ISIS will reduce Palmyra to rubble

Syrian landscape

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The history

Ruled by the Ottomans before the First World War, the Arabs fought alongside the English and French, as they had been promised independence afterwards.
But it was never planned to keep this promise. The conquered Arab territories were arbitrarily divided along a line according to the Sykes-Picolt Agreement: Syria was assigned to France and remained in the hands of the French until 1946.
Then Syria took part in the war against the newly and apparently arbitrarily founded state of Israel, lost together with Egypt and fell into an internal crisis that was marked by several coups.

Since 1963 (another coup ...) the Ba'ath Party has been reacting in a one-party system.
Most government posts are held by the Assad clan, who come from a small village near Lattakia.
The Assad clan belongs to the Alawites, a minority that was persecuted and discriminated against for a long time before 1963. The majority of Syrians are Sunnis.
Many Alawites are in the army because at the time of their oppression they did not have the money to buy themselves off from military service.
The Alawites are relatively secular Muslims. In order to bind them to himself, Assad always acted as the protector of Christians and other minorities.

An important arm of the system is the secret service. Any opposition - be it from the religious or political (e.g. communist) side - was always nipped in the bud, similar to what we know from socialist systems. Outwardly, it was only permissible to say that the people love their ruler. The regime's torture prisons such as that of Tadmor (near Palmyra in the desert) have long been known internationally.
After an unsuccessful attack on Hafiz al Assad in 1980 by the Muslim Brotherhood, over 1000 members of the Brotherhood imprisoned there were executed in a government massacre in Tadmor.
When an uprising against Hafiz al Assad broke out in the city of Hama in 1982, the army laid the city to rubble and a wave of arrests rolled across the country.

After Hafiz al Assad's death in 2000, his son Bashar al Assad took over the office of "President" and began tentative reforms.
But after Syria had prospered economically in the 1970s due to transfer fees for Iraqi oil, its own oil production and aid from the Soviet Union and other Arab states, the oil price had now fallen and foreign aid had ended. Nevertheless, the population continued to grow strongly.
The result was increased poverty, unemployment and rural exodus. The discontent of the Syrians increased.

The beginning

At the end of February 2011, young people in the poor city of Daraa in southern Syria wrote on a wall:
“The people want the regime to be overthrown,” a sentence they picked up from Egypt, Tunisia, somewhere out of the turmoil of the Arab Spring. And they add. "You are the next, doctor." The next, that means, the one who falls.
This means Bashar Al Assad, who was an ophthalmologist before he became "President".
In the next few days, the boys are arrested and tortured by the state secret service
General Atef Najib, chief of Daraa's intelligence and a cousin of Bashar al Assad, is known for his sadism.
The arrested boys are said to admit that they were instigated by western countries that are not well-disposed towards the regime. In reality, her gesture was probably more an expression of youthful anti-thinking, frustration, boredom.
The families of the children take to the streets in March and demonstrate for the release of their sons, supported by more and more people from Daraa.
The government violently suppresses the protests and the first demonstrators are shot. Snipers aim at the chest and heads.
Protests flare up in other cities in the country, Aleppo and Damascus are among the first cities in which demonstrators show solidarity with Daraa.
When Bashar Al Assad dismisses General Atef Najib and promises hesitant reforms, it is too late:
The people demand the overthrow of the regime - the graffiti has come true.

