The War on Syrian Girls 221
that started in February to March of 2011.14 Hundreds of armed groups and militias have joined
the conflict, including a number of foreign states that have directly intervened, either with or
without governmental consent.15 The various confrontations between the Syrian government and
these rebel forces have caused large-scale civilian casualties, leading to many Syrians seeking
refuge in nearby countries.16 The international community attempted to step in through an
intervention by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ("NATO") and its forces.17 The Syrian
rebellion then took hold and began killing civilians by the thousands, ultimately causing the
United Nations Security Council to retract its NATO efforts.18 As of late October 2016, the
Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad was still in control of the Syrian capital,
Damascus; the machinery of government armed forces; much of the western part of the country;
and almost all of the coastal region.19 The President is supported within Syria by a large pro-government militia known as the National Defense Forces.20 Also, Iran and the Russian
Federation both have active military forces in the conflict in support of President al-Assad's
The Syrian rebel opposition consists of a large number of disparate armed groups and
local militias, which can roughly be divided into two main coalitions.22 These do not include
either the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ("ISIS", also referred to as ISIL), or the Kurdish
opposition, both of which exist as separate entities.23 The first coalition is loosely composed of a
mixture of secular and Islamist armed groups that together form the mainstream opposition.24
The secular groups include the Free Syrian Army ("FSA"), which was formed in the early stages
of the anti-government movement in 2011 and contains former members of Syria's armed
forces.25 The Islamist groups are organized into the "Islamic Front"; the secular and Islamist
groups cooperate as one against the Syrian government, and have each received a significant
amount of support from foreign entities in the form of arms, training, and finances.26 Some of the
opposition groups in this first coalition have clashed with one another; a number are represented
in the Syrian National Coalition, which has been recognized by some eighty states and the
European Union as the "legitimate representatives of the Syrian people."27
The second coalition is made up of a variety of jihadist-armed groups associated with the
Al-Qaida movement, the most significant of which is the Al-Nusra Front and its allies.28 The Al-Nusra Front is vehemently opposed to the government, and has taken control of areas formerly in
14 Terry D. Gill, Classifying the Conflict in Syria, 92 INT'L L. STUD. 353, 354 (2016).
15 Id. at 354-55.
16 Johnson et al., supra note 3.
17 Thilo Marauhn, Sailing Close to the Wind: Human Rights Council Fact-Finding
in Situations of Armed Conflict -- The Case of Syria, 43 CAL. W. INT'L L. J. 401, 412 (2013).
18 Spencer Zifcak, The Responsibility to Protect after Libya and Syria, 13 MELB. J.
INT'L L. 59, 80 (2012)
19 Gill, supra note 14, at 355.
21 Id. at 356.
22 Id. at 357.
25 Gill, supra note 14, at 357.
27 Id. at 357.