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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.

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

About the speaker

Dr Leïla Vignal is Marie Curie Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre and Senior Researcher at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. She is also Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Rennes-2, France.

Dr Vignal works on the Middle East, in particular on the transformations of urban societies in the context of globalisation. She has done extensive fieldwork in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. She was recently the Principal Investigator of a research programme bringing together 15 scholars looking at transnational spaces, networks and practices in the Middle East. Within this programme, she also developed expertise on the Gulf states.

Dr Vignal has lived and worked in Damascus and her research and personal knowledge of the country have led her to engage in the study of the geographies of the current Syrian crisis. As a Marie Curie Fellow of the Refugee Studies Centre (2015-2017), she is now developing research on the territorial, social, economic and human changes in Syria, and beyond.

Dr Vignal also worked at the European Commission for three years, in the private office of the Commissioner for trade, and she retains professional interest for Euro-Mediterranean issues.

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