Fighting to survive: Syria's economy of the gun
While it was the children of Daraa who sparked the Syrian Spring in 2011, it was Syria's youth who gave it roots. It was the youth who organised protests in response to the regime's violent reaction to peaceful protestors.
These youths can be divided into two groups. There are those who were politically active before the revolution began and influenced by the "civil society committees" formed in the short-lived Damascus Spring of 2000. Second, there are those who were economically alienated. They protested against the regime hoping to improve their economic and possibly political position.
Both groups initially adopted different models to achieve change. The first insisted on non-violence, while the second saw armed resistance as their only means of survival.
Initially, the first group tried to stop the second group responding violently to the regime. However, the regime tried to arrest them, forcing many to flee the country. As a result the revolution became violent.
The revolution also became violent because other countries in the region flooded Syria with arms and fighters, fearing the revolution would expand to their borders.
|Ideology has now been replace by money as the main reason why youths are taking up arms in Syria.|
Ideology and money also determined the youths' reaction. Previously peaceful activists used ideology as an excuse to arm themselves.
Those who believed in a civil state joined the various factions of the Free Syrian Army. Those who believed in an Islamic based civil state joined "moderate" Islamist groups, while those who believed in an Islamic state joined jihadist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham and the Islamic Front. The al-Qaeda types meanwhile were split between the Nusra Front and the Islamic State group.
The military stalemate and economic crisis in Syria meant previously non-aligned youths were forced to join armed groups. For example, a number of people who opposed the regime joined its National Defence Forces so they could receive an income.
Pro-regime youths started volunteering in the army and security services and popular committees. However, due to an increasing number of defections and attempts to avoid military service, the regime reorganised the popular committees with Iranian support and transformed them into the NDF.
Many unemployed youths were attracted to the NDF because it paid its fighters. The regime deceived them into thinking they would only be protecting their areas, but they have been deployed to different areas.
Ideology has now been replace by money as the main reason why youths are taking up arms in Syria. This makes fighters fodder for anyone who wants to pay them to take up arms.
This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.