Syria: Who is fighting and why?

My students just watched Salam Neighbor, an excellent documentary about living in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. They loved the film and were impressed by the hopeful stories of the refugees.¬†Questions started flooding in…

How did the war start?

Why hasn’t the war ended?

Who is involved?

Most of the answers to these questions are difficult to explain to adults let alone to 7th graders. I attempted to explain.

Well, it is like a civil war. 

But, aren’t the United States and Russia involved?

Yes, they are fighting primarily on different sides.

What does ISIS have to do with the war?

Oh my! A simple explanation clearly was backfiring on me as I attempted to explain this very complicated war to my students. Luckily, I found a video from Vox called Syria’s war: Who is fighting and why. The short video outlines how the war began and the different governments, terrorists groups, and foreign powers that are involved. The maps, timelines, and images used in the video make it easy to follow even for 7th graders.

Unfortunately there is no way to make the explanation of this conflict easy for any age group, but the video helped my students to walk away from class with a better understanding than before. Now they can also easily understand why refugees have been in camps for years with no way to return home anytime soon.

Teaching Tips

  • Pause the video throughout. You can use the paused image in the video to explain the different sides of the war.
  • Follow up with another article that might explain the start of the war. Even though the video will help promote understanding, this event is so complicated that it warrants another look.



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