Investigating Syria and Afghanistan



Image: Syria (orthographic projection) - L'Américain © Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Despite the terrible situation in Libya; the Arab Spring uprising and later civil war in Syria has actually become far worse. 

Since 2000 President Assad has been in control of Syria; he took charge when his father died. His father had been in control since 1970. 

Living conditions in Syria had been poor and there was little freedom. Things were better for some religious groups and worse for others.

The Assad government, supporters and forces are made up of groups following Shia Islam. 

The Opposition Forces are mainly made up of groups following Sunni Islam. 

Kurds are a distinct group with a majority following Sunni Islam though a minority follows Shia Islam. The shared Kurdish language and culture is more important than religion. 

The Free Syria Army is an umbrella group including groups such as the al-Nusra Front which is part of the al-Qaeda international terror group. 

So called Islamic State/ISIL began as a Jihadist group in Afghanistan financed and loyal to al-Qaeda. It joined the insurgency in Iraq in 2003 becoming responsible for many atrocities. In 2014 al-Qaeda and the al-Nusra Front cut all ties with ISIL.

There are many other smaller groups fighting alongside and within these groups.



Image: Syrian Civil War - Spesh531 © Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license 

Since 2011 Syria has suffered appalling conditions and many atrocities as part of the conflict including use of chemical weapons, murder, torture and rape.

The picture is made worse by the way in which other countries support and fight with different sides.

  • The Assad Government is supported by Russia, Iraq and Iran.
  • The Syrian National Coalition is supported by 17 countries including the UK, USA, France and most of the Arab League countries.
  • Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar however openly support the Army of Conquest/al-Nusra Front.

Over much of the country basic infrastructure including power, water and food supply have been lost.


Image: Syrian refugees in the Middle East map - Furfur © Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

On top of the misery of people living in such conditions over 7.6 million people have been internally displaced within Syria and over 5 million more have been displaced into neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait & Egypt.

Only a few hundred thousand have actually attempted to reach Europe as refugees which considering the scale of the horror is quite a small number.

So Called Islamic State/ISIL

Most people use ‘so called’ as a prefix as it would not be acceptable to give such an organisation the level of respect/recognition due to a ‘state’ or country.


  • English
    • Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)
    • Islamic State of Syria (ISIS)
    • IS (Islamic State)
  • Arabic equivalent
    • Daesh

This awful terrorist organisation began in 1999 in Afghanistan funded by al-Qaeda; in 2003 it joined the Iraq insurgency against the newly formed Iraqi government and its coalition supporters especially the USA and the UK.

By 2015 it has control over large areas across the border of Iraq and Syria; it controls parts of Libya, Afghanistan, Sinai (Egypt) and through Boko Haram (pledged allegiance) parts of Nigeria and neighbouring West Africa. 

Many terrorist groups from several countries have pledged allegiance (mostly switching from al-Qaeda) and as such activities are spreading quickly.

This group believes in the brutal enslavement and ultimately the slaughter of every human being that does not accept their primitive interpretation of early Islam. It has been condemned by virtually every branch of Islam and by virtually every Islamic scholar as being a perversion of Islam and its teachings. 


Despite the atrocities of slavery and mass murder through torture and beheadings this group has proven capable of attracting recruits from around the globe including Wales. 

In 2014 over 100 foreign recruits were reported to have been beheaded by ISIL for trying to leave the city of Raqqa. 

Use of social media allows radicalisation within what should be the safety of individual homes. 

The group has a virtual army trying to recruit online those that may be vulnerable and it is vital that everyone looks after their school friends and if they see signs of support for this organisation they should be helped by speaking to teachers, family members and community leaders.

Many recruits try to leave after arriving; some escape but those captured such as the 100+ in Raqqa are beheaded.



Image: Tunisia AU Africa - Flappiefh © Public Domain

On the 26th August 2015 five Islamist attacks took place in Tunisia, France, Kuwait, Syria and Somalia. The attacks followed an online instruction from a senior ISIL leader. 

In the Tunisia attack tourists on holiday were targeted by a gunman who killed 38 people of whom 30 were from the UK a further 39 were wounded. 

Tunisia was the first country of the Arab Spring and it had been relatively peaceful overthrow of the president who had held power since 1987 and the start of a new constitution and democracy.



Image: Arab Spring and Regional Conflict Map - Ian Remsen - © Public Domain

It was a shock to many people and governments that such a peaceful outcome could be shattered by an act of extremist terrorism.



Image: Afghanistan (orthographic projection) - Shahid Parvez © GNU Free Documentation License, version 1.2

Much of the current crisis in the Middle East and North Africa have an origin in the past 30 years of events in Afghanistan. 

The Arab spring brought back extremist fighters from Afghanistan and these have been important in the growth of extremist movements in Syria, Iraq, Libya, West and East Africa. 

Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China.

Extremist fighters from across the Islamic world went to Afghanistan in response to what was perceived to be a ‘holy war’ or Jihad against an Afghanistan communist government. 

In 1978 there was a communist revolution in Afghanistan which is not surprising because several neighbours were part of the former communist Soviet Union controlled by Russia and also communist China is a neighbour. 

A civil war broke out between the new communist government and Jihadist (Islamic Holy War) fighters‎. In 1979 the Soviet Union sent its military into Afghanistan and a brutal war killing more than 1,000,000 people followed. 

The USA funded anti Soviet fighters via Pakistan and tens of thousands of fighters from around the Islamic world joined the Jihad.

One such wealthy fighter was Osama Bin Laden from Saudi Arabia who set up al-Qaeda and also funded what is now called so called Islamic State/ISIL.


Image: Osama bin Laden - Hamid Mir © Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

In 1989 Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan and by 1992 the communists were defeated. There then followed a further civil war between the different groups of Jihadist fighters in which another 400,000 were killed.

By 1996 one group the Taliban with support from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan won and ruled based on their own strict interpretation of Islam. Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda movement continued to operate alongside the Taliban.

In 2001 al-Qaeda carried out the September 11th attacks on the USA.


Image: National Park Service 9-11 Statue of Liberty and WTC fire - National Park Service © Public Domain


Image: September 17 2001 - U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer's Mate Eric J. Tilford © Public Domain

  • This was to lead to the ‘War on Terror’ and the invasion of Afghanistan by a coalition including the UK and USA.

British Memorial Wall Afghanistan


Image: Camp Bastion Memorial Wall Vigil MOD - Cpl Daniel Wiepen/MOD © OGL (Open Government License)

Despite a quick victory in 2001 peace has been difficult; two RAF deaths in October 2015 bring the British Military losses to 456 in the conflict. There have been many Welsh losses; even in 2015.

The Taliban continues to fight against Afghan government forces and so called Islamic State/ISIL is now controlling areas as it recruits members of the Taliban.

There are worrying times ahead in Afghanistan and the Islamic world as many thousands of Jihadist fighters are defecting to so called Islamic State/ISIL or returning home from Afghanistan to promote conflicts in other countries.


Student Activity

After reading all three articles and carrying out the activities. Use the accompanying A3 sheet to help you to carry out an Investigation into the major places supplying migrants to Europe.


Other articles you may find of interest, Mexico to USA migrationMigration in the UK and Making Decisions - The Migrant Crisis.


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