Rebels Gain Steam in Southern Syria

Rebels Gain Steam in Southern Syria

Protesters recently took to the streets in Sweida, a southern province with a mostly Druze population that has remained securely in government hands throughout the civil war.

Syria is in a deep economic crisis that saw its currency plunge to a record 15,500 Syrian pounds to the dollar last week in a rapidly accelerating free-fall. It traded at 47 pounds to the dollar at the start of the conflict 12 years ago. A recent gasoline price hike triggered large-scale anti-government rallies in the province last week. “The people want the downfall of the regime!” a large demonstration shouted in unison at one protest in the provincial capital of Sweida, according to Suwaida 24, an activist collective reporting on the protests. A boy in another town carried a cardboard sign that read, “Why did you make the crisps more expensive?” — a reference to rising food prices.

Syrian authorities have not publicly commented on the protests. The pro-government daily Al-Watan reported on Tuesday that demonstrators had disrupted the work of banks, government institutions, and bakeries.

Ethnic and Political Tension in Syria

In many Southwest Asian countries, almost everyone belongs to a single ethnic group. For its entire history as an independent nation, Syria has been different. The major Syrian ethnicities include:

  • Sunni Muslims: The differences between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims date back to a dispute over the Prophet Muhammad’s successors. The division is somewhat similar to the difference between a Protestant and a Catholic in the West. Most Islamic countries are at least 90% Sunni Muslim. But Syria is only about 70% Sunni Muslim.
  • Kurds: The Kurds are basically Islamic mountain people who live mostly in Syria, Iran, Turkey, and Iraq. Like the mountain people in the United States, the Kurds have their own way of doing things, such as their own language and their own religion, which is basically a mixture of Islam and Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion that resembles Christianity.
  • Christians: Syria has one of the largest Christian minorities in the Arab world. Historically, Christians and Muslims have had a very difficult time getting along with one another. This feud might be the most serious ethnic conflict in Syria, and it is one that will not get any better any time soon.
  • Druze: Linguistically and ethnically, Druze are Arabs. But, somewhat like the Kurds, they practice a monotheistic religion that incorporates many beliefs from Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, as well as Greek philosophy and Hinduism. The Druze are very protective of one another.

We know firsthand that such diverse ethnic and religious groups often do not get along well with each other. We also know firsthand that these conflicts often become violent. Contractors in Syria are thrust into this unstable world. 

The ultra-secret Sykes-Picot agreement between the French and British added political tensions to these ethnic tensions. This agreement also divided the Kurds among several different nations, as mentioned above. More importantly, for purposes of this blog, the Sykes-Picot agreement essentially split Syria, or what would become Syria, into two countries, exacerbating the already serious ethnic tensions in the area.

In 1917, World War I looked like it would go on indefinitely with some occasional breaks, much like the Hundred Years War between England and France. This time, these two rivals were on the same side. But instead of focusing on their enemies, they divided the spoils of a war they were losing at the time.

Sykes and Picot divided the Middle Eastern territories of the Ottoman Empire between Great Britain and France. Without giving any thought to the people who lived there, the negotiators drew a line that divided the territory in half. This line basically straddled what would one day become Syria.

Contractors in Syria

Ethnic and political tensions contributed to the Syrian Civil War. Somewhat similarly, contractors in Syria have a two-part mission.

During battle, contractors support regular servicemembers. Contractors escort supply convoys, gather intelligence, and provide security at American military installations. Furthermore, behind the scenes, contractors keep helicopters and drones flying, ensure that all weapons are ready to fire, and otherwise give troops in the field the edge they need.

Under U.S. law, contractors cannot directly assist in offensive operations. But they indirectly assist because they take care of all these chores that would otherwise siphon resources away from other areas.

After the battle, most regular servicemembers are redeployed elsewhere. But for private military contractors, the work is just beginning. Unless rebuilding goes well, the civil war will most likely restart.

According to some estimates, rebuilding in Syria will cost more than the civil war. There is much to be done, starting with large capital projects like hospitals and power plants. Restoring such basic services is priority one in a rebuilding effort. This restoration lures refugees home. Then, work begins on public buildings, giving children a place to go to school and adults a place to work.

Security contractors are usually just as important as construction contractors. A sudden attack could put a project months behind schedule or maybe derail the project altogether.

Injury Compensation Available

Combat and non-combat roles are very dangerous. The Defense Base Act replaces lost wages and pays reasonably necessary medical bills. Disputes as to the amount of compensation are common in these cases.

The victim’s average weekly wage is the basis for the lost wage replacement benefit. For an insurance company adjuster, AWW calculations are easy. Take the last five or six pay stubs and divide by five or six.

An accurate calculation is much harder. Some wages do not show up on the net pay line. These non-cash wages include housing allowances and per diem payments. Victims deserve compensation for all these losses. 

Furthermore, a prior average does not account for future changes. If John’s injury causes him to miss time and therefore miss a bonus, he deserves compensation for that loss as well.

As for medical payments, bills usually are not reasonably necessary or unnecessary based on the treating physician’s or insurance adjuster’s opinion. Usually, a Defense Base Act attorney partners with an independent physician. This professional typically reviews the medical records and usually examines the victim. Then, s/he gives an expert opinion as to what expenses were reasonably necessary. That extra preparation and presentation is time-consuming. But it usually means additional benefits.

For more information about the DBA process, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.