Five years ago, a group of young students in the small Syrian city of Deraa spray-painted their school’s wall with the slogan of the Arab Spring, “the people want to topple the regime.” The teenagers were arrested and tortured by President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces. In reaction, Syrians across the country took to the streets in peaceful protest against Assad. The regime responded with brutal force, ordering government troops to shoot into civilian groups who had gathered to demonstrate across the country. Many were murdered, and thousands were arrested and tortured.
Since 2011, nearly half a million Syrians have been killed, millions are internally displaced, and millions more are scattered across the Middle East and Europe as refugees. The Syrian conflict has turned into a three-pronged catastrophe: a genocide, refugee crisis, and multi-power war involving states and non-state actors. Five years on, with the regime shaken but far from toppled, there has been little resolution to the range of issues—religious, cultural, political, and ethnic—central to the conflict.
On March 29, Hudson Institute hosted a panel on the Syrian War featuring Michael Doran, Joseph Bahout, and Jomana Qaddour. Hudson Senior Fellow Lee Smith moderated the discussion.