The conflict in Syria began four years ago this week (March 15). It began after the torture of children by the Assad regime -- children who had written anti-Assad slogans on a wall in the city of Daraa -- and the torture and savagery have not stopped.
An estimated 220,000 people have died and millions have been displaced since Assad responded with brutal force to the peaceful anti-government protests that followed. Assad’s atrocities and brutal tactics against the Syrian people, including torture, murder, chemical weapons, barrel bombings, and starvation as a weapon of war have aided and abetted the rise of violent extremists like ISIL, which seek to exploit the chaos and destruction inside Syria.
On the fourth anniversary of the Syrian revolution, U.S. Special Envoy for Syria Daniel Rubenstein, in a special message, praised the Syrian people “who stand up to tyranny to demand justice, despite the dangers they face…For four years,” he said, “the Assad regime has answered Syrians’ calls for freedom and reform with brutality, authoritarianism and destruction. Assad’s desperation to cling to power through daily terror reminds us all that he has long lost legitimacy, and he must give way for a real political transition.”
In a meeting in Washington with representatives of the moderate Syrian opposition and members of the Syrian-American diaspora, Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken noted the additional catastrophic toll the past four years have taken on the Syrian people, with four-fifths of the Syrian people living below the national poverty line; children robbed of their future and unable to go to school; the humanitarian disaster exacerbated by the Assad regime’s “intentional and deadly obstruction of life-giving aid…The United States,” Deputy Secretary Blinken said, “holds the Assad regime accountable for [its] abhorrent actions that violate humanitarian principles and terrorize the Syrian people every day.” He announced that the State Department is working with Congress to provide nearly $70 million dollars in new non-lethal assistance “to continue our full range of support for the Syrian opposition.”
“We remain committed,” said Deputy Secretary Blinken, “to help Syrians obtain their future through a genuine political solution to the conflict. We’re committed to degrading and defeating ISIL which has found fertile ground in this conflict…We pledge to continue to work together – as partners – to end this war, restore a nation, allow it to welcome home its citizens, respects their rights, and brighten their futures.”