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UNHCR / Bassam Diab
Destruction in Homs, Syria

RSC Public Seminar Series, Hilary term

PERSPECTIVES ON THE SYRIAN CONFLICT

Series convened by Dr Leïla Vignal

This seminar series focuses on the unfolding conflict and human catastrophe in Syria.

The Syrian conflict started in 2011 as a popular and pacific uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Asad. It mutated into an armed conflict between numerous opposition armed groups and the Asad regime. External actors have since started to intervene, either directly in support of the Damascus regime, or indirectly in support of some of the very diverse armed groups of the opposition. From 2014, the group Islamic State, originating from Iraq, opportunistically exploited the situation when it expanded across the border into Syria.

Since Russia stepped directly onto the military scene in 2015, the conflict has entered a new phase, characterised by the central role played by external powers in propping up the Asad regime, and the side-lining of all peace talks and other political processes. The retaking of the opposition-held eastern areas of Aleppo in December 2016, following massive campaigns of bombing and shelling, is in this regard a clear turning point - although it is far from signalling the end of the conflict.

The Syrian population is bearing the brunt of this conflict. Estimates vary as to the number of civilian deaths directly linked to the conflict, but they could reach more than 300,000. Poverty affects four in five Syrians. In 2017, Syria holds two world records: it is the country with the most Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and more refugees come from Syria than any other country (five million registered with the UNHCR, possibly over six million in total).

This seminar series aims at shedding light on different aspects of the Syrian conflict in order to provide a better understanding of it. It also discusses the consequences of the situation in Syria for the international community, for humanitarian organisations, but also for the legal infrastructures put in place since the Second World War with regard to international humanitarian laws, human rights, and refugee protection.

Maison Francaise d'Oxford The seminar series is supported by the Maison Française d’Oxford.

About the speaker

Dawn Chatty is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and Forced Migration and former Director of the Refugee Studies Centre, 2011-2014. She is a social anthropologist whose ethnographic interests lie in the Middle East, particularly with nomadic pastoral tribes and refugee young people. Her research interests include a number of forced migration and development issues such as conservation-induced displacement, tribal resettlement, modern technology and social change, gender and development and the impact of prolonged conflict on refugee young people.

Dawn is both an academic anthropologist and a practitioner, having carefully developed her career in universities in the United States, Lebanon, Syria and Oman, as well as with a number of development agencies such as the UNDP, UNICEF, FAO and IFAD. After taking her undergraduate degree with honours at UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), she took a Master’s degree in Development Studies from the Institute of Social Studies, the Hague, Netherlands. She returned to UCLA to take her PhD in Social Anthropology under the late Professor Hilda Kuper.

Following the award of a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship, Dawn spent the period October 2005–September 2007 researching and writing a manuscript on Dispossession and Forced Migration in the Middle East. The volume was published by Cambridge University Press (May 2010) with the title Dispossession and Displacement in the Modern Middle East.

Podcast

Listen to the podcast of the seminar here >>

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