Peaceful uprising

In the months that followed, people demonstrated in more and more Syrian cities. Protesters in Homs hold up olive branches to show their peaceful intent.
Despite promises of reform, the government continues to react with violence.
Protesters gather in mosques for prayer on Fridays, as the mosque is the only place where freedom of assembly is allowed. After the prayer there will be a demonstration together. Fridays are given heroic names on the Internet.
Demonstrators and sympathizers are arrested by the dozen and disappear into the regime's torture cellars. The roofs are full of snipers. The secret services have had their eyes and ears everywhere for years, now all of this is even more present.
The regime tries to stir up hatred between the religious groups through rumors, misinformation and even leaflets: The Alawites and Christians are suggested that the rebellious Sunnis want their deaths.
Alawites who take part in the uprisings themselves are considered traitors within their community and are often punished even more severely than the Sunni majority.
The revolution is supposed to be “Islamized”, but initially defends itself against it.
In order to get the Kurds on his side, Assad is finally granting them more rights after years, giving them Syrian citizenship. But even this gesture comes too late.
Tanks advance into the cities and districts that have been declared apostate, lay entire rows of houses in rubble and ashes, sieges begin in different places, the districts or villages are collectively punished for the demonstrations. Army soldiers are told they would shoot armed, dangerous demonstrators.
From summer 2012 onwards, the army will also launch its first air strikes for this purpose, initially in Aleppo.
The “Syrian National Council” was formed in Istanbul as early as 2011, a group primarily made up of Syrians who have lived abroad for many years. Many Syrian opposition members in Syria do not recognize him.

The revolution in the internet

From the beginning, the Syrian uprising has also been an uprising on the Internet.
Many demonstrations are only possible through appointments on platforms, here networks are founded that try to unite the fragmented groups of demonstrators, to organize support for the families of those arrested and to organize medical help.
Film and post protesters to prove the regime's atrocities and to shake up the world. But the regime is playing along here just as diligently. Contradictory information sprout like a jungle on all portals.
The Syrians are disappointed with the reaction from the western world.
Everyone applauds the Syrians, it says on a post, when we demonstrate, but the Syrians die all alone. Nobody intervenes, despite daily violations of human rights. The anger of the population increases.

The revolution is armed

The FSA - the Free Syrian Army - was founded in October 2012. It consists initially of deserted soldiers from the army who have long understood that they are actually being shot at civilians. More and more young men are joining the FSA, they are conquering individual areas. The FSA is unconventional and vows to protect protesters and recognize human rights, not to torture their prisoners and much more.
It hopes for help from abroad, but hardly receives any, and from the start it has been split up into individual, differently liberal units.
The regime has more weapons (and which countries they come from, everyone can google themselves) and is pushing back the FSA, and the frustration of the army increases the willingness to radicalize, including Islamism.

The sell-off of humanitarian values

More and more smaller and larger groups are appearing in the country and are fighting against the regime, but also against each other since 2013: the brigades of the FSA, later the Kurdish PYK, the Al-Nusra Front, Ashar-al-Sham, the Syrian Islamic Front, the Islamic Liberation Front ... if that reminds you of Life of Brian, be right here.
The FSA and the rest of the mainly Islamist opposition are increasingly fighting themselves. After initial doubts, it is revealed in 2013 that Al-Nusra is an arm of Al-Qaeda, although they later declare themselves independent.
Revenge massacres of Alawites and later also Christians and Shiites take place, kidnappings of political opponents or simply religiously dissenters are the order of the day.
The regime achieved what it wanted: the conflict has become sectarian.
The peaceful coexistence of different religions and ethnic groups no longer exists.

The internationalization of the conflict

In 2013/14, what was then known as the “Islamic State in Syria and the Levant” sees the conflict as a unique opportunity. ISIS, later IS, renounces Al Qaeda and Al Nusra and sets out to build a caliphate in Syria and Iraq: the end times announced in the Koran, the last fight seems to be here. Then comes the peaceful, purely Muslim state of God.
To do this, of course, all non-Muslims or free-thinking Muslims must first be eliminated and all rights for women abolished as quickly as possible.
The Internet is beginning to play an increasingly important role: IS has its own media center to carry out professional propaganda. He catches the lack of prospects of young people all over the world in order to recruit them for the holy war.
In contrast to the Assad regime and the opposition members in Syria, who always accuse each other of torture and human rights violations and post evidence of the crimes of the other side on the Internet, the IS stages its own atrocities like plays.
Beheadings, mass executions, stoning, the slinging of corpses and the training of child soldiers are proudly presented to the world accompanied by heroic combat music. For the girls there are videos of kittens next to Kalashnikovs. That seems to appeal to young people more than anything else, the influx to IS is immense and is still increasing today.