How, if at all, did this course shape or change your perception of the ongoing Syrian Civil War?
I knew a little bit of what has happened throughout Syria but this has helped give a broader understanding. I do appreciate the mention that the war isn’t necessarily over. I have heard from a lot of people that the war has concluded, and it is nice to have affirmation that just because military raids have decreased, that the war isn’t complete. It is also interesting to learn more about Russia and Iran’s involvement in the war, especially given the war in Ukraine right now. This course has definitely helped me to understand just how complex this war is. I took a class in college where we discussed the Syrian Civil War but nothing to this extent, so it is great to know more, especially about Turkey’s involvement. I wasn’t aware that they were involved from the beginning but it is important to know. I think Turkey’s involvement is interesting given the history Turkey has with denying the Armenian genocide, and I wonder what their end goal is given the Kurds, and how their involvement in the war is going to impact Kurdish independence in the future.
I agree, Denise, this course certainly changed my perception of the Syrian Civil War. Before, I did not know much about it except for hearing the terms Assad and ISIS/ISIL. It was really a power play between international countries, really with no regard to Syria itself. The greater nations were simply using Syria as a pawn in their international chess match. Including the government of Bashar al-Assad and the umbrella category of “rebel” groups, 9 different players were directly involved in the Syrian conflict, and possibly more. Russia desires Syria as its only foothold in the Middle East, and its only Mediterranean port, Tartus. Iran wants to use Syria in its fight against Saudi Arabia and its desire for hegemonic dominance and spread of influence. The US couldn’t topple Assad, but also couldn’t support ISIS, so they had to support the Kurdish YPG and Syrian Democratic Forces. The Kurds, for their part, just want independence and autonomy, and fought ISIS. Turkey, on the other hand, while sheltering millions of Syrians fleeing the conflict, supported the Free Syrian Army, and opposed the Kurdish independence movement on their southern party, fearing its success would cause a chain reaction of Turkish separatist movements. Labelling the Kurdish YPG as terrorists, Turkey, by opposition to true freedom fighters, implicitly supported ISIS. Israel was shelling the southern border, because they feared the influence of Iran (rightfully so), and the threat of Hezbollah stealing military technology. In sum, many of the belligerents of the Syrian Civil War do not care about Syria for its sake or independence movements, but only for their stake in their international, diplomatic interests.
Hi, Denise, thank you for sharing! I agree that it is important to recognize that this war is still ongoing even if the nature and number of battles have decreased. I also agree that the Turkish involvement is concerning because it could lead to an uncertain and dismal future for the Kurdish people, and I can only hope that Turkey will not instigate another large-scale genocide that they later deny like they did with Armenia.
Denise I agree that I was very unclear about the state of the Syrian Civil War, I was aware of the Russian/Communist influence in the region and the proxy the war served for larger international interests but beyond that I knew little. I too found the role of Turkey in the conflict interesting, I studied the Armenian Genocide in college and find it horrible that the modern government does not acknowledge the genocide. Even in my studies, I had not learned that surviving Christians found refuge in Syria.
I really appreciated hearing the Syria story from someone who was strongly committed and knowledgeable about the country. While the focus in the news has always been on Israel, with mention of other countries as they relate to Israel, it was good to have a standalone course dedicated to Syria. Since the civil war had been going on for so long, it is hard to read a news article without having the background information so needed in understanding the events in context.
One major question on my mind after taking this course is, “what should be the stance of a Syrian Christian?” While it would be easy to oppose Abbas for the human rights violations, would joining the opposition lead to a better future? If Abbas were to be deposed, the opposition coalition would surely break apart. With the number of groups with different priorities, there would definitely be a disorderly transition.
On another level, I wonder how the US should be involved with this civil war. I am sure that there are plenty of experts and opinions in the State department that are talking about this and many other cases. I doubt that the public would understand the paths that they choose.
