Holmquist and Sanders Lead Q & A Discussion on Syrian Conflict

(Photo: Getty Images)

               On Tuesday, April 18th senior Allie Holmquist and history and politics professor Dr. Ethan Sanders hosted a Q & An entitled “The Syrian Conflict—A Civil War?” in the Regis Room of Carroll Hall. This semester, Holmquist and Sanders researched the conflict in an independent study. Over twenty students and faculty were in attendance.

               Dr. Sanders began with background on the conflict by responding to the question, “Is this a civil war?”

               “The first and most obvious answer,” Sanders stated, “is yes. It is a civil war insofar as it is a war raging amongst the people of Syria to either topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad or those who want to see that regime stay in place and keep its power.”

               However, while numerous domestic issues led to the conflict, Sanders also stated that there are a variety of international players that have contributed as well. In this sense, according to Sanders, “it is not just a civil war but a conflict with regional and global dimensions.” The other foreign actors involved are Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United States, and Russia. The interests and actions of these nations helped to shape the conflict into what it has become today.

               Next, Allie Holmquist, a senior Peace and Justice and Sociology double major, gave background history information on how the Syrian conflict began and how it looks today.

               “What has been most upsetting—and that word doesn’t capture what I’m trying to say—has been the use of chemical warfare against civilians in Syria.” The most recent chemical attack on civilians by the government occurred on April 4th, despite the fact that Syria is a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which is an international law stating that it is illegal to use chemical weapons in any war.

               “I think what needs to happen is a shift in how we look at the conflict. We can’t look at it as ‘the U.S is participating because they want to be seen in this light in the Middle East’ or ‘Saudi Arabia is involved because they don’t want Iran to be the superpower.’ It needs to be a shift to what the Syrian people need and how to keep them alive.” Holmquist stated that often those who are in a position to bring change to the situation often shy away from taking action by claiming that the situation is too complex.

               “If we shift the conversation to the Syrian people, we’ll start different conversations. With that, I think other steps that need to be taken immediately are refugee resettlement and trauma counseling for refugees.”

               For the latter half of the event, Holmquist and Sanders answered questions from guests in attendance. To conclude, Dr. Sanders stated, “First, be willing to dig a little deeper, and then to think empathetically about why people do what they do because that’s the only way to understand any conflict.”

Maggie Lacy Staff Reporter