Updated: Your Cheat Sheet to the Syrian Conflict
Sep 2, 2013 5:59 PM EDT
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President Barack Obama’s request to Congress for limited military strikes against Syria left many Americans with one basic question: What exactly is happening with Syria? If you’ve been tuned out until now, here’s a summary of the situation in 22 bullet points.
Syria is a nation of about 21 million people — roughly 2 million more than the population of New York state. It sits on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea in the Middle East.
Aleppo 2.985 million (slightly smaller than San Diego metro area)
Damascus (capital) 2.527 million (slightly smaller than Denver metro area)
Homs 1.276 million (slightly larger than Oklahoma City metro area)
Hamah 854,000 (2009) (slightly smaller than New Haven, Conn. metro area)
What’s It Like There?
Before the civil war, Syria’s economy was diverse
, including agriculture (22 percent of the economy), industry and excavation (25 percent), retail (23 percent) and tourism (12 percent).
But two years of war have quintupled unemployment, reduced the Syrian currency to one-sixth of its prewar value, cost the public sector $15 billion in losses and damage to public buildings, slashed personal savings and shrunk the economy 35 percent, according to the New York Times
“More than 50 percent of the Syrian health care system’s infrastructure has been destroyed,” one man told Der Spiegel. The German news agency also reported
that “of the 75 state-run hospitals, just 30 remain in operation. In the embattled city of Homs, just one of 20 hospitals remains open. The Al-Kindi Hospital in Aleppo, once the largest and most modern medical facility in the country, is now a pile of ash.”
Why the Civil War?
A series of peaceful protests during the Arab Spring in 2011 triggered an increasingly violent backlash
from the government of Bashar al-Assad that in turn led to a full-fledged civil war.
Why the Sudden Heightened Tensions?
Three days after the attack, the nonprofit Doctors Without Borders reported that three hospitals it supports in Damascus treated about 3,600 patients with “neurotoxic symptoms” the day of the attack.
The Syrian Exodus
Click to see full infographic.
The countries surrounding Syria have taken in two million refugees since the conflict began more than two and a half years ago, but governments and humanitarian agencies struggle to keep up with the massive influx. Over 500,000 have fled to Jordan. Friday’s report focuses on the challenges and hardships Jordan now faces.
So many Syrians have fled to the refugee camp Zaatari
in Jordan that the camp is now the country’s fourth most-populous city. Zaatari is the second-largest refugee camp in the world, following Kenya’s Dadaab camp, which houses 400,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia’s civil war. In the last two years, Jordan’s population has increased 8 percent
due to Syrian refugees.
According to the U.N. agency on refugees, women and children make up 75 percent of the refugees.
“Syria has become the great tragedy of this century, a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history. The only solace is the humanity shown by the neighboring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees.” — António Guterres, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees
What’s the World Going to Do?
Though Mr. Obama said he had the authority to order a limited strike on Syria to punish the Assad regime, he decided to seek approval from Congress
. “I know the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective,” he said.
As President Obama tries to convince Congress to act, five U.S. destroyers
equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles are positioned in the Mediterranean Sea, poised and ready to strike.
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This post was updated on Sept. 4 to reflect a new version of the ethic groups pie chart.
this post was updated on Sept. 6 to reflect the refugee crisis.
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