A ‘’Civil War’’ can be defined as a violent clash inside the boundary of a particular country fought and initiated by organized groups that aim nothing but to take power at their desired regions of the country or in order to change the existing government policies. The term ‘’Civil War ‘’originated from the Latin word bellum civile, used to refer to the several civil wars of the Roman Empire around the 1st Century BC. Civil wars result in high number of casualties and are often packed with high-intensity conflict involving regular and armed forces. Civil War is something that has been going on from the ancient medieval times and is still in fashion for some of the world’s nastiest and notorious groups.
It’s a little hard to believe that all that we have longed for in the past and all that we’ve lost in the process of getting here; hasn’t really taught us anything or have we failed to learn? The irony is we believe that we are the most supreme beings in the world, created by and in the likeness of God himself; and still we’re fighting each other for power in these never-ending bloodbaths known as Civil War. So, here we have the collection of the Top 10 biggest Civil Wars of all times. The list is compiled from only those Civil Wars that have occurred after the Second World War.
10. Greek Civil War (1946-1949)
One of the first ever conflicts of the Cold War, fought for 3 years from 1946 to 1949 between the Greek government army backed by the United Kingdom and the United States against the Democracy Army of Greece (DSE) backed by Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Albania; the war is often used to represent the first example of postwar British and American involvement in internal politics of a foreign county. The cause of the civil war lies in the divisions created during WWII over which side to support. With over a thousand of civilians and army soldiers dead, the war left Greece in ruins, and in even greater economic distress than it had been following the end of German Occupation.
9. Colombia/La Violencia (1949-1958)
A decade long civil war in the rural country of Colombia was fought between the Colombian Conservative Party and the Colombian Liberal Party all because of the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a Liberal Party presidential candidate who was very popular among mainstream Colombian society. His murder provoked the Bogotazo, simply meaning intense rioting that lasted ten hours and killed around 5,000 people. The Death toll for the Colombian Civil War is believed to be at least 200,000 people. La Violencia is Spanish for the word violence.
8. Vietnam War (1955-1975)
Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War or the Vietnam Conflict went on for more than two long decades. Although the war was fought solely in Vietnam, this period of American involvement in Vietnam is known as the American War. It was basically a follow up of the First Indochina War, fought between the North Vietnam, supported by – China and other communist allies against the government of South Vietnam supported by the United States and other anti-communist countries. Over 430,000 South Vietnamese civilians died in the war in addition to the 200,000 men during the war. The total casualties calculated for the whole of Vietnam for the entire war period was around a staggering 1,141,000.
7. The Troubles/Northern Ireland (1969-1998)
Still considered to be ongoing by some extremist minority groups, Troubles is the most commonly used name for the ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland that affected the Republic of Ireland, England and mainland Europe many of times in history and continues to do so till date. It started in the 60s and more than 3,500 have been killed since then. The main cause of the war was a religious issue that resulted in conflicts between the Nationalist/Catholic minorities, against the Unionist/Protestant majority in the Republic of Ireland.
6. The Angolan Civil War (1975-2002)
A major civil conflict which occurred in the African state of Angola immediately after it became an independent state from Portugal in November in the year 1975. Prior to the Civil War, the Angolan War of Independence had taken place during 1961-1974. The war was a power struggle between two former liberation movement parties, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). With over 21 years of on and off fighting, the war had a total of 500,000 deaths in addition to over a million casualties who were internally displaced.
5. Afghan Civil War (1978-present)
Another war for ending a communist regime, fought in Afghanistan when the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) took power in the Saur revolution on April 27, 1978. The war in its initial years was fought between the Soviet Union and the Afghanistan resistance forces, known as the mujahideen. As the mujahideen were backed by United States and Saudi Arabia, the Soviet-backed by the communist regime of Afghan had to eventually withdraw its troops in February, 1989. This gave rise to the Taliban backed militarily by Pakistan’s army and enforced by several Al-Qaeda fighters from Arab countries. All in all at its latter years, the purpose of the war had been to defeat Al-Qaeda somehow, remove Taliban from power and create a stable democratic state; which still seems like a big deal, even after so many years.
4. Salvadoran Civil War/El Salvador (1979-1991)
It is mostly a story of years of power struggles against many conquistadors, empires, dictatorships and world powers. In 1979, the start of the Salvadoran Civil war the reformist group, Revolutionary Government Junta took power, this caused the extreme left and the extreme right to disagree with the government and the rapid rate of political violence soon turned into a raging civil war. One of the most notorious massacres of the war was the El Mozote massacre in December of the year 1981. The war ended with the signing of a peace agreement the Chapultepec Peace Accords.
3. Sri lanka Civil War (1983-2009)
A war that killed over a 100,000 people during its course fought on the small island of Sri Lanka between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, better known as the Tamil Tigers; a separatist militant organization against the Sri Lankan Military that defeated the Tigers in May 2009 bringing an end to the war. The war caused significant hardships for the population, environment and mostly the economy of the country at that time. With the involvement of the Indian Peace-Keeping Force from 1987, the conflict appeared to fade away and end of all the misery seemed possible when a cease fire was declared in Dec, 2001. In the end the LITE were defeated and Sri Lankan claimed Sri Lanka to have eradicated terrorism from its own soil.
2. Colombian Conflict (1964-present)
A rather low intensity but perhaps one of the longest conflicts in the history of civil wars, the Colombian Conflict began in the year 1964 between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the National Liberation Army (ELN). The war if traced back, has its historical roots in the conflict La Violencia , which was fueled by the 1948 assasination of populist political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. The actual reason for fighting however varies from group to group. Some claim to be fighting for the rights of the poor in Colombia and the practice of socialism, whereas some were seeking order, stability and protection of their rights and interests. The death toll of the entire war period has been 250,000 individuals till date with over a million displaced.
1. Syrian Civil War (2011-present)
An ongoing conflict between the loyal forces of the Syrian Ba’ath Party government and those seeking to get rid of it; the Syrian war started with demonstrations against the present Ba’ath family government that has been holding on to the Syrian presidency from the year 1971. Everything about the Syrian Civil War is haywire, with clashes taking all over the place with no primary fronts and a figurative war between the Syrian Army against the peaceful demonstrators turned armed oppositions of a psychologically disturbed Syria. According to the United Nations, the death toll updates on June, 2013 was a horrifying 100,000 deaths all together; with most of them being innocent Syrian women and children. Most of the countries in the world have despised the Syrian government’s decision to use violence against the protestors and the UN investigators have concluded that the government’s abuses in Syria are the greatest in gravity, scale and frequency.
Final Conclusion: Civil Wars have happened several of times in almost all the countries in the world. Some for the blinding thirst of power and then there are those who wanted to change the course of the generational ignorance in their societies into a revolutionary era free of all the ills and wrong doings. Whatever the cause maybe, these wars have undoubtedly left deep scars on people’s minds and their perceptions about the world around them and how fast it can change.
Nikhil is musician by choice, writer by profession. Currently, studying Bachelors in Hospitality.