Child Marriage

This photo of a young girl on UNICEF’s website shocked me, but at the same time I couldn’t look away. Mostly because her physical scars would only show a glimpse of the pain she was hiding inside. Every three seconds around the world, a girl is forced to give up school and the hope for an education in order to be married. It is widely accepted that if girls in developing countries had the chance for an education, a say in family planning and their own health, the poverty experienced in sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and the Middle East would greatly improve. After all, many of these nations are not utilizing half of their population (females). I know that this is a topic that has probably been touched on numerous occasions, yet somehow it fades just as quickly. To think that girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan are so desperate to end their own lives when married off to often much older men, suicides rate and attempted suicides are increasing. The most ‘favoured’ method to commit suicide for these girls? Setting themselves on fire, in the hope that should they be taken to a far away hospital it would be to late to revive them. There have also been cases where girls who have survived, after recovering partly (from their physical burns) are then again returned to their husbands families.

The photo below is of Aisha, and the UNICEF website writes this about her, “July 2010: At age 10, Aisha was sent to live with her future husband, who kept her in his animal stable until she became 12. They were then married, and he regularly beat her. Aisha escaped but was imprisoned for running away, then returned to her husband. To punish her, he cut off her ears and nose, leaving her to die. She was taken to a clinic and now lives in a women’s shelter in Kabul. A foundation later paid for Aisha to have reconstructive surgery.” The photo is taken from http://www.unicef.org/photography/photo_seeme.php#UNI94652, to find out more on the subject, follow the link to UNICEF’s website. Also, have a look at Plan’s website and their plan to get more girls into education http://www.becauseiamagirl.com.au/. This isn’t a ‘proper’ post on the subject. I am just sharing with you a photo of a girl who moved me. I studied a lot on human security, which ties into this subject. I think this would be a good idea for a post, so I will look into topics to cover.

My next ‘proper’ post will be on wikileaks – what the organisation actually does, and why the U.S. is determined to get Assange. Remember to let me know what topics you would like for me to cover.  Until next time!

Miss S.

Astana, Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan has changed dramatically in the last decade, mainly thanks to its president Nazarbayev. Sure, this authoritarian ruler could be called crazy by some as he puts on sham elections whenever he wants just so he can test his official’s loyalties and put on a show for the press. Few are willing to challenge his rule, and many praise him for stability and economic growth even though the gap between the rich and poor is still quite obvious. He has however, done a good job of trying to put Astana on the world stage. Using the wealth derived from oil and gas deposits in Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev has enlisted some of the best architects in the world to build unique and mightily impressive buildings for his new capital.

Check out the tower below called Baiterek. From the top of the tower you have 360 degree views, a bar serving cold Turkish beer, and best of all (insert a little bit of sarcasm here) on the observation deck you will fina a malachite pedestal which holds a 4.4 pound slab of solid gold, which in the centre you can see the presidents right hand print. Visitors are encouraged to make a wish before placing their hand on the imprint, and IF you are lucky enough, the national anthem might start playing (said to have been written by the president himself). I’m also assuming that this means that your wish will come true thanks to the magical President himself! Who knows, maybe he will be your fairy godmother for the day or night? 😛

Photos taken from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/02/astana/ludwig-photography#/03-baiterek-tower-670.jpg, Photo taken by Gerd Ludwig

In all honesty, I would love to visit this place. It just seems like the whole idea of this city was built upon the whimsical dream of President Nazarbayev. Also, considering that Kazakhstan is one of the least densely populated states on the planet, the natural beauty of the country would be extrodanairy. Below are some photos to stir your imagination 🙂

Above: Astana at night. Photo taken from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/02/astana/ludwig-photography#/07-astana-grid-670.jpg Photo taken by Gerd Ludwig

A newly built suburb in Astana. These very american style houses look so out of place. However, it seems that everything in Astana is built for the purpose of standing out. Very eclectic to say the least. Above: Astana at night. Photo taken from  http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/02/astana/ludwig-photography#/11-american-like-mcmansions-670.jpg Photo taken by Gerd Ludwig