I agree, Norman. I think everybody should take this course or something like it to educate themselves on this conflict. There is so much more at play than simple bad guy, good guy. As I mentioned in my comment above, there are at least 9 different players in this regional conflict, and only those of the “rebels” have the interests of the Syrian people at heart. The rest (Iran, Russia, Turkey, US, Israel, and ISIS) only wish to use Syria for their own imperialist, militaristic, and strategic ends. So it’s really not an easy alignment. If one makes a values-based judgment, then one should align with a particular cause (e.g., Kurdish Freedom Fighters, Israeli security, or anti-Islamic State); but if one is pragmatic, the alignment might shift according to different circumstances (“which is the best alignment for my interests now?”) Hopefully, most of us are led by values; but even so, it is hard to see beyond the smoke and mirrors to what is really happening on the ground and what is at stake—especially when filtered through Western news media. That’s why these education courses are so important: so that we, like the sons of Issachar, can understand the times, and know what to do about them (1 Chronicles 12:32 states, The sons of Issachar “had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do”).
Hi, Norman, thank you for sharing! I think you bring up an important consideration that we should think about regarding the position of Syrian Christians within the larger context of the Syrian Civil War. They have been put into a precarious position of wanting the country to be more free, fair, and prosperous, and having chosen to support a regime that grants them basic religious protections even if this regime is less than ideal. Hopefully, a wise leader who advocates for all religious groups and leads the country well will be established in Syria.
This course has deeply enlighten me on the ongoing Syrian conflict. Before this course I did not know the history of the conflict or the parties involve. This course is an eye-opener for me, and I think getting to understand this conflict along-with the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is quite interesting as it allows us to have a different view what’s actually going on in both conflicts. It’s also interesting to know that Russia, despite its ongoing war with Ukraine, is providing military assistance to Syria in her own conflict.
I found this course deeply enlightening, especially how ancient the land of Syria really is. It is unfortunate that Hafez al-Assad came into power and promised better education, the open door for tourists and a stable government that failed to come to pass. There are many pilgrims who would love to visit Damascus, the city that Paul was headed towards when he encountered Christ. This definitely opened my eyes to the evil stronghold that the current leadership has over its people and land.
This course was helpful in breaking the ongoing Syrian Civil War down for greater understanding. It is clear that the Syrian Civil War began as a result of a culmination of prior cycles, regime changes, and instability during the prior 100 years. It also solidified my perception and belief that the involvement of the French following the First World War planted seeds to this current conflict. You can trace the series of disagreements, movements, and thoughts from these original discussions around the French mandate in Syria. The course also reminded me of the diversity found in Syria and how this is similar to the diversity found in Iraq and how the US intervention in 2003 led to destabilization and further conflict. My hope is that Syria is able to reunite all of its diverse ethnic and religious groups into a strong and free Syria. As times goes on, this is harder to imagine, but I pray that peace talks and a reasonable resolution can be reached.
I too was interested in the role of the French and other colonizing influences in the region after the Great War in the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire, and subsequently the era of decolonization post-World War II. Most of my undergraduate studies in comparative politics exam the conditions needed for Arab nationalism, and the vacuum for radicalization which was most definitely fostered by grievances inflicted by colonial powers. The cultural and civilizational differences resulted in many arbitrary state lines drawn across Africa and the Near East, as well as conflicts over how to self-govern.
My concept of the Syrian war is largely limited and associated with geo-political headlines like the Syrian refugee crisis and the Arab Spring, and that was about it. I learned that Syria has a rich history rooted in pluralism during the early Ottoman Empire, but like many nations in the region, the Great War greatly influenced nationalism and conflict. I learned that Russia and the al Assad regime is backed by Russia as well as Iran and other powerful Shia militias, which I found interesting considering Assad’s crackdown on Islamism and Communism. I found it interestings that Assad’s systematic overhaul of high ranking positions included promoting Christians. I am passionate about understanding Cold War bipolarity, and found it interesting Russia aligned with Syria and other weak nations for swing votes in the UN. I also found it interesting that the United States during this time was an important influence in MENA nations at the local and community levels. I also am interested, without having much knowledge on, the role of national Islamist movements that were created in the powervaccum of the Ottoman Empire’s deconstruction all the way through the period of global decolonization. The transition to nation-state status in the Middle East post-colonial rule created a power vacuum across the region, Syria was not excluded from being affected by this period of radicalization. Yet, despite this period– Syria’s ethnically diverse history and Christian communities reamined. Part of this decolonization resulted in the Russo-Turkish Wars and the Balkan Wars, when stripped of European territories the Ottomans attacked the Armenians. Until this course, I did not realize surviving Christians of the genocide moved and resettled in Syria. I was likewise surprised that Syria remains diverse and at the crossroads of flourishing faiths, and despite the civil war has become a safe haven for Christians fleeing atrocities.