A severe drought that began in 2006, and ravaged 60 percent of Syria’s land mass, is the spark that precipitated the nearly two-year civil war, Thomas Friedman wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times
Sunday after a recent trip to the beleaguered country.
“Syria is slowly becoming Somalia,” said Zakaria Zakaria, a Syrian who guided Friedman through a northeast Syrian town now controlled by the Free Syrian Army and Jabhet al-Nusrah, a jihadist group.
“Students have now lost two years of school, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and if this goes on for two years it will be like Somalia, a failed country,” Zakaria said. “But Somalia is off somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Syria is the heart of the Middle East.”
Domestic foes of veteran dictator Bashar al-Assad told Friedman that the Syrian revolution started with the drought.
More than 800,000 Syrian herders and farmers lost their livelihoods, according to the United Nations, and the Assad regime did virtually nothing to help drought refugees — many of them Sunni Muslims, Friedman wrote.
In a desperate effort to find work and feed their families, many Syrians relocated to urban areas between 2006 and 2011. Others sought jobs in the oil industry — a largely futile task because those jobs were largely reserved for Alawites, members of Assad’s minority Muslim sect.
Taken together, these factors help galvanize Sunni Muslim opposition to the Assad regime, and that opposition movement has increasingly come to be dominated by Islamist militants, Friedman said.
“Syria as a whole is slowly bleeding to death of self-inflicted gunshot wounds,” Friedman wrote.
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