The photo above is the city of Aqmola. The name was changed to Astana in 1998. As you can see not only the name changed but also the landscape. Once a city on the fringe of Kazakhstan, it has been totally revolutionized.  Photo taken from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/02/astana/ludwig-photography#/02-black-white-astana-670.jpg Photo taken by M. Chumin

Above, Nurzhol Boulevard. Photo taken from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/02/astana/ludwig-photography#/01-nurzhol-boulevard-floral-670.jpg Photo taken by Gerd Ludwig

The photo above is landscape of Bayanaul National Park.

Photo above taken from http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/kazakhstan-guide/.

Strangely enough, when I looked up Trip Adviser  there’s actually quite a few hotels in Astana that have been reviewed! Who would have thought…  So who’s up for an adventure?

Until next time!

Miss S.

Don’t forget to like my page on FB, many more random, funny and exotic bits and pieces found there! https://www.facebook.com/missworldsec

The Weak-State Security Dilemma, What the Future Holds For Syria and the International Response – Part 2

Now that we have examined and had a look at the security dilemma and threats facing the Syrian government’s survival, what options are available to them? What tactics will they deploy and what rhetoric will they use? The weak-state security dilemma focuses on some of the options available to the political elites, and we can try and see whether or not they are indeed using any of these methods and to what effect.

The first most commonly used tactic used by state elites trying to retain power and survive according to Jackson and the weak-state dilemma is the widespread use of security and state forces to coerce populations into submission. They use tactics such as torture, intimidation, imprisonment, assassination, extra-judicial killings, disappearances, violent suppression of political expression, destruction of food supplies, and in extreme cases, genocide, and politicide.[1]

One danger of using state forces and institutions against the society it rules or large parts of the society is that these state forces can turn against the political elites/regime. We know that before the civil war began in Syria, civilians were protesting the political imprisonment of individuals that critiqued or spoke out in opposition to the regime. Numerous disappearances were reported, security forces arrested some protestors and interrogated them (some of those interrogated were underage minors – children), and some of those arrested were also reportedly tortured. As the protests against the government intensified, the government of Syria resorted to open fire against the protestors. It is during this time that some Syrian defense personnel defected and started up their own militia group known as the FSA, in opposition to the Syrian regime/government. During the civil war so far, populations have been entrapped in enclaves in different cities and towns were there is violent conflict raging and as a result of this, water, food and health care has been and is extremely limited.

One tactic the state elites can use in order to prevent this opposition from rising from within its own state forces, is to divide and conquer. States can divide up the states security forces into different ‘leagues’ such as elite soldiers or divisions, or divide them into different services so that they come into ‘competition’ with one another.[2] The state elites can also use this tactic against state institutions, bureaucracies, religious groups etc. Weakening state institutions in this context is a viable security measure state elites can take in order to reduce the risk of uprisings from within. Sometimes the regime will also create methods of positive reinforcement by creating rewards for those loyal to the regime. These can be in the form of elaborate patronage systems, pompous ceremonies and awards, or promotions and monetary incentives. Such methods used by the state can enforce different types of power redistribution, and corruption feeds into this system.[3] The state elites can also reward figures such as warlords, criminal syndicates, and other militias in turn for their support. The state entices them by offering up control of particular areas, exclusive control over particular commercial activities or have state resources diverted their way.[4] The state can also entice divisions and conflict between minority groups in the state, particularly ethnic or religious groups as part of this divide and conquer strategy. Thus particular groups fight between themselves instead of fighting together against the state. The state can then also promote particular ethnic or religious groups or individuals to state power. Ethnic and religious identity is often exploited by developing states. We know from the previous post on the conflict in Syria, that most of President Assad’s regime and he himself is from the religious minority of the Alawites.

