Syria: Research Shows Human Cost After Decade Of Conflict

A decade since the Syrian conflict began, research has shown the impact on young adults – many of whom have lost loved ones and been forced to flee their homes.

The ongoing Syrian Civil War between government forces, rebel factions, and involving international forces and jihadist groups, followed the Arab Spring protests 10 years ago – a public uprising which was violently opposed by President Bashar al-Assad.

Since then, British forces on Operation Shader formed the UK's commitment to a US-led coalition against the so-called Islamic State terror group in Syria and Iraq.

RAF surveillance sorties were flown over Syria in late 2014 and by the following year the Air Force was carrying out air strikes against the terror group in the country.

Marking a decade of conflict, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has released a report on a generation of young Syrians and the human cost of the fighting.

Out of the 1,400 young adults, aged 18 to 25, interviewed in Syria, Lebanon and Germany, the survey found 47% had lost a close relative or friend in the conflict.

The level of displacement as a result of the war has formed its own, separate humanitarian crisis – 62% of the participants have left their homes and 54% have lost contact with a close relative.

These figures stand roughly in line with the entire pre-war population in Syria – more than half of which is thought to have been displaced.

A recent United Nations report claimed tens of thousands had been detained without reason and forcibly disappeared, with thousands more facing torture and sexual abuse.

Armed soldiers of the Syrian government paroling after taking control of the Rashideen district near the Aleppo-Damascus highway in February 2020 (Picture: PA).
Armed soldiers of the Syrian government paroling after taking control of the Rashideen district near the Aleppo-Damascus highway in February 2020 (Picture: PA).

One-in-six surveyed adolescents said at least one parent had been killed or seriously injured, with 77% struggling to find or afford food or necessities.

Research showed participants in Lebanon and Syria identified employment as their number one need, though gaps in the education of more than half of the surveyed group were also identified.

"The money I used to have when I was 10 years old is more than the money I have now that I am 24," one young man in Lebanon told the ICRC.

Though political and religious disputes in the Middle East are difficult to separate, the Syrian conflict rapidly became more than a war between government forces and opposition rebels.

Violence between the Sunni Muslim majority and the Shia sect supported by President Assad led to atrocities on both sides.

In terms of international involvement, a Russian air campaign and Iranian proxy support has helped to swing the war in the government's favour.

US forces fought alongside the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against so-called Islamic State, playing a key role in the collapse of the group's self-proclaimed caliphate.

However, American troops withdrew from northern Syria in late 2019, leaving the SDF behind during a Turkish border offensive.

Concern for the mental health of the surveyed young adults emerged as a key theme in the research, with almost three-quarters of participants in Syria reporting anxiety.

Looking forward, more than half of the Syrians said they wanted to see greater awareness around the negative impact of the conflict.

Cover image: An air strike allegedly carried out by Russian and Syrian forces in Sarmin, Idlib province (Picture: PA).