Rising incidence of sectarian violence in Syria

The Commission of Inquiry on Syria stated in its latest update, “The war of attrition that is being fought in Syria has brought immeasurable destruction and human suffering to the civilian population. As the conflict drags on, the parties have become ever more violent and unpredictable, which has led to their conduct increasingly being in breach of international law,”

On the 20th December the UN general assembly adopted 56 resolutions and 9 decisions recommended by the third committee on social, humanitarian and cultural issues, by condemning action in Syria as widespread human rights violations. Syria’s delegate claimed the politicised resolution was negative and did not allow a peaceful solution to then be found. She also claimed that the violence has been provoked by the resolution’s co-sponsors and their action and intervention had escalated the violence.

It is questionable how far the intervention of neighbouring countries could be responsible for the action of the rebels in Syria. It seems that a political response from the UN was required as it demonstrates the widespread condemnation of Bashar al-Assad’s regime when he is flouting the conventions of international law and failing to protect his citizens.

There has been growing concern over the levels of violence in Syria; UN special advisor on the prevention of genocide Adama Dieng has noted the danger of sectarian violence in the country. There have been calls for targeted civilian or ethnic violence to cease as Syrians of multiple ethnic groups are under threat, but the group most threatened are the Alawites. At present the conflict between the Alawites and the Sunni’s is based on the Alawites perceived support of government forces and troops and the Sunni’s who are broadly anti-government and pro-rebel.

Instead of simply calling for a stop to targeted civilian violence there should be a coordinated international effort to keep these people safe. It is estimated that there are 4 million people within the country’s borders that are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance and 500,000 refugees have emerged since the start of the conflict in May 2011. These figures are alarming and the dangers that the Syrian civilians are facing from their government and from other ethnic groups need to be addressed. If the rise in sectarian violence is not addressed then there is a danger that the violence could manifest itself further into an ethnic conflict and result in the death of more Syrian civilians. A major setback is that the Syrian government’s has thus far refused the Commission of inquiry on Syria access to the country.

Bex Dunn

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