This weekend I mentioned an online explainer piece served up by The Washington Post that pointed readers toward essential Twitter feeds linked to the civil war in Syria. The news-you-can-use pledge: Read these Twitter feeds and you’ll know what you need to know to understand the chaos and bloodshed in Syria.
Maybe, maybe not.
I thought it was interesting that, after looking these Twitter feeds over a bit, it appears that the Post thinks that religion plays no role whatsoever in the fighting in Syria between the Islamist rebels and the heretical (from a Sunni Muslim point of view) Alawite minority regime that is hanging onto power. Oh, and then there is the plight of other religious minorities — Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Christians, primarily. This is an angle of the Syria story that is often mentioned in places like — well, to name two — Rome and Moscow.
Now, here is another explainer piece — care of PBS. The headline aims at similar terrain: “Your Cheat Sheet to the Syrian Conflict.”
One of the most crucial aspects of the Syria story is that this land is a tense patchwork of groups that are defined in terms of ethnicity/tribe and religion. Right? Thus, PBS tells us:
What is Syria?
Syria is a nation of about 21 million people — roughly 2 million more than the population of New York state. It sits on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea in the Middle East.
The nation is about the same size as Washington state and slightly larger than North Dakota. Syria is run by the minority sect known as Alawites, which make up 11.8 percent of the population.
Interesting. The Alawites are a sect of what religion?
Later on in the piece there is this question:
Why the Civil War?
A series of peaceful protests during the Arab Spring in 2011 triggered an increasingly violent backlash from the government of Bashar al-Assad that in turn led to a full-fledged civil war.
The current death toll, according to UNHCR’s Peter Kessler, now stands at more than 100,000 people. The number of people who have lost their homes or been forced to flee has reached 6.2 million. The group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 40,146 civilians have been killed, including more than 4,000 women and more than 5,800 children.
Uh, by WHY is there a civil war? What are the fault lines in this conflict, the civic cracks that define it? The Arab spring caused everything to fall apart and that’s that? Really?
And then there’s the matter of the Reuters info-graphic that ran with this piece.