News, Politics

Syria’s “New Constitution” Ignites Further Conflict

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SyriaSyria is a country in the Middle East.

Many Syrians have been protesting against its government, which has been accused of doing terrible things to its own people. The leader of Syria is President Bashar al-Assad.

The fighting between the Syrian government and its opponents this year has been intense and very violent.

Many Syrians want al-Assad to step down as leader. They want to be able to elect a new leader. (Bashar al-Assad’s family has ruled Syria for more than 40 years.)

On Feb. 26 the Syrian government held a special vote. The vote was to see if people would agree or disagree with a new constitution. The constitution would let al-Assad rule for another 16 years.

On Monday, the Syrian government said the people voted overwhelmingly in favour of the new constitution. The Syrian government said the people want to keep al-Assad in power.

However, critics of Syria’s government say that is clearly not the case. The Syrian government “controlled the voting and the count… and the opposition mostly boycotted the balloting,” the New York Times reported. In other words, the outcome of the vote likely does not reflect the will of the Syrian people.

Some countries—like China, Russia and Iran—are supporting al-Assad and his government.

Many Western countries—including Canada and the U.S.—as well as the United Nations, want al-Assad to step down.

Stephen Lewis is the former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations. He wants Russia and China to agree with a UN plan that would stop the fighting in Syria.

Stephen_Lewis; Image by Grant Neufeld
Stephen Lewis, former Canadian ambassador to the UN wants Russia and China to stop supporting Syria's government. Image by Grant Neufeld.

He says that unless Russia and China stop supporting al-Assad’s government, the fighting in Syria will not stop. Russia and China both have reasons for wanting to support al-Assad’s government; maintaining their good relationship with Syria may give them more power politically.

Lewis said that, “thousands of Syrians are about to be sacrificed” because of China’s and Russia’s friendship with the al-Assad government.

By “sacrificed” he means that Syrians will die unnecessarily because countries will not put human rights first—ahead of money and power.

Related Links
Syria has been a big part of the “Arab Spring” protests. The Arab Spring happened when many people in some Arab countries protested against their governments. For more information about the Arab Spring protests, see these past TKN articles:

Arab Spring—What’s Happening Now? An Update
Problems For The People Of Syria
Libyan Rebels Reject “Roadmap To Peace”

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
The United Nations, Canada, and the U.S. believe that al-Assad should step down, while Russia, China, and Iran think he should stay in power. How do you solve disagreements with others? How do you think this situation will resolve? What are the differences and similarities when solving conflicts between people and solving conflicts between nations?

Reading Prompt: Point of View
What point of view is represented in today’s article? What point of view is missing?

Junior
Identify the point of view presented in texts, ask questions to identify missing or possible alternative points of view, and suggest some possible alternative perspectives (OME, Reading: 1.9).

Intermediate
Identify the point of view presented in texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts; give evidence of any biases they may contain; and suggest other possible perspectives (OME, Reading: 1.9).

Grammar Feature: Periods & Parentheses
Periods are punctuation marks that show where a complete sentence ends, like right here. Parentheses are punctuation marks that tell extra information  (often to clarify or explain).

But when both are used in the same sentence, it’s not always easy to know where the period goes. So here’s rule number 1: If an entire sentence is in parentheses, then the period is placed inside the right parenthesis. For example,

“(Bashar al-Assad’s family has ruled Syria for more than 40 years.)”

Rule number 2 is that when a sentence includes parentheses at the end of the sentence, the period goes outside the right parenthesis.

“Identify the point of view presented in texts, ask questions to identify missing or possible alternative points of view, and suggest some possible alternative perspectives (OME, Reading: 1.9).”

Parentheses are often found at the end of a sentence. Why is that?

Why is it uncommon to read a text that includes a full sentence in parentheses?