Case Study

The Syrian conflict: 2011–2016

In 2011 the population of Syria stood at over 23 million. In February 2016 this figure was revised down to under 18 million, a massive reduction which can be accounted for by the mass exodus of Syrians as refugees escaping from a civil war which broke out in 2011, a war which still has no end in sight. In addition, according to a February 2016 report by The Guardian newspaper, 11.5% of the Syrian population had been either killed or injured (11 February 2016). What started as a protest movement in March 2011, with demands for more democracy descended into civil war soon after as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces cracked down violently on the dissenters. Encouraged by the early protesters, thousands more took to the streets by July 2011 as opposition supporters began to arms themselves. Today the situation is far more complicated than a mere conflict between Assad and his opponents. The increasingly sectarian overtones have seen Assad’s Shia Alawite sect receive support from Iran and Russia, and Sunni rebel groups have been loosely supported by Western states such as the US and Britain. The rise of the Islamicist terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State has further complicated the situation. In the midst of this confusion the detrimental impact upon ordinary Syrians is best exemplified by a quote from the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (SCPR):

The economy of violence flourished in Syria during 2014 as battles intensified, with reallocation of resources and capital to the machinery of war. This was accompanied with the expansion of black markets, the erosion of sovereignty and rule of law, increasing dependence upon external support, deepening economic exposure and loss of economic security. The people of Syria are now forced to live under a terrible state of exception, estrangement and alienation with a massive social, political and economic chasm dividing them from those involved in the institutions of violence (SCPR, 2014).


SCPR Alienation and Violence Report (2014), Syrian Center for Policy Research, Available at (accessed 12 February 2016).