There are also numerous ways that a weak state can exploit the international community and the democratic ‘process’. However, what I wanted to look at more closely since we can use Syria’s current state of conflict as an example, is the way it can exploit and use foreign alliances to its advantage and to bolster its state control and ‘legitimacy’. Weak states look for powerful international allies to help guarantee regime survival. We know that this very important aspect for Syria’s regime. Civil war can often mean the collapse of governance, state institutions and the state economic apparatus. Without these, the Syrian government and state security forces may not be able to continue fighting the opposition over a long period of time. Outside assistance is vital in this scenario. We know Russia and Iran are supporting Syria militarily and financially. Russia and China have vetoed many sanctions and any possibility for UN intervention in the conflict (except for diplomatic resolutions). These state allies usually have many reasons why they take the stand that they do. Remember, no one enters a war, or supports a weak regime without having considered many different factors. For example, Russia and China are most often against military intervention in states, even if a humanitarian crisis is unfolding or if it has taken place. Why? Because they want to uphold the concept of state sovereignty at all costs, even though state sovereignty is only legitimate through the inherent implication that a state protects and secures the future of its population. Very often in weak states, different groups want to either overthrow the state government if they do not believe that the state is upholding its responsibilities to the population or certain groups want to declare independence. Even though Russia and China have functioning power and authority in their states and through their institutions, there are conflicts within certain factions of their societies. China and Russia are afraid that if these conflicts were to increase, their acceptance of other states military intervention, would in turn result in states accepting and carrying out intervention in their own states. It may be a far reach considering the power and authority Russia and China hold, however the possibility cannot be excluded. It goes so far as China refusing the extension of peacekeepers contracts in Macedonia after the break up of Yugoslavia, because Macedonia in rhetoric supported the independence of Tibet. Bit extreme isn’t it, but then again these states want to limit any threat to their control and power of their state.

Russia was an ally of Syria before this current civil war started. Russia not only had (and continues to have) a customer for its arms, but also could have limited military presence in the Middle East. They fear that the Middle East will be dominated by Western control and influence especially after the intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan (the U.S. can also count Saudi Arabia and Israel as allies). Iran no doubt also has this fear that Western states, and especially the U.S. will dominate in influence and military presence in the Middle East. Iran always saw itself as the rightful regional power of influence in the Middle East (stemming from their history and dominance of rule back in the Persian Empire). Iran is predominantly Shiite while Syria is predominantly Sunni, however, the Alawite sect is a Shiite sect. Both states are authoritarian in their ruling (Syria is proto-facist). While Iran is a theocracy and ideologically opposed to secularism and atheist communism, Syria tried to impose a secular state with principles of socialism under its Baa’thist regime. However, their broader security strategies aligned (for e.g. with their opposition to Israel) and fueled cooperation between the two.

And who is supporting the Syrian opposition? Many Western states publicly denounced Assad’s regime and have stated that he should step down from power. Both because the violence and fatalities caused by the Syrian armed security forces could not be ignored, and also because of the fear that the violence could spread beyond its borders. If Assad had stepped down from power earlier, perhaps the civil war would not have started. Of course in that case other problems would arise such as power vacuums (for example like in Libya currently). Russia and other opponents to intervention state that doing so could pull the region into war, especially since Iran and Russia back Syria. However, many experts such as Amir Teheri state that while Iran and Russia back Syria with arms and money, it is unlikely that if the stakes were raised high enough, they would be prepared to fight their war.[5] The longer the conflict continues the more Syria’s neighbours will be dealing with the fall out (e.g. the huge numbers of refugees fleeing Syria to Jordan and Turkey – there is thought to be 350,000 refugees currently who have fled Syria). Wars have a tendency to spread and fall over the borders, especially in troubled regions. We have just heard in the news that Turkish civilians were fatally shot by Syrian security forces (it is probable that it was the Syrian security forces, however it is unknown at this stage if it was a mistake or purposely done so). Turkey has always had a troubled relationship with Syria. At the beginning of the violence in Syria, Turkey pressured the Assad regime to follow through with reforms (and Assad was not happy about this). Turkey was also the place that many national defectors from Syria sought cover. The Syrian National Council is based in Turkey, and is a major Syrian civilian coalition, opposed to the Assad regime. Many of its top members are exiled politicians and diplomats. The top commanders from the FSA are also headquartered in Turkey, however it is unclear how much assistance they are receiving from Turkey, and their movement is limited. Turkey no doubt has to deal with the fall out caused by the Syrian civil war and as a member of NATO has to take the security threat seriously and keep it under control as much as possible. Turkey will be judged by the international community in how well it responds to the fall out of the conflict, and I am not surprised that it is now opposed to the Assad regime as is most of the West. Turkey however does not want to enter into a war with Syria especially alone. Assad’s regime is not happy that Turkey has kept its borders open to Syrian defectors and opposition groups. As military intervention has been vetoed in the U.N., most Western states have pledged to provide Syrian refugees with aid assistance. Britain has gone one step further and pledged 8 million pounds to Syrian opposition groups, while it is thought that the U.S. has pledged 45 million dollars also to Syrian opposition groups. Both states claim that the money will go towards non-lethal assistance, such as satellites, medical equipment etc. In reality though, it is highly probable that some of this money will be redirected by the Syrian opposition for arms. The West is nervous that if the civil war continues for an extended period of time, extremists will join in the fight. As I mentioned in the previous post on Syria, Al Qaeda’s al-Nusra front is present in Syria, even though they are thought to have limited presence.

