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2011 Syrian uprising

2011 Syrian uprising

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The 2011 Syrian uprising is an ongoing internal conflict occurring in Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. Protests started on 26 January 2011, and escalated into an uprising
Uprising
-In music:* Uprising * Uprising , album by Concord Dawn* Uprising , album by Entombed* Uprising , album by Universal Poplab...

 by 15 March 2011. The uprising, which the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 considers a civil war
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

, is influenced by concurrent protests in the region
Arab Spring
The Arab Spring , otherwise known as the Arab Awakening, is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on Saturday, 18 December 2010...

, and has been described as "unprecedented." The demands of protesters include for President Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

 to step down; for the ruling Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party to allow other political parties; for equal rights for Kurdish people
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

; and for broad political freedoms, such as freedom of press, speech and assembly.

Like the revolutionary movements in Tunisia and Egypt
2011 Egyptian revolution
The 2011 Egyptian revolution took place following a popular uprising that began on Tuesday, 25 January 2011 and is still continuing as of November 2011. The uprising was mainly a campaign of non-violent civil resistance, which featured a series of demonstrations, marches, acts of civil...

, it has taken the form of protests of various types, including marches and hunger strikes, as well as rioting, vandalism of government property, and vandalism of private property, in a sustained campaign of civil resistance
Civil resistance
The term civil resistance, alongside the term nonviolent resistance, is used to describe political action that relies on the use of non-violent methods by civil groups to challenge a particular power, force, policy or regime. Civil resistance operates through appeals to the adversary, pressure and...

 escalating into rebellion and the subsequent recognition of the conflict as a civil war, according to the international politival body, the UN.

As protests continued, the Syrian government used tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s and snipers to force people off the streets. Water and electricity were shut off and security forces began confiscating flour and food in particularly restive areas, including Daraa, Douma
Duma, Syria
Duma is a Syrian city administratively belonging to Rif Dimashq and the Duma District. Duma has an altitude of 428 meters. It has a population of 117,679 as of 2007, making it the ninth largest city per geographical entity in Syria. Duma is a very conservative Muslim city....

 and Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

. During the course of the uprising, the Syrian Army
Syrian Army
The Syrian Army, officially called the Syrian Arab Army, is the land force branch of the Syrian Armed Forces. It is the dominant military service of the four uniformed services, controlling the senior most posts in the armed forces, and has the greatest manpower, approximately 80 percent of the...

 has stormed the cities of Daraa
Siege of Daraa
The Siege of Daraa was a military operation, conducted by the Syrian military, in the city of Daraa against what the government called terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

, Douma, Baniyas
Siege of Baniyas
The Siege of Baniyas was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Baniyas against what the government calls terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

, Hama
Siege of Hama
The Siege of Hama, also known as the Hama Blockade, is a major arena of the 2011 Syrian uprising against president Bashar al-Assad. The city of Hama, in central Syria, erupted in violence on 3 June 2011 when tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to express their opposition to the...

, Homs
Siege of Homs
The Siege of Homs is a military operation being conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Homs against what the government calls terrorist groups. The Syrian opposition however have called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors...

, Talkalakh
Siege of Talkalakh
The Siege of Talkalakh was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Talkalakh against what the government called terrorist groups...

, Rastan, Jisr ash-Shughur
Siege of Jisr al-Shughur
The Siege of Jisr al-Shughour was an operation conducted by the Syrian security forces in the city of Jisr ash-Shugur against what the government called terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protesters as part of the 2011 Syrian uprising.-Siege:On 4...

, Deir ez-Zor
Siege of Deir ez-Zor
The siege of Deir ez-Zour was military operation, part of the Syrian uprising, in the Syrian governorate of Deir ez-Zour cities, including Abu kamal and Deir ez-Zour. The operation started due to massive protests against the government in the area since spring 2011...

 and Latakia
Siege of Latakia
The siege of Latakia is an ongoing military operation during the 2011 Syrian uprising. It started in April 2011, but intensified dramatically in the early morning of 13 August 2011, when Syrian troops and tanks entered the city of Latakia, on Syria's Mediterranean coast.-Background:Latakia had been...

