complexity, non-state actors, regionalism, North-South relations, and security.’ Representing the school of realism, Jack Snyder’s article suggests the reason why realist scholars have often overlooked this field is because of realist tendency to reject all elements relating to humanitarianism, as it is considered a non-security goal. Similarly, Myron Weiner expressed scepticism in partnerships between states and humanitarian institutions, as governments place national interest as paramount in foreign policy decision-making, while humanitarian institutions form policies based on ethical and moral values. Nonetheless, Snyder points out those humanitarian actions can be viewed through a consequentialist approach, where ‘good intentions’ are only pursued if they ‘achieve good results. This suggests that humanitarian objectives can be used as instruments to pursue state interests, and thus should not be readily dismissed in the analysis of international relations. Finally, there has been development in expanding literature linking the two fields, most prominently where it relates to refugees and conflicts in the developing world. In Refugee Manipulation, Steve Stedman and Fred Tanner demonstrate how refugees and the refugee regime can be used as resources of war, and its implications for international security. Furthermore, since the early 1990s, refugees have often been catalysts in spreading conflict beyond borders.
Through the literature review, this dissertation finds that interdisciplinary studies incorporating forced migration and international relations are growing, but explicit literature on linking refugee policies to foreign policies is missing. The literature review also reveals benefits of expanding research in this area, as refugee policies are innately tied to politics. Furthermore, the study of foreign policy involves conflict-cooperation in state behavior, entailing an examination of this in bilateral relations.
CHAPTER III: GENESIS OF SYRIAN CRISIS
The Syrian Civil war has caused approximately 2.7 million Syrians to leave their country since 2011, and double that many are expected to have fled Syria by the end of 2014. The Syrian refugee crisis has brought tremendous challenges to the region, and this research attempts to map out one aspect of the crisis that has received very little attention: that is, the laws and policies at the international, regional and domestic level affecting the rights and status of the refugees flooding out of Syria.
As described at length below, countries currently hosting the vast majority of the refugee flow out of Syria are stretched to the limits of their resources. Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt have huge refugee populations pre-dating the Syrian influx. Many, if not most, of these preexisting refugee groups live in desperate conditions, and host countries cannot meet all the refugees’ assistance and protection needs. Lebanon and Egypt’s unemployment rates are in the double-digits. Jordan is the fourth most water-stressed country in the world, with insufficient potable water for its own people. Lebanon and Egypt have extremely volatile political environments, and unstable governments. The Lebanese consider the Syrian conflict to have already crossed inside their territory and fear another civil war as a direct consequence if the war inside Syria is not halted soon. Turkey, the most stable host country, has already expended over $2.5 billion on assisting refugees from Syria ‘a figure exceeding the entire EU contribution to the crisis thus far’and cannot by itself continue indefinitely to provide for the needs of the ever-growing refugee population coming over its long border with Syria.
UNHCR’s 2014 Syria Regional Response Plan requests 4.2 billion U.S. dollars in financial aid. This disseratation, like the majority of reports and requests to the international community of states and donors, focuses on funneling financial resources into the countries hosting the refugees from Syria. While this aid is certainly important, researcher believes that it illustrates a containment paradigm that is unsustainable and dangerous, rather than an approach that more equitably shares the responsibility towards the individual refugees among the wider community of states outside the current host region. Ant”nio Guterres, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, has emphasized the critical need to change the paradigm, saying: ”it is not only financial, economic, and technical support to these States which is needed . . . It also includes . . . resettlement, humanitarian admission, family reunification, or similar mechanisms [for] refugees who are today in the neighboring countries but who cannot find a solution outside the region.”
This dissertation makes an urgent call for a global Comprehensive Plan of Action (‘CPA’) that builds on UNHCR’s recommendation that ‘the international community . . . show solidarity with countries hosting Syrian refugees in the region by offering resettlement opportunities, humanitarian admission places, and family reunification or other forms of admission for Syrian refugees.’ The recommendations in this dissertation differ somewhat from the humanitarian admissions proposal advanced by UNHCR, which asks countries to ‘admit up to 30,000 Syrian refugees on resettlement, humanitarian admission, or other programmes by the end of 2014, with a focus on protecting the most vulnerable.’ Currently, with three million refugees from Syria outside their home territory, resettlement can only be a partial solution– restricted as it is to only the most exceptional opportunities for the most vulnerable individuals. Countries outside the current host region must begin considering much more open policies to allow at least partial integration of Syrians into their states, both to alleviate the burden on current host countries, and to prevent the inevitable unfolding of an even greater humanitarian and security crisis than is already occurring .
CAUSES OF THE UPRISING
The uprising that erupted in the town of Dara’a in March 2011 is largely regarded as the beginning of the Syrian version of the ‘Arab Spring’. Although there has been agreeable similarity among the uprising occurred in the Arab states it is also clear that underlying causes of the uprisings have a peculiar character that specifically pertain to the particular state’s behavior and political development. Demonstrations do not simply erupt in a given state because there has been demonstration next door (neighboring states) .