The more militias and armed groups that enter the conflict, the more Syria could be torn a part and if the Assad regime falls, different territories might be in control by different groups. The threat that power vacuums present are just as dangerous as the current civil war. It seems that both main parties in the civil war have enough backing and assistance to keep fighting for an extended period of time. This could mean years. If the Syrian security forces keep even accidently shelling across the border into Turkey, NATO may feel it has to intervene in some way to top the Assad regime. I highly doubt that any other nation will send its own troops on the ground into Syria, air strikes carried out by NATO like in Libya may be highly probable. I fear that whatever sides gains victory, this could very well be a prolonged civil war, and one side defeating the other will not solve all of Syria’s security issues, in reality it will just create new threats and insecurity.

So where do you think the conflict is heading? Leave me a comment and until next time!

Miss S.

I might do the next post on Wikileaks, but leave me a comment if you would like to suggest a topic for future posts 🙂 Also, if you liked this post, don’t forget to like my facebook page, I post up lots of tantalizing photos and funny bits and pieces 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/missworldsec


[1] Richard Jackson in ‘Contemporary Security Studies’ edited by Alan Collins, Oxford University Press, New York, 2010

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Amir Taheri, ‘Syria and the tale of two civil wars’, http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=2&id=30880, 31/08/2012

Definitions: What’s the difference between Intrastate, Interstate & Extrastate???

These terms are often used in articles which explore conflicts and war. They are confusing terms, so I thought I should write up some more definitions as they are worth knowing! The terms listsed here have been ‘inspired by’ articles by Sambanis, and Alan Collins book on Contemporary Security Studies.

Intrastate: Intrastate violence is the most common form of conflict today. It describes sustained political violence that takes place between armed groups representing the state, and one or more non-state groups. Violence of this sort usually is confined within the borders of a single state, but usually has significant international dimensions and holds the risk of spilling over into bordering states (the current conflict in Syria would be described as a Intrastate conflict).

Interstate: Interstate violence is a conflict between two or more states (both members of the international system), who use their respective national forces in the conflict.

Extrastate: Extrastate conflict is between a state (member of the international system) and a political entity which does not come in the form of a recognized state. This type of conflict can take place outside the boundaries of the state recognized by the international community.

Hope this helps! 🙂

Miss S.