, among other towns, and occupied parts of Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

. The violence escalated as the crisis wore on, with the killing reaching its highest level in early August. Activists, fleeing civilians, and soldiers who defected claimed that soldiers who refuse to fire on civilians are executed by the Syrian Army
Syrian Army
The Syrian Army, officially called the Syrian Arab Army, is the land force branch of the Syrian Armed Forces. It is the dominant military service of the four uniformed services, controlling the senior most posts in the armed forces, and has the greatest manpower, approximately 80 percent of the...

. The Syrian government has denied the reports of defections and blames "armed gangs" for causing trouble.

More than 4,000 people have been killed, many more injured, and thousands of protesters have been detained. Dozens of detainees have reportedly been tortured and killed.

Since the beginning of the uprising, the Syrian government has made several concessions, though widely considered trivial by protesters demanding more meaningful reform. On 21 April, the government repealed an emergency law that had been in place since 1963, which allowed the government sweeping authority to suspend constitutional rights. Yet crackdowns on protesters have continued to heighten since the beginning of the uprising. On 24 July, a draft law was created, to be debated by parliament, to allow more political parties, under the conditions that they were not based on religious, tribal or ethnic beliefs and does not discriminate against gender or race. Protesters have dismissed the law as superficial, as Article 8 of the Syrian Constitution, which grants the Ba'ath party the role of leader of the state and society, would need to be repealed.

There have been several international reactions to the uprising
International reactions to the 2011 Syrian uprising
The international reactions to the 2011 Syrian uprising concern the response of international bodies, foreign governments, non-governmental organisations and petroleum multinational corporations headquartered outside of Syria...

. The Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

, the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Gulf Cooperation Council
Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf
The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf , also known as the Gulf Cooperation Council , is a political and economic union of the Arab states bordering the Persian Gulf and constituting the Arabian Peninsula, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates...

, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 and the United States have among others condemned the use of violence against the protesters. The government of Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Assad's government's regional and political ally, suggested the demonstrations were a foreign plot, but President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has since called for reforms and an end to violence. However, military intervention has been generally ruled out by foreign powers. The Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

 has suspended Syria's membership over the government's response to the crisis.

History



The ruling Ba'ath Party first came to power in a 1963 military coup d'état, although the country remained politically unstable until 1970 when Defence Minister
Minister of Defence (Syria)
The Ministry of Defense is a government ministry office of the Syrian Arab Republic, responsible for defense affairs in Syria.-Ministers of Defense since 1963:*Muhammad Umran *Hafez al-Assad *Mustafa Tlass...

 Hafez al-Assad
Hafez al-Assad
Hafez ibn 'Ali ibn Sulayman al-Assad or more commonly Hafez al-Assad was the President of Syria for three decades. Assad's rule consolidated the power of the central government after decades of coups and counter-coups, such as Operation Wappen in 1957 conducted by the Eisenhower administration and...

 seized power
1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution
The 1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution, better known as the Syrian Corrective Movement, was a military-pragmatist faction's takeover within the Ba'ath party regime of Syria on November 13, 1970, bringing Hafez al-Assad to power.-Background:...

 and declared himself President, a position he would hold until his death in 2000. Syria was under Emergency Law from 1963 to 2011, which effectively suspended most constitutional protections for its citizens. Syrian governments justified this state of emergency
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

 by pointing to the fact that Syria was in a state of war with Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. Since then, Syrian citizens may only approve the President by referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 and do not hold multi-party elections for the legislature. Despite internal power changes, such as the 1966 coup and the 1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution
1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution
The 1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution, better known as the Syrian Corrective Movement, was a military-pragmatist faction's takeover within the Ba'ath party regime of Syria on November 13, 1970, bringing Hafez al-Assad to power.-Background:...

, the Ba'ath Party has remained the sole authority in Syria.

After the 1970 Revolution
1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution
The 1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution, better known as the Syrian Corrective Movement, was a military-pragmatist faction's takeover within the Ba'ath party regime of Syria on November 13, 1970, bringing Hafez al-Assad to power.-Background:...

