Yorktown Sentry

A World Riddled With Bullets

Sofie Dalton, Sentry staff reporter

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Across the globe, humans are suffering from horrendous armed conflicts that are destroying everything from people’s homes to their entire lives. International news is filled to the brim with stories of war and destruction that are ravaging countries and hurting the citizens in them. Many of these international conflicts have no end or solution in sight, and they continue to inflict pain on civilians who are caught in the crossfire. Unfortunately, in the majority of international conflicts, civilians bare most of the pain. Numerous Westerners are unaware of the multitude of armed conflicts and human atrocities that happening in various parts of the world. Here are a few of the worst that you may be unaware of:

 

Syria: Since 2011, a brutal civil war has been raging throughout this Middle Eastern neighbor of Turkey and Iraq. Pro-democracy protests in Syria escalated into conflict and opposition supports took up arms against the government. Rebel brigades formed to fight the government forces for control of different cities and areas. Since then chaos has surged throughout Syria, sparking a refugee crisis of about 4.5 million people who have fled the country since the war began. Territorial control has shifted since the start of the civil war, with the government controlling some parts of the country while the rebels and the Islamic State control other parts.

The United Nations (UN) has found that all sides have committed war crimes, including murder, rape and blocking access to food and water through the use of sieges. The crimes against humanity are best characterized by the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad against his own people. The United States has accused the Syrian government of using banned chemical weapons at least 50 times since the conflict began. Most recently on April 7, bombs believed to have contained toxic substances were dropped on the town Douma, killing more than 40 people. Many of the victims were children and showed signs of respiratory distress, corneal burns and oral foaming in addition to smelling like chlorine. An estimated 500,000 people have died since the start of this brutal conflict.

 

Yemen: Often known as “The Forgotten War,” Yemen’s Civil War, despite being such a serious conflict, it is one of the lesser-known global wars. It began in March of 2015 after the Houthi rebels took control of most of the capital, Sanaa, in September of 2014. The beginning of the war featured the Yemeni president fleeing and the Saudi Arabian-led coalition of Gulf Arab States leading an air strike against the Houthis. The war has been incredibly destructive as the Houthis have fought against the Saudi-backed and internationally recognized government. Currently the Houthis are in control of part of Yemen, while the government is in control of a portion and the Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda controls an additional piece.

This is being called one of the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet. Around 75% of Yemen’s population, which is roughly 22.2 million people, are in need of desperate humanitarian assistance. More than three million people have had to flee their homes and millions are without access to clean drinking water. Both sides are blocking aide and using food as a weapon of war. The Saudi led coalition’s air, land and sea blockade to prevent Iranian weapons from reaching the Houthis has also stopped much-needed food, medicine and fuel from entering Yemen, which is a primary cause of the humanitarian crisis. 8.4 million people are at risk of starvation and around 17.8 million people do not know where their next meal will come from. The death toll is an estimated 10,000 people, though it is difficult to be sure.

 

Rohingya Crisis: Some are calling this crisis a genocide as the Rohingya people are being forced to flee Myanmar due to the destruction of their villages by government troops. The Rohingya people are an ethnic minority and make up a large percentage of the Muslims in Myanmar. However, the Myanmar government considers the Rohingya illegal immigrants, does not recognize them as one of the country’s ethnic groups and denies them citizenship. The most recent exodus happened after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Rohingya militant group, attacked police and army posts in August of 2017. The army retaliated by attacking Rohingya villages and in the first month of attacks, around 6,700 Rohingya were killed. Myanmar troops have burned Rohingya villages, attacked and killed civilians and raped women and girls. These atrocities have sent Rohingya fleeing on foot to neighboring Bangladesh, where more than 950,000 of them are currently living as refugees. An estimated 60% of these refugees are children. The Rohingya crisis is being called the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis and a case of ethnic cleansing.

 

South Sudan: The horrific civil war in South Sudan has led to an unprecedented amount of human suffering and pain. The world’s newest country gained its independence from Sudan in July of 2011 after the two sides had already fought two brutal wars. Two years later, in December of 2013, South Sudan descended into a bloody civil war. President Salva Kiir, a member of South Sudan’s largest ethnic group, the Dinka, accused Vice President Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, of instigating a government coup. Machar’s rebel army and Kiir’s government forces have been fighting since then. A peace agreement in August of 2015 and Machar’s brief return to the Vice Presidency in 2016 did little to quell the violence. Since then, there has been little progress and the human cost has been devastating.

