Often, when citing how bad or hostile a certain situation has become, we refer to it as a ‘war zone’. Military conflicts, areas of protest, gang-member clashes, and even personal disputes could be referred to as ‘war zones’. A war zone evokes trauma, violence and horror, and sometimes people use the term as a hyperbole to emphasize their point. But a categorized war zone, or conflict zone, is not to be taken lightly by any means.
Murder, torture, rape, genocide, sickness and enslavement are among some of the afflictions and unspeakable atrocities that take place in war zones. The list of ongoing armed conflicts spans regions all over the globe and includes wars that have lasted for decades with no end in sight. With wars raging in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America, it would seem that travelling to any one of these places to witness the horror first hand would be far too dangerous for any individual. That is, unless you're anything like Chris Jeon, the UCLA student who decided to travel to Libya and joined the rebel forces in the midst of the Libyan revolution.
Most of us who've been lucky enough to be born into a safe and secure nation choose to stay out of harm's way if we can help it, understandably. But that doesn't mean we should remain unaware of the ongoing conflict and daily strife being endured by our fellow man in some of the longest-standing war zones in the world. Here, we have compiled a list of just some of the largest ongoing conflict zones across the globe.
5 Colombian Conflict – 200,00 – 600,000 Casualties
The internal conflict in contemporary Colombia started in 1964 when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) first clashed with the Colombian government and right-wing paramilitaries during a push for widespread agrarian reforms. In 1966, the National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN) – the second largest belligerent group in the country – joined the struggle against the national government when a group of Cuban-trained leftist militants rose up against the income disparity amongst Colombia’s social classes.
Over the proceeding decades, various militant groups would crop up to rebel against the central government for various reasons and with varying goals. As you would expect with national conflicts spanning half a century, the exact numbers are difficult to pin down but it's estimated that anywhere between 200,000 to 600,000 people have died in the decades-long conflict and millions more have been displaced from their homes. As of July 2013, it was reported that a 6 year long government-funded study had found that 'almost a quarter of a million' people had died in the conflict. The Colombian government is currently attempting to find a peace accord with both the FARC and the ELN, but the discussions have been stalled for the better part of a year. The Colombian government has been successful in re-assimilating the M-19 rebel military group in 1990, and is confident that they may be close to finalizing this 50-year-long conflict.
4 Papua Conflict – 400,000 Casualties
The West Papuan independence movement has claimed a total of 400,000 lives since the beginning of the conflict in 1963. For those unfamiliar with the Papuan situation, the island of New Guinea is an island that was part of Dutch rule until 1962.
Currently, the west half of the island, comprising of the province of West Papua, is part of the country of Indonesia, while the right half of the island is the sovereign state of Papua New Guinea. In the island of New Guinea, the indigenous population in the western half of the island has been waging guerilla warfare against the Indonesian government since 1963 for full independence. The indigenous forces are called the West Papua Independence Movement, and they have been fighting a two-front war against the both governments currently in control of the island. Though the clashes have slowed somewhat, there appears to be no end anytime in the near future for this ongoing civil conflict.
3 Somali Civil War – 500,000 Casualties
For the past 23 years, Somalia has been the very definition of a war zone with over 500,000 casualties ravaging the country throughout the country’s massive civil war. The central Somali government collapsed in 1991, following a resistance movement against the autocratic regime of Siad Barre, and since then Somalia has fractioned off into separate regions that have been controlled by a series of warlords, militant groups, pirates, Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups, and a grab-bag of non-aligned belligerents.
Transparency International consistently ranks Somalia as one of, if not the most corrupt country in the world. The rule of law has completely broken down within the country despite any and all efforts from the international community – interventionary operations were attempted by the United Nations, United States, and African Union during the UNOSOM 1, UNITAF, UNOSOM 2, and USC/SSA missions. Throughout the conflict, there have been multiple groups that have attempted to form some semblance of governance, with the Islamic Courts Union coming the closest to achieving a fully functioning government, but the inter-regional warfare has made any long-term pacification goals almost impossible.
2 War in Afghanistan - 1,405,111 – 2,084,468 Casualties
Contrary to popular belief, the ‘War in Afghanistan’ did not start when NATO forces invaded the country in 2001. Though the argument can be made that the Middle Eastern country has always been at war, the conflicts in contemporary Afghanistan started back in 1978 with the USSR’s invasion of the country – yes, this is the same Soviet invasion that saw Rambo fighting alongside the Taliban.
The consistent state of warfare that has engulfed the country since the Soviet invasion has claimed between 1,405,11 and 2,084,468 lives and doesn’t seem to be relenting anytime soon. Following a coup that overthrew the Afghan government, the Soviet Union started a full-scale military invasion of Afghanistan that was confronted by the US-backed Muhajideen which lasted 10 years. Following the Soviet withdrawal, the country had a brief period of governance under a Soviet-backed regime but quickly fell into regional in-fighting following the fall of Kabul.
Amidst this in-fighting, the Taliban quickly rose to power after capturing and controlling multiple provinces and installed an Islamic government to rule the country. Regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan continued to support militant groups who opposed the Taliban’s rule throughout this period. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade center, NATO forces invaded the country and removed the Taliban from power, but the country has since fractured into further infighting and has yet to fully pacify the massive hot-spots currently engulfing the country.
1 Korean Conflict – 4,500,000 Casualties
One might think that the Korean Demilitarized Zone would signify that the conflict on the Korean peninsula has finished or is petering out. But really, both countries have been at war since North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, and the DMZ just represents the tiny slice of peace that keeps both countries from absolutely obliterating each other. Under the rule of Kim Il-Sung, North Korean forces attacked the south and made a quick push toward the capital city of Seoul before the involvement of the American army.
During the course of the 64-year war, a bone-crushing 4,500,000 people have died during the conflicts – making this the largest and bloodiest ongoing conflict in recent human history. Both Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un have maintained the country’s position pitted against their southern neighbours and have spent the last few decades arming the country in anticipation of its next clash with South Korea. Despite the country’s backwards government, their possession of nuclear weapons means that North Korea is not a threat to be ignored. Even the slightest wrong move from either government could be the nuclear spark that ignites a dangerous war.