They are more often than not results of deep rooted political, economic, cultural and social problems. Hence, in this section attempt is made to identify the main causes of the crisis. In other words, the reasons that brought such strong resistance against the established regime. The causes of the uprising can be classified as the root causes and the immediate causes of the conflict .
a. Root causes of the uprising
Since independence, Syria has been struggling to form a political system that is based on inclusion and consensus. In addition, some of the problems could be traced back to the country’s colonial experience. Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, Syria falls under French protectorate. France ruled Syria and made its Western part, Lebanon, an independent entity. This is the reason why there is a strong link between Syrian and Lebanese politics today . The French ruled Syria in a divided manner and gave primacy for the various ethno-religious groups in the country. Most of the main ethnoreligious groups have a territorial base. For instance, the Sunnis live in most of the major cities like Aleppo, Homes and Dara’a where there has been a high level of violence in the present crisis. The divide and rule colonial policy of France imposed on Syria had a strong religious angle. As William L. Cleveland and Martin Buton explained, France saw itself as ‘self-proclaimed protector of the Christian communities in Levant (Greater Syria) ‘ and especially of the Catholic Maronities of Mount Lebanon- France professed a moral duty to continue its long- standing religious and educational activities in the region’ . This resulted in ‘sectarian conflict [that France saw as] was a theoretical necessity for French colonialism in Syria, since the entire colonial mission was based on the idea of protecting one sectarian community, the Maronite Christians. By the same token, Provence argued for France in Syria ‘without sectarian conflict, colonial justification evaporates’ .
Hence, the French presence promoted the alienation of the Muslim majority and paved the way for religious and ethnic disintegration of Syria. Since independence in 1946, there has been a struggle in Syria between the forces of unity (pan-Arabism, nationalism) and the forces of disunity (a desire to create independent ethno-religious state). Up until the coming to power of Hafez al Asad in November 1970, who himself came to power in a coup, Syria experienced a number of political turns and upheavals that include several coups. Assad was a member of the military wing of the Baath party i.e. a nationalist socialist leaning party. Asad’s control of power marked the beginning of Alawaite political, military and security domination in Syria. The Alawaite sect started to be regarded as part of the Shi’a faction since 1920s. This move helped the Alawis to end their isolation and enabled them to integrate into the Syrian society. The sect was regarded largely as, before 1920s, ‘an extremist sect’ heretic outside of Islam’ (Talhamy, 2009: 562). The Alawis control of power has been the major reason for the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria’s opposition. The Muslim Brotherhood is part of the Sunni Muslim. According to the Brotherhood, a Sunni dominated Syria should be ruled by Sharia. In addition, the Brotherhood is suspicious of a Syria Alawi rulers close relation with Iran- the center of Shi’as. The Brotherhood fears ‘the alliance [the Alawi Shi’a of Syria and Iran] is a stage in a Shi’ite scheme to take over the Sunni countries, including Syria’. This seems the basic reason behind the presence of strong Islamic current in the present crisis. Perhaps this explains why Iran has been adamant in supporting the ‘Alawi Barons’ and Sunni dominated states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been supporting the opposition .
Asad established an autocratic state dominated by his own family and religious sect. He earned a nickname”the Sphinx of Damascus’ to indicate his brutality and divide and rule method of governing. Internally, there were several oppositions against his rule. Most of the oppositions were organized by the Muslim Brotherhood and liberal political groups. For instance, in 1982 a general strike that started in Aleppo spread to other areas like Hama. The latter was kept autonomous for almost three weeks. However, at the end the Asad regime was able to suppress the uprising. The uprising took the lives of around 20,000 people. Subsequently, the Muslim Brotherhood was banned and capital punishment was re introduced to members and supporters of the organization. This shows that popular uprising is not new for Syria. In addition, the ability of opposition political groups to agitate large number of people for political and politico-religious ends appears as part of the Syrian political experience.
In its external relations Syria under Asad built strong relationship with some states (like Iran particularly after the revolution that toppled the Shah) and groups (like Hezballah a Lebanese Shi’a military group established in 1982). Syria has been alienated from the Arab and the Sunni World since early 1980s. Major reasons include Syrian continued relation with Iran during the Iraq-Iran War (1980-88) and its support for Maronite in Lebanon Civil War in 1982. It had built unproductive relation with neighboring state like Israel and Iraq as well as Turkey. At the international level Syria has been a close ally of the USSR and of today’s Russian Federation. Although there were some good periods of cooperation between Syria and the US, the Syria-US relation during Asad could be categorized as not harmonious .
Hence, these global and regional powers have been taking different sides in the present conflict. In sum, the underlying causes of the crisis in Syria are both domestic and external. Internally, the resentment against Alwait power control for so long, absence of political and economic progress and the aspiration for freedom are worth mentioning. Externally, the country’s historical foreign relation choice produced both foes and friends at the regional and international level that are involved heavily in the present crisis.
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