Gloucester City Hall
Syria’s Civil War
Syria’s brutal civil war and how it affects those caught in the crossfire will be the topic for the Cape Ann Forum’s next event on Sunday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. at the Gloucester City Hall, featuring Middle East scholar and author Omar Dahi, who is just back from Lebanon.
Nearly three years of bloody civil war in Syria have created what the United Nations, governments and international humanitarian organizations describe as the most challenging refugee crisis in a generation — bigger than the one unleashed by the Rwandan genocide and laden with the sectarianism of the Balkan wars.
The spillover is causing problems throughout the region, nowhere more than Lebanon, according to Dahi. “The crisis of refugees in Lebanon is at a breaking point,” he says. “Unless the cycle of violence is stopped, it is only going to get worse.”
Some Lebanese villages now have more Syrians than Lebanese, says Dahi, who reports that hospitals are out of beds and health workers fear an outbreak of cholera in the Bekaa Valley. “Health workers are worried that a public health catastrophe could break out at any moment.”
Both the supporters of the government and the rebels describe possible outcomes of the war as a victory for one side or the other, says Dahi who calls this “a way to avoid coming to terms with the third possibility: that both sides have already lost.”
“The only option for Syrians still interested in stopping the fall further down the abyss is to demand a political settlement and massive aid to help heal the mass humanitarian catastrophe inside Syria and the neighboring countries,” he says.
Forum organizers say this talk will put the conflict in a regional and historical context and try to unravel the welter of competing groups and outside interests involved in it.
Omar Dahi is an associate professor of economics at Hampshire College and a visiting fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Middle East Center. Born and raised in Damascus, Syria, he received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Notre Dame.
He serves on the editorial committee of the Washington-based Middle East Report and is the co-editor of the Syria web page at Jadaliyya. His work has been published in various academic journals, including the Journal of Development Economics, Applied Economics, and the Southern Economic Journal.
Professor Dahi’s research and teaching interests are in the areas of economic development and international trade, with a special focus on South-South economic cooperation, and the political economy of the Middle East and North Africa. His current work is on the conditions of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons.