By Ruth Foster.
The 15th of March 2018 will mark the seventh year of civil war in Syria. As of February 2018, the Syrian Government held 55.1% of Syrian territories while 11.4% was controlled by rebel groups – the remaining areas are controlled by the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (SDF) and ISIL.
Although the international meeting on Syria in Kazakhstan in 2017 made some believe that the conflict was coming to an end, in the past few weeks a very different story has come out of Ghouta – the informal name for suburbs of the capital of Syria, Damascus, that has been held by rebels since the beginning of the conflict. On the 2nd of March 2018 the United Nations reported that “war crimes, potentially crimes against humanity, are likely being committed in east Ghouta and elsewhere in Syria”, with around 400,000 civilians trapped and facing the terror of airstrikes and reported release of toxic agents. As a convoy of 46 trucks carrying health and nutrition supplies was due to arrive to the besieged victims of this terror on 5th March 2018 – the question remains of when and how will the civil war in Syria end?
After the deaths of approximately 250,000 Syrians and displacement of millions, the sectarian nature of the conflict in Syria means that the obvious solution would be partition, with the creation of various new states defined along ethnic and sectarian lines. However, history shows us that the obvious solution is by no means the right one – in many ways it may not even end the conflict in Syria.
Partitioning countries to achieve peace has been used throughout the twentieth century. Scholars like Chaim Kaufmann have argued that this solution works perfectly in theory, solving the ethnic security dilemma through the physical division of land and ethnic groups. However, recent examples show that such a simplistic view and solution to a complex situation has the power to perpetuate the conflict itself. In order to work for long-term stability in a region, partition of a state is not the solution. For example, since the partition of Sudan and creation of independent state South Sudan in 2011, more than 2 million Sudanese people have been displaced with an estimated 5 million of those who remain in South Sudan requiring food assistance in 2017. For the international community looking at Syria, there needs to be a focus on mediation that considers the fragile nature of the shaky state borders established at the end of the First World War.
In order to protect the civilians and prevent further bloodshed, physical partition along ethnic lines cannot be seen as an option, and the Syrian people can no longer be treated as collateral damage. So far, problems have occurred over the course of mediation efforts due to questions of legitimacy, state capacity and the protection of civilians. After nearly seven years of bombardment, being used as pawns by the global superpowers, it is time for the Syrian peoples’ lives and livelihoods to be taken as priority if a stable, peaceful, and united Syria is to be seen in the near future
Ruth is a final year undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh, originally from Northern Ireland. Her aim in life is to try and make the world a little bit better and care about important issues affecting real people, which includes (but is in no way limited to) storytelling, politics, culture, and coffee.