The Weak-State Security Dilemma, What the Future Holds For Syria and the International Response – Part 1

The Weak-state security dilemma can tell us a lot about the situation in Syria, and how certain aspects of the civil war effect and threaten the functioning of the state. It also allows us to distinguish how weak-states usually respond to threats (how the government of Syria will keep responding to the opposition of its regime). It is interesting that the threats to developing states usually come from inside the state itself – internal threats are more dangerous than international threats. The insecurity that many developing states face is now incredibly difficult to contain within the states that are experiencing internal threats because of globalization (porous borders and so on – we can see refugees pouring into Jordan and Turkey). Developing countries are much more likely to have to deal with serious internal political violence such as military coups, rebellions, violent transfers of power, warlordism, succession, genocide/politicide, ethnic or religious violence, campaigns of terrorism, riots & disorder (e.g. Syria for decades imprisoned and most likely tortured those who opposed the regime, protests and riots occurred and now an insurgency and civil war is taking place).[1]

A spill over effect from all these different types of political instability/violence can include terrorism, illegal migration, drug & arms trading, organized crime, environmental damage and in the most severe cases, state collapse and anarchy.[2] Syria has experienced a dramatic rise in crime, as police stations are left abandoned. Pro-government militias have been accused of numerous counts of rape, and kidnappings that were once rare, are now common occurrences.[3] Destruction of civil structures and institutions are linked to both sides. Some of the oldest historical sites and artifacts are in serious danger of being destroyed. Smuggling of arms to rebel groups across the borders of Turkey and Lebanon are now also a common occurrence. There is a growing fear that extremists – including members of Al Qaeda – will try and hijack the revolution and turn it into a sectarian war as was the case with Iraq – Sunnis against Shiites. There have been 35 car bombings, and 10 suicide bombings (terrorist tactics) 4 of which have thought to be directly linked to Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.[4] The FSA has denied being linked with Al Qaeda, however many believe that in time they will be a big contender of influence in the civil war and insurgency.

“A Syrian boy stands in the rubble of a destroyed police station at the border town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, July 29, 2012. The U.N. said 200,000 Syrians have fled the embattled city of Aleppo since intense clashes between regime forces and rebels began 10 days ago.” Image from http://world.time.com/2012/04/02/syrias-year-of-chaos-photos-of-a-slow-motion-civil-war/#ixzz27NN751gb.

A lot of the problems weak states face, are rooted in how the state was formed and how it governs its people.[5] Very often developing states have ruling elites, and the more that these elites try to establish state rule, the more they provoke violent challenges to their rule and authority. Regime security (the condition where governing elites are secure from violent changes) and state security (the condition where the institutions, processes, and structures of the state are able to function effectively, regardless of the makeup of the ruling elite) become inextricably linked.[6] This creates a situation that very often involves ‘structural anarchy’ where groups create insecurity in the rest of the system when they try and improve their own security.[7] This condition of insecurity is self-perpetuating because every effort by the regime to secure greater security for itself through violent force (Syria is using heavy artillery designed for traditional warfare against other states such as Israel, however it is using this artillery against its own civilians that are said to be sympathizers of the opposition and rebel militias who use asymmetric warfare) and thus undermines the institutional basis of the state and the security of the society as a whole. [8]

It is interesting that not only is the Assad regime a tightly knit group of political elites (however some of its elites have denounced the government and left, more cracks within the regime are expected), it is made up of a religious minority in Syria – the Alawites. The majority of Syria’s population is Sunni, and the government of Syria may fear that if it gives up its power, the Alawite community may suffer huge losses. They are not wrong for thinking so. In neighbouring Iraq, the minority Shiites that suffered brutally under the oppression of a Baathist dictator Saddam Hussein, are supporting the Baathist regime of Syria. Why? Minorities that support the ruling governments are usually supported and protected to a certain extent, even though they may be discriminated against in society as a whole. Also, Syria must fear that like in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, violence against minorities (for e.g. Assyrian Christians, Yazidis etc.) will rise drastically.[9] The same example can be made of Egypt after the fall of Mubarak. This religious and ethnic conflict can easily spread across borders and threatens the Middle East as a whole.

