Last Wednesday, a good friend of mine and I loaded up the car and drove to the University of Denver to hear a panel discussion regarding ISIS, The Syrian Conflict, and the Future of the Middle East. Let me tell you- this event was awesome, but it made me realize how little my knowledge about matters like these are. In I strolled, thinking, “Oh, yeah, I listen to NPR, I watch the news. What else is there to know?” Apparently… A lot.
For those of you who don’t know much about the conflict, I’ll briefly summarize a few things for you. The Syrian conflict is going on its 4th year, as the official start was 2011. Since that time, the United States has spent about 3 billion dollars and I know that sounds like a lot, but really, it’s pocket change compared to our expenses in Iraq. Contrary to common belief, the rebellion wasn’t completely based on religious aspects, but rather on the division between the haves and have not’s. The regime’s strategy has been to bring confrontation, while the U.S. is trying to contain the violence- so obviously, these agendas clash.
More than 160,000 Syrians have died, there has been a 107% increase in food prices, the Syrian GDP has fallen by 16% since 2011, and education enrollment has dropped from 90% to 70% (Daoudy, Marwa).
What’s surprising to me is that these numbers are huge and the hype over the whole situation is lacking. Maybe it’s that we’re preoccupied with other issues. Though the panelists touched on several important themes and topics, in the bigger scheme of things I walked away saying to myself, “Wow, this is a much bigger deal than I thought.”
Why didn’t I know that before? It isn’t that I don’t take an interest- it’s that our country doesn’t hype up the status of this war. What’s going on in that part of the world is a big deal; people are dying fighting for what they believe in. These massive cultural divides are just going to drive conflicts into the future and there is no doubt that the violence will be prolonged for a while to come. It’s time to take an interest.
Hallie Gardner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.