In some ways, it eventually became about all of that, but it started much more simply, when, against the backdrop of the Arab Spring,
15 boys were arrested in the nondescript border town of Dara'a after anti-regime graffiti
was sprayed on a high school wall. They were imprisoned, and horrifically tortured,
sparking the outrage of their small community and observant human rights activists. Their cruel and anti-democratic treatment first prompted local protests, which turned regional and eventually national, with the March 15 "day of rage
" protests generally seen as the beginning of the uprising.
For those who remember the early days of the conflict it's hard to believe that it's now been a decade since those protests touched off an unfathomably awful war against the Syrian civilian people by its own government.
Then again, it's also painfully clear as to why. The world has largely turned its back on what has been described
by some as a genocide
upwards of half a million people,
including at least 12,000 children. As President Bashar al-Assad
waged a relentless war at first on civilian protesters and later, with the help of Russian forces against insurrectionists, and at times Islamic State (ISIS) fighters, they leveled entire cities with barrel bombs, missiles, and horrifically -- although they deny
it -- even chemical weapons
. Regime forces intentionally
bombed schools, hospitals and crowded markets
. All just so that Assad could maintain his vise-like grip on his own people, who dared to protest his authority. The evil knows no end here.
Unknown numbers of innocent Syrians have been imprisoned, many never to be heard from again. Millions have been displaced
both internally and outside of Syria's borders.
It's a tragedy of global proportions, one that we watched unfold in real time, and Syrians are no closer today to being safe from Assad. But unimaginably, there is still hope. For many Syrians, tomorrow -- if they can just make it there -- is a new day.
I've asked some of the activists and advocates who've fought to save Syria, and who have risked their lives to tell the stories of the Syrian war, to answer one important question, in any way they like: "What is the future of Syria?"
Here are their harrowing -- and hopeful -- responses. (Some have been translated from Arabic.)
Rabia Kasiri, White Helmet volunteer and medical student in Idlib