You may be surprised to find out, that a state gains authority and legitimacy through a monopoly of instruments of violence. The state has to be able to physically disarm its opponents and convince its population that violence is wrong and only legitimate when the state controls it.[10] A lack of political and institutional control along with a monopoly of force creates a spiral of insecurity, a semi-permanent situation of emergent anarchy where armed groups are forced to engage violently in strategies that help their survival.[11]  So when we are dealing with a state government that is using its machinery and force to just continue its reign, the concept of state security or national security (the security of a whole socio-political entity, a nation with its own way of life and independent state government) is impossible in that contextual environment. So weak state security is regime security as I mentioned before.[12]

So we are in bit of pickle :S What options does the Assad government have? What outcomes will be a result of this? And what is the response of the International Community – and why do states differ so widely in opinion? All of this will be looked at in the next post J. Until then!

Miss S.

 

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[1] Richard Jackson in ‘Contemporary Security Studies’ edited by Alan Collins, Oxford University Press, New York, 2010

[2] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Richard Jackson in ‘Contemporary Security Studies’ edited by Alan Collins, Oxford University Press, New York, 2010

[6] B. A. Job, ‘The Insecurity Dilemma: National Security of Third World States’ CO: Lynne Rienner, Boulder, 1992

[7] Richard Jackson in ‘Contemporary Security Studies’ edited by Alan Collins, Oxford University Press, New York, 2010

[8] Ibid.

[10] Richard Jackson in ‘Contemporary Security Studies’ edited by Alan Collins, Oxford University Press, New York, 2010

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

Is Syria in a state of civil war? And what are ‘coding rules’? Part 1

Everyone has no doubtedly  (I’m not sure if that’s a word, but it should be!) heard about the conflict in Syria and its many casualties. While the news informs us where the majority of fighting is taking place, and how many casualties have been recorded on the said day, it is hard to figure out who is fighting who, what the conflict is about, and how the conflict has taken shape. When I started looking into the issue I found so many different complexities intertwining with each other that I really wasn’t sure were to begin. The simplest way to start explaining and exploring the conflict is to decide what type of conflict it really is. That unfortunately in itself is a mind field (and a little easier to do with the perspective of time – while the conflict is unfolding it can change quite drastically as it proceeds), but we shall try to not loose our minds so early on and try and make some sense out of it.

A recent announcement made by the Syrian government shocked many people and can help us explore the type of conflict that is unfolding. Syrian authorities have claimed that Syria is not in a state of civil war, and that any such statements contradict reality.[1] Has someone lost their marbles? A spokeswoman for the Syrian Local Coordination Committee, Rafif Jouejati, has also rejected the notion of a civil war being played out in Syria because of the way the war started, that is; with peaceful protests, which according to the Coordination Committee still happen everyday Syria.[2] She also states that the Assad regime has forced the revolution to militarize and that the conflict should be labeled a humanitarian war instead. I would, reject both of these claims, and conclude that yes Syria is indeed currently in a state of civil war (however, other types of political conflict may also be taking place, but that can be looked at later). Both sides in the Syrian conflict have their own reasons for stating that Syria is not involved in a civil war. The most obvious being that if they had declared a civil war, then both sides are subjected to the Geneva Convention in terms of the rules of war, and later able to be subjected to the International Criminal Court and its conventions. Of course, just because both sides claim to not be in a state of civil war, does not mean that this claim is correct. Al Jazeera has provided guidelines to what constitutes a civil war (I use these as an example, as I watched this news story unfold on TV and would think that other broadcasters use similar examples), however I would argue that it’s guidelines are rather simplistic and only touch the tip of the iceberg (unfortunately the problem with TV news broadcasters is exactly that, they are too simplistic when it comes to complex issues) when it comes to the theoretical variables needed for such ‘coding rules’ (What are these?! > determining factors for whether or not a conflict is deemed to be a civil war) to be comprehensive. Al Jazeera also does not say where they got these ‘guidelines’ from. [3]

Lets start our theoretical journey by stating that it is impossible and probably undesirable to have only one definition of civil war. The way in which we choose to define conflicts through ‘coding rules’ can dramatically change our outlook on the given conflict. Coding rules have changed dramatically over time and opinions of course vary as to what the correct coding rules are. It is also difficult to study civil war without considering that the forms of violence taking place in a particular conflict can and often do change over time, to include such forms of political violence as e.g. terrorism, a coup, genocide, organized crime, international conflict or politicide.[4] Therefore the statement made by Rafif Jouejati that the conflict is not a civil war because at the beginning of the political uprising there was no armed conflict on the part of the public movement, does not mean that the nature of the conflict has not changed or shifted, and indeed we can see that it has changed as both sides have engaged in conflict (irrelevant as to who started it).  We will discuss further down whether or not it can be classified as a civil war.

