This week marks the 5th year of the Syrian uprisings that has seen the country drastically change through war and violence. What began as pockets of anti-government resistance in the wake of the Arab Spring, the last 5 years in Syria has seen the outbreak of a civil war between the Syrian state and groups of opposition, the emergence of Daesh and its expansion in Syria, increased foreign involvement through air strikes, the destruction of infrastructure, an uncompromising loss of life and the mass exodus of the Syrian population across the Middle East and Europe.
The situation in Syria has evolved in a way that no one could have predicted. Through the aggression administered on its own people, the Syrian regime contributed to the countrywide protests we saw that called for President Assad’s immediate resignation. This led to rapidly escalating violence, with rebellion groups quickly taking up arms and the Syrian state quickly descending into a civil war.
The crisis has worsened the longer it has endured and become increasingly more complex. Through the destabilization of the Syrian state, the extremist entity ISIS was able to consolidate its expansion in the region and eventually took over the northern Syrian city of Raqqa and made it its ‘capital’. The rise of ISIS contributed to the increased presence of external influences in the region which has seen increased aerial bombardment of Syria and the land becoming a proxy battleground between different nations and factions.
The most enduring legacy of the current Syrian conflict will no doubt be the number of lives that have been affected because of it. In a situation as complex as this it is sometimes difficult to put a number on those affected but according to UN and other independent think tank data, the number of deaths has exceeded 300,000 people with a further 5-6 million having been displaced and forced to flee. The effect on human life in Syria is being felt across Europe with the number of people seeking refuge ever increasing. We have become all too familiar with images of desperate children and families crossing treacherous terrains in the search for some respite from the destruction and violence they have been subjected to.
In Europe, we have seen that the response of the Muslim community from a humanitarian perspective has been noteworthy. The Muslim community has continued to raise funds for those in need and delivered aid to those most desperate. European nations such as Germany must be commended for the number of refugees they have allowed in despite the pressures on European nations and rising right wing rhetoric. In the Middle East, we see the likes of Jordan and Lebanon open their borders to accommodate millions of refugees despite their own small populations.
With the conflict entering its 5th year, we want to use this milestone as a way of encouraging Imams and Mosques to keep the Syrian people in their prayers and khutbah’s this Friday. Imams and Mosques across the UK need to ensure that they continue making a collective effort to pray for those in need and to encourage the fostering and facilitation of refugees that come to this country. The Syrian issue is not one that will dissipate overnight. The damage done to infrastructure and lives will take the sacrifice of a generation to fix. Imams need to be an important cog in the wheel of rehabilitation and to provide for Syrian people the avenues that will allow them to reintegrate into society.