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Was the March 2011 Revolution Triggered by Drought and Migration? 



Propagandists and apologists of the Assad regime contend that the drought that struck Syria’s northeast region between 2006 and 2010, and the ensuing migration of a million people to cities all around the country, were among the main factors that triggered the March 2011 revolution.[1]Indeed, the entire Eastern Mediterranean was subjected to drought during the same period, but only Syria sank into civil war. The following shows that the government’s contentions are false, on both accounts.

 

Drought: Between 2006 and 2010, only one year, 2008, had a serious drop in wheat production (from 4 million tons in 2007 to 2.1 million tons in 2008). However, the next year, 2009, wheat production jumped to 3.6 million tons. In 2010, the volume was maintained at 3.6 million tons, then increased to 3.9 million tons in 2011. The following table shows wheat production from 2001 to 2011:

 

                                                                                                                    Wheat Production in Syria (2001-2011)[2]

Market Year

Production

Unit of Measure

Growth Rate

2001

4745

(1000 MT)

52.82 %

2002

4775

(1000 MT)

0.63 %

2003

4913

(1000 MT)

2.89 %

2004

4537

(1000 MT)

-7.65 %

2005

4669

(1000 MT)

2.91 %

2006

4200

(1000 MT)

-10.04 %

2007

4041

(1000 MT)

-3.79 %

2008

2139

(1000 MT)

-47.07 %

2009

3600

(1000 MT)

68.30 %

2010

3600

(1000 MT)

0.00 %

2011

3850

(1000 MT)

6.94 %

 


Migration: Migration from rural areas to urban centers in Syria has been taking place since 1960. Data from the World Bank show that the ratio of rural to total population has been declining gradually and steadily over the past 50 years. Between 1960 and 2008 the ratio of rural to total population actually dropped by 18% (63% to 45%). The drop from 2008 to 2011 was a mere 1% (45% to 44%). The largest movement from rural communities to urban centers took place during the 1960s, dropping by a huge 6% (from 63% in 1960 to 57% in 1970). That period belonged to the 1963 military coup, which relocated Alawite villagers to cities, especially Damascus, to fill army and civilian government positions.  

 

Syria’s Rural Population (% of total population)[3]

Year

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

%

63

57

53

51

48

46

46

46

45

45

44

44

A study titled Climate change and the Syrian civil war revisited found thatThere is no clear and reliable evidence that anthropogenic climate change was a factor in Syria's pre-civil war drought; this drought did not cause anywhere near the scale of migration that is often alleged, and there exists no solid evidence that drought migration pressures in Syria contributed to civil war onset.”[4]



[1]Mark Fiscetti, “Climate Change Hastened Syria's Civil War,” Scientific American,(March 2, 2015).

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-hastened-the-syrian-war/

[2]Index Mundi,Syrian Arab Republic Wheat Production by Year, as sourced from United States Department of Agriculture.” 

https://www.indexmundi.com/agriculture/?country=sy&commodity=wheat&graph=production

[3]The World Bank, ”Rural Population (% of total population), Syria.”

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.RUR.TOTL.ZS?locations=sy

[4]Climate Change and the Syrian Civil War Revisited”,Elsevier, Volume 60, (September 2017), PP. 232-244.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0962629816301822 




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