Civilians have suffered relentlessly through this conflict, as both sides have committed atrocities, restricted humanitarian assistance and blocked foreign aide. UN bases have been attacked, civilians have been killed and their villages have been destroyed. Women have been sexually abused and raped by soldiers from both sides. Between two and four million people have been displaced and many are seeking refuge in neighboring countries like Uganda. The UN declared famine in February of 2017, as nearly 100,000 people are on the verge of starvation. The situation is a Level 3 humanitarian emergency and over 50,000 people have been killed. The war in South Sudan has been devastating for this new nation and shows no signs of resolution.

 

Boko Haram in Nigeria: Nigeria has faced an ongoing and difficult battle with the largest Islamist militant group in Africa: Boko Haram. This terrorist group has committed an incalculable amount of atrocities and has inflicted an enormous amount of suffering on civilians. Since 2011, Boko Haram has increased terrorist attacks on police, military, churches, political groups, religious groups and civilians. Their crimes include targeting mosques, launching armed assaults, killing people on highways in northern Nigeria, suicide attacks and using children as suicide bombers. Boko Haram gained international attention after they captured over 200 schoolgirls in April of 2014, starting the campaign #BringBackOurGirls. This was unfortunately not a one time event; they have kidnapped more than 1,000 Nigerian children since 2013. Captured women often suffer sexual abuse and forced marriages at the hands of their abductors. Boko Haram was declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 2013 and their goal is to create an Islamic state under sharia, which is Islamic law. They promote a type of Islam that bans all Western related activities, and while they are primarily in northern Nigeria, Boko Haram is expanding to other countries and parts of Nigeria. Their brutal campaigns have negatively impacted many people. More than 10,000 people have been killed in violence related to Boko Haram and 1.5 million people have been displaced.

 

Israeli Palestine Conflict: This war over territory dates back to the 19th century, when Israel was created as the world’s only Jewish state. There has been continuous violence between the Israelis and the Palestinian Arabs, who refer to Israel as Palestine and want to establish a state in all or part of it. The two sides have been locked in a brutal conflict over territory, especially over the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Palestinian Hamas organization. The first intifada of the war happened in 1987 with the uprising of Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank regions. It ended with Palestinians being allowed to govern themselves under certain guidelines.  The second intifada that began in 2000 was inspired by more and continued Palestinian grievances. It killed more than 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis. In the past ten years, Hamas has launched rocket attacks on Israel. Israeli forces have violently invaded Palestine and done airstrikes that have killed thousands of Palestinians.

The human cost of this conflict has been extensive with 2,401 people dying in a 50-day war in June and July of 2014 and 6,000 casualties in airstrikes between June and July of 2014. Most recently protests in the Gaza Strip have led to 7,000 Palestines being wounded. There are two broad solutions for an end to this conflict, one of which is a “two state solution,” creating an independent Palestinian state next to the Israeli state. The other possible resolution is the “one state solution,” in which Israel would gain the West Bank and Gaza regions.

 

Afghanistan: The U.S. invaded Afghanistan after they refused to hand over Osama Bin Laden following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda on the U.S. Since then, the Taliban has relocated to south Afghanistan; however, they still remain a significant threat. They have been fighting against the Western-backed Kabul government, international coalition troops and Afghan security forces. They still continue to contest districts and carry out suicide attacks. They currently control or influence 10% of Afghan districts. The Taliban is causing an immense amount of human suffering in the war in Afghanistan; in 2016 there were 11,418 civilian deaths. In the first four months of 2017, 2,500 Afghan National Security forces service members were killed. A record-high number of civilian casualties took place in the first six months of 2017 with 1,662 deaths and 3,581 injuries. Recently, in January of 2018, the Taliban killed more than 115 people with terrorist attacks in Kabul. The U.S. still has 14,000 troops in Afghanistan and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has 13,750.

 

One thing all of these conflicts have in common is that they are causing innocent people a great amount of harm and anguish. People are being displaced, killed, imprisoned and injured in global conflicts across the world. While solutions may seem hopeless or out of reach, knowledge is power and awareness about these conflicts is the first step to solving them.

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