SyriaSource|Amplifying Syrian voices

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As of March 22, 2018, the Syrian Civil Defense (or White Helmets) lost ten of its members in the Damascus countryside during Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s recent campaign on Eastern Ghouta. According to Siraj Mahmoud, the official spokesman for the Civil Defense, ten volunteers were killed in Eastern Ghouta, including Mohammed Qasim Masarwa, one of the founders of the civil defense in Ghouta, and twenty-five others were injured, in what has become the biggest challenge facing the White Helmets since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution.

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It is not difficult to discern the drift of most commentary on Syria these days: Bashar al-Assad has all-but-defeated the seven-year uprising against him; so, ‘get used to it.’ A corollary of the argument is often some variation of ‘Let Russia own it.’ Can these expressions of resigned defiance form the basis of a constructive Western policy toward Syria? The view here is they cannot.

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In the shadow of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham’s takeover of Idlib province and the conflict between it and the Syrian Liberation Front (Jabhat Tahrir Souria), it is difficult for women to work in any profession. The laws are designed to prevent women from leaving their homes to do any work. So how would a woman of the region, if she so chose, be able to work in journalism?

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Turkey and Syrian opposition factions took control of Afrin and its countryside after a two-month assault that caused high civilian casualties and the displacement of tens of thousands. In light of an emerging Kurdish-Arab conflict in Syria, some see a Russian-Turkish deal on Afrin and Ghouta as a dangerous indicator at a critical stage in the crisis.

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Seven years after the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, several groups now vie for control over Syria. Waves of internal displacement continue to grow in proportion to the battles for control and subsequent territorial divisions. In this context, marriage has become a complex issue, and sexual violence has become a too common yet rarely spoken of issue. Families increasingly fear the unknown fate of their children when marrying members of the regime-allied popular militias, commonly called Shabihas. In Aleppo, the Shabiha there have engaged in sexual violence on a particularly vulnerable group: the displaced youth from other parts of Syria to Aleppo, according to an Aleppo-based lawyer Khalid al-Ali.  

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Over the last few years, thousands of Syrian refugees have arrived in Turkey to escape the war. Several with educational degrees found it difficult to find a job in their areas of expertise due to the challenges of obtaining required work permits  for the private sector.

Many Syrian refugees in Turkey are forced to work illegally in difficult fields with little connection to their specialties, such as construction and laboratory work. Some Syrian teachers worked in temporary schools established in Turkey with the support of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to support the education of Syrian students.

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Max Boot in the Post argues that letting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “win as quickly as possible” is “the way to save lives.” But the United States is not obstructing Mr. Assad’s military progress. Mr. Boot is pushing on a door that lacks even a hinge.

Bashar al-Assad is indeed winning. Beyond outnumbered, outgunned Syrian rebels, no one stands in his way. The way he is winning, however, mandates an American response beyond talk. The terror bombing of 400,000 residents of Eastern Ghouta is but the latest episode of a multi-year campaign of mass civilian homicide.  

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Russian-Iranian cooperation in Syria is booming today, with support for the Syrian regime making it far superior to opposition forces. After the fall of Aleppo two years ago, the opposition appears on the verge of losing another important area, Eastern Ghouta—a highly strategic area due to its proximity to the heart of the capital city, Damascus.

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Turkey’s cross-border intervention in Afrin, the Kurdish-controlled enclave in northwestern Syria separated from other Kurdish territory in northeastern Syria, has advanced to the outskirts of Afrin city. The offensive began on January 20th, 2018, with the intention of ousting the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) from the territory it controls in the northwest. After breaking YPG defenses surrounding the city, Turkish ground forces have moved swiftly to besiege the city and, presumably, will begin urban combat operations in the next few days.

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The Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) position is precarious. Though it has made political and territorial gains during the Syrian crisis and tied itself to the United States’ fight against the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) and subsequent stabilization efforts, the PYD is threatened by remaining pockets of ISIS resistance, the threat of a Syrian government attack, and a Turkish-backed rebel assault on its territory in Afrin.

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