10 years of death, destitution and devastation in the Syrian civil war

On 9 March 2011, I passed from Syria into Lebanon after a week touring the main sights of Syria. Just six days later and exactly ten years ago today, the Syrian civil war began – although, at the time, the first protests were barely reported and nobody would have imagined the resultant scale and duration of what would soon become a full-scale civil war with eventually the participation of a whole variety of foreign-backed militia groups and later foreign forces directly.

Visiting this troubled part of the world was always going to be different from a conventional holiday, but events took a dramatic turn between booking the trip and when we took it. In the month before the visit, the Arab world was set alight by demonstrations of unprecedented size and consequence, leading in the case of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya to full-scale revolutions. But, at the time of our visit, Syria was eirily quiet.

In totalitarian Syria, I had little to discuss politically, partially because there is little conventional politics to discuss and partially because there was nobody willing to discuss it with me. In total contrast, the confessional political system of Lebanon provided plenty to debate and people there were ready to explain it.

In Syria, the security presence was virtually invisible; all one saw was traffic police but one was aware that in plain clothes there was a formidable apparatus at work. Again in complete contrast, in Lebanon the security was ‘in your face’ with troops, APCs and road blocks all over the place but nevertheless a feeling of freedom that was absent in Syria.

Nobody knows the true scale of the death toll as a result of the ten-year Syrian civil war. Estimates vary between 400,000-600,000. Many millions have been forced to flee their homes. It is an absolute tragedy and my heart bleeds for the Syrian people.

You can read about my visit here and you can learn more about the war here.


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