SyriaSource|Amplifying Syrian voices

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The city of Afrin is at the forefront of events in Syria. Armed opposition forces and the Turkish army have launched Operation Olive Branch in an attempt to remove the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) from the Turkish border and impede the establishment of an independent Kurdish enclave in the north of the country.

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Syrian regime forces captured significant parts of the countryside east of Idlib, and the Abu Duhur military airport, exposing the route between Aleppo and Hama. In doing so the regime has been able to isolate the city of Idlib from its eastern countryside, and from the southern Aleppo countryside. In response, the Syrian opposition and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) regained a number of areas, yet clashes are still ongoing. Fighting has occurred regardless of the fact that Idlib falls under the fourth de-escalation zone as denoted in the 'De-escalation Agreement' that was signed by Turkey, Iran, and Russia in Astana.

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Volunteer teams are desperately attempting to preserve what remains of the archaeological heritage of Idlib, a city in north-western Syria. Most of these efforts have been unsuccessful because most of the city is under the control of jihadists. Any area with archaeological artifacts is at risk of looting by jihadist organizations known to operate in Idlib, such as Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). A member from a local volunteer confirmed that they had only been able to preserve a few small objects that HTS had overlooked; unlike the grand statues and old paintings. Some HTS fighters work day and night in special workshops excavating the ancient quarters of Idlib in search of valuables.

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After an arduous journey filled with many obstacles, including traversing the Mediterranean Sea and crossing chain-linked border fences, Syrian refugee Mahmoud Mardini chose to return to Turkey illegally. He gave up residency in Germany, along with its associated benefits, after failing to achieve his dream of completing his university education.

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Former US president Barack Obama announced the first airstrike against the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) in Iraq in August 2014. Within a month of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's declaration of the caliphate, aerial operations against the Islamic State were launched, but despite this fact, the costly process of defeating ISIS dragged on for another three years. Their eventual defeat came after a lengthy battle during which a coalition of seventy countries carried out more than twenty-five thousand aerial raids, causing substantial loss of life and the widespread destruction of infrastructure and private property.

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Celebrations accompanying the forthcoming military defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) in Syria east of the Euphrates River will fall somewhere between muted and absent. A three-year campaign to neutralize a criminal gang is ending on an abysmally low note: an escalating bilateral crisis between two NATO allies. What happened? Is it fixable?

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Educational administrators in Kurdish controlled areas of northern Syria believe education and literacy improves people’s lives and helps to build a better future. The Kurds do not believe that the development of education should be dependent on the current Syrian government’s curricula despite the central government’s formal legal authority in this realm to date.

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With the assistance of Yale Professor Oona A. Hathaway, Senator Cory A. Booker (Democrat of New Jersey) has published an op-ed in The New York Times (“A Syria Plan that Breaks the Law”) accusing the Trump administration of wishing to wage war illegally in Syria, in a manner violating both the American Constitution and international law. Although the Senator and his academic co-author make cogent points about the central role of Congress in declaring war and authorizing military operations, they risk inadvertently building a legal justification for consigning the people of eastern Syria to the ministrations of a homicidal regime in Damascus.

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Following news that Turkish forces and their Syrian opposition allies' intend to enter Afrin and Manbij, both under the control of the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Turkey now faces its greatest challenge in Syria to date. This challenge comes at a time when the United States, Russia, Iran, and the Syrian regime have divided up control of the strategically important parts of Syria, most notably the Syrian desert which connects all the country's provinces as well as being home to its mineral wealth. Perhaps more importantly, this coalition also fought together to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh).

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The decision of Turkey to mount air and ground operations in the Afrin district of northwestern Syria entails dangers that transcend even the potentially dire consequences for civilians of yet another Syrian combat zone swallowing lives and property. Despite the flamboyant anti-Turkish threats of its Syrian client, Russia has gingerly stepped aside in this corner of Aleppo Province, moving its ground forces and vacating the airspace to accommodate the Turkish operation. For Russian President, Vladimir Putin, nothing—not even the full political ascendancy of Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad—would top Turkey and the United States coming to military blows over Syria.

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