Syria’s Assad tightens grip after four years of war

  • Agencies, Beirut
  • Updated: Mar 13, 2015 02:11 IST

Despite Western hopes that his regime would be overthrown, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad enters his fifth year of war with an increasingly tight hold on power.

Alarm over the sweeping expansion of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Syria and Iraq means that international priorities have shifted away from Assad’s removal.

However, over 20 human rights groups issued a joint plea Thursday for the international community to take responsibility for suffering civilians as Syria’s war approaches its fifth year.

In the four years since the conflict erupted in March 2011, leaving more than 210,000 people dead, Assad’s forces have succeeded in halting gains by Western-backed rebels and jihadists seeking his overthrow.

While rights groups still regularly accuse Assad of indiscriminately killing his own people, sending helicopters to drop crude barrel bombs, even the Syrian opposition no longer demands his resignation as a precondition for peace talks.

In a report entitled “Failing Syria”, the organisations criticised world powers for not implementing a series of UN Security Council resolutions on the conflict. The report, whose signatories included Oxfam and International Rescue Committee criticised the warring parties for blocking access for humanitarian organisations to some of the devastated areas.

But as needs have increased, funding has not kept pace. Only 57% of the money needed to support Syrian civilians and refugees was provided in 2014.

Jan Egeland of the Norwegian Refugee Council said in the coming year the UN will need roughly $8.4 billion in aid for Syrian civilians.

“It’s one sixth of the cost of the 2013 Sochi Olympics — so how could Russia afford the Sochi Olympics, but cannot afford sizeable contributions for this underfunded operation?” he asked.

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