Daraa – tombstone of revolution?

By Lara Gibson

As the Syrian Arab Spring sees another summer, violent fighting continues to ravage the war-weary nation. After months of successive military victories, the Assad regime has encircled the rebel stronghold of Daraa, the very city where the Syrian Uprising of 2011 started.

Commonly referred to as the ‘Cradle of the Revolution’, Daraa is a small city in the Daraa Province of South West Syria. A sleepy desert border town, it was largely unknown to anyone outside of the Middle East until spring 2011.

Then, in March 2011, 15 local schoolboys painted anti-regime graffiti and were arrested and tortured by local authorities. The citizens of Daraa rallied around their boys, and as a wave of ensuing deadly protests sprung up across the nation, the Syrian uprising ignited.

Seven years later the city of Daraa is once again plagued with deadly violence. Last month, government forces launched a campaign to take control of Daraa and the wider province. Following weeks of relentless air strikes and a deadly ground assault, government forces were able to take control of the province. Human Rights Groups operating in the region estimate that the civilian death toll is in the hundreds.

Assad forces seem determined to use their unrivalled military strength to take control of the whole nation.

The military assault led to one of the fastest mass displacements in the war so far. The UN expressed great concern over the displacement, and according to their figures, deadly fighting caused 320,000 citizens to flee their homes. Many of the displaced Syrians headed to the nearby border with Jordan but were firmly denied entry to the Kingdom. Jordan hosts over 1.4 million refugees and already struggles to meet their needs.

This latest turn of events almost sparked another humanitarian crisis. But as the rebels handed in their weapons, and Russian military police brokered a ceasefire, most of the displaced Syrians were able to return to their homes in South West Syria, suddenly controlled by the Assad regime.

Government forces supported by Russian and Iranian allies have now seized the entire Jordan frontier and most of the Daraa Province, which was previously held by opposition forces. The Assad regime has now taken the Quneitra Province, which borders the Israeli occupied Golan Heights.

Assad forces, backed by Iranian and Russian allies, seem determined to use their unrivalled military strength to take control of the whole nation. In 2015, Assad only controlled a fraction of his country, but thanks to Russian and Iranian intervention and the absence of Western powers, he now has a firm hold on most of the nation.

It seems that Assad will soon turn his attention to North Eastern rebel strongholds in Syria. Fighting will be less straightforward, as US and Turkish interventions are present in this region.

As Western countries begrudgingly accept the likelihood of Assad’s victory, Iran and Russia are using their role as Syria’s allies to further their position in the region which is full of instability and opportunity.

Photograph of Bombed House: Freedom House via Flickr and Creative Commons
Photograph of Graffiti: Freedom House via Flickr and Creative Commons
Photograph of Protest: Freedom House via Flickr and Creative Commons

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