Nicholas Sambanis[5] details different coding rules and examples of armed political conflict, and the difficulty in determining whether or not particular armed conflicts can be determined to be civil wars. I will not go into great detail about the ambiguity and difficulties inherent in the various coding systems (perhaps another time if there is sufficient interest), however he does present a system of coding rules which are widely used (all of the basic requirements are kept), however tweaked so that some common problems do not reappear.

For example, the Correlates of War (also known as COW – determines some of the leading coding rules, which they themselves have changed numerous times also resulting in problems with data) has a threshold that needs to be meet in regards to how many state forces, as well as how many of the opposing forces or civilian deaths need to occur over a period of time in order to call the conflict a civil war. One problem with this is that because the threshold required is fixed, states with small populations may not reach the threshold of deaths required to call it a civil war, and are thus looked over by the international system and they then cannot take advantage of the conventions in place that dictate the rules of war in terms of civil war. Sambanis proposes instead the number should not be ‘fixed’, but rather should be flexible and based on the nations population per capita in relation to deaths in armed conflict. He gives the example that if 500 people were killed in a one year period (the lowest number of casualties suggested by coding rules to declare the onset of war) in a country with half a million inhabitants (also the smallest population allowed by most coding rules) would amount to 0.001 of the population. A conflict of equal magnitude in a country of 20 million would have caused 20,00 deaths and would have been classified as a civil war by most coding rules (along with other characteristics). It is clear that even in a state with a small population of half a million inhabitants, 500 casualties would be an unprecedented tragedy.[6]

We will continue will Sambanis’ coding rules and apply them to Syria’s current internal conflict as best we can with the current available data, and hopefully be able to determine if a civil war is taking place in part 2 of this blog post J

Speaking of marbles earlier, does anyone remember playing with them as a child? I do, and have no idea what happened with them (as in, not only did they disappear out of shops; I don’t know where my vast collection went to…). It’s almost like the fun police of all things cool decided to ban them as they weren’t cool enough anymore and destroy all known replicas. I remember distinctly that I kept mine in a small brown material pull string bag. Does anyone know where you can still buy them? I guess I have ‘lost’ my marbles hahaha bad joke I know. Kinda sad that it’s true to0 :/

*Please be mindful of others when commenting. You are allowed to disagree and debate an issues, but targetting an individual or persons with derogatary name calling will not tolerated, and the comments will be annihilated.


[1] Al Jazeera English, ‘Is Syria in a state of civil war?’, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidesyria/2012/08/201282683723964944.html accessed on 10/09/12,26/08/2012

[2] “We reject the label of civil war, because we go back to how this revolution started: with peaceful protests – and they continue throughout the country, every day, every week, in every governorate. Now the Assad regime has forced the militarisation of the revolution, but he in fact himself has declared a war against his people. I would call this a humanitarian war against the Syrian people.” – Rafif Jouejati, a Syrian Local Coordination Committee spokeswoma Ibid.

[3] Constitutes of civil war provided by Al Jazeera: 1. It is a high-intensity conflict between organised groups within the same nation state or Republic, 2. The aim of one side may be to take control of the country or a region, 3. Another category of a civil war is involving regular armed forces, which are sustained, organised and large-scale, 4. Large numbers of casualties and the consumption of significant resources would also constitute a civil war. Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Nicholas Sambanis, ‘What Is Civil War? Conceptual and Empirical Complexities of an Operational Definition’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 48, 2004

[6] Ibid.