The Philippines may be having a burgeoning political crisis right now with the pork barrel controversy, but we shouldn’t take that as a sign for us to stop caring about what’s going on in the other parts of the world. One country we should all really focus on would be Syria, which is currently in the midst of a bloody civil war that has claimed more than 110,000 lives since it erupted two years ago.

Syria may be a small Arab country, but the ongoing crisis has a profound effect on the whole world. Read on to learn why we should pay more attention to this country.

1. HOW DID THE WAR IN SYRIA START?

The Syrians, inspired by the peaceful revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, started holding their own peaceful protests against their country’s regime in March 2011. Military forces were reported to have opened fire against the protesters. The civilians then began arming themselves so they could fight against the government army led by President Bashar Al Assad, and the clashes became increasingly violent. Other countries have also picked their sides in the war, with Russia, Iran, and China demonstrating their support for Assad.

2. WHY HASN’T THE UNITED NATIONS DONE ANYTHING TO STOP THE WAR IN SYRIA?

The United Nations tried to negotiate a ceasefire between the government and the rebels that should have taken effect in April 2012. Former Secretary General Kofi Annan created a six-point peace proposal for the country, and he was assured that Assad’s government will be implementing it. However, the Syrian army kept attacking towns and executing civilians while the negotiations were being conducted, and the rebels were forced to fight back. The UN is now focusing on helping the millions of Syrians who have been displaced from their homes since the war began.

3. WHY SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED ABOUT THE SYRIAN GOVERNMENT’S ALLEGED USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS?

Syria is reported to have one of the largest stocks of chemical weapons in the world, and the United States claims to have evidence that Assad’s forces used the deadly sarin nerve gas to kill at least 1,429 civilians, including more than 400 children, in the Ghouta area near the country’s capital Damascus on August 21.

Chemical warfare was prohibited in the 1925 Geneva protocol as it could cause massive suffering among civilians on both sides of the war. By resorting to this measure, the Assad government incurred the ire of several nations, including the United States and France. However, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has cautioned against punishing the strife-torn country as doing so might only worsen the situation.

4.WHAT HAS THE UNITED STATES DONE TO STOP THE CONFLICT IN SYRIA?

Though President Barack Obama has asked the United States Department of Defense to draft possible military options, the Pentagon has yet to do anything concrete. If America does take action, it could trigger several negative reactions, ranging from a second civil war to worsening of anti-Western sentiments in the Arab states.

5. HOW WOULD THE SYRIAN CRISIS AFFECT THE PHILIPPINES?

Over 4,500 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been evacuated from Syria since the Department of Foreign Affairs raised a level 4 crisis alert back in March 2011. The Philippine Embassies in Damascus and Beirut have been helping the remaining OFWS in Syria to cross the border to Lebanon, from where they would then be sent to the Philippines. Their efforts have resulted in the safe return of 23 workers on September 5, with 45 others scheduled to arrive on September 6.

In addition to concerns about the safety of our workers, the war in Syria will also have economic implications. The country may not be a major oil producer, but business columnist Boo Chanco still notes that a major war in the area can put the oilfields in the nearby Middle Eastern countries at risk, and this could result in the skyrocketing of oil prices worldwide.

(Photo by Freedom House via Flickr Creative Commons)

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