, President Hafez al-Assad
Hafez al-Assad
Hafez ibn 'Ali ibn Sulayman al-Assad or more commonly Hafez al-Assad was the President of Syria for three decades. Assad's rule consolidated the power of the central government after decades of coups and counter-coups, such as Operation Wappen in 1957 conducted by the Eisenhower administration and...

 led Syria for nearly 30 years, banning any opposing political party and any opposition candidate in any election. In 1982, at the climax of a six-year Islamic insurgency
Islamic uprising in Syria
The Islamic uprising in Syria was a series of revolts and armed insurgency by Sunni Islamists, mainly members of the Muslim Brotherhood from 1976 until 1982. The uprising was aimed against the authority of the Ba'ath Party-controlled government of Syria, in what has been called "long campaign of...

 throughout the country, Hafez al-Assad conducted a scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

 policy against the town of Hama
Hama
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria north of Damascus. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria—behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs—with a population of 696,863...

 to quell an uprising by the Sunni Muslim community, including the Muslim Brotherhood
History of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria
Muslim Brotherhood in Syria was founded in the late 1930s or mid 1940s. In the first decade or so of independence it was part of the legal opposition, and in the 1961 parliamentary elections it won ten seats. After the 1963 coup brought the secularist, pan-Arabist Baath Party to power, it was banned...

 and others. Tens of thousands of people, including 10–80,000 civilians, were killed in the Hama massacre
Hama massacre
The Hama massacre occurred in February 1982, when the Syrian army, under the orders of the president of Syria Hafez al-Assad, conducted a scorched earth policy against the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Sunni Muslim community against the regime of al-Assad...

.

The issue of Hafez al-Assad's succession prompted the 1999 Latakia incident
1999 Latakia protests
1999 Latakia protests were violent protests and armed clashes, which erupted in Latakia, Syria following 1998 People's Assembly's Elections. The violent events were an explosion of a long-running feud between Hafez al-Assad and his younger brother Rifaat...

, when violent protests and armed clashes erupted following 1998 People's Assembly's Elections. The violent events were an explosion of a long-running feud between Hafez al-Assad
Hafez al-Assad
Hafez ibn 'Ali ibn Sulayman al-Assad or more commonly Hafez al-Assad was the President of Syria for three decades. Assad's rule consolidated the power of the central government after decades of coups and counter-coups, such as Operation Wappen in 1957 conducted by the Eisenhower administration and...

 and his younger brother Rifaat
Rifaat al-Assad
Rifaat al-Assad is the younger brother of the former President of Syria, Hafez al-Assad, and the uncle of the current President Bashar al-Assad, all of whom come from the minority Alawite Muslim sect. He was born in the village of Qardaha, near Lattakia in western Syria. He is perhaps best known...

. Two people were killed in fire exchanges between Syrian police and Rifaat's supporters during a police crack-down on Rifaat's port compound in Latakia. According to opposition sources, denied by the government, the protests resulted in hundreds of dead and injured. Hafez al-Assad died one year later, from pulmonary fibrosis
Pulmonary fibrosis
Pulmonary fibrosis is the formation or development of excess fibrous connective tissue in the lungs. It is also described as "scarring of the lung".-Symptoms:Symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis are mainly:...

. He was succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

, who was appointed after a constitutional amendment lowered the age requirement for President from 40 to his age of 34.

Bashar, who speaks English and some French and has a British-born Syrian wife
Asma Assad
Asma al-Assad ; born 11 August 1975; née Asma Fawaz al-Akhras , is the British-born First Lady of Syria. She moved to Syria to marry President Bashar al-Assad in December 2000, having previously pursued a career in investment banking....

, was said to have "inspired hopes" for reform, and a "Damascus Spring
Damascus Spring
The Damascus Spring was a period of intense political and social debate in Syria which started after the death of President Hafiz al-Asad in June 2000 and continued to some degree until autumn 2001, when most of the activities associated with it were suppressed by the government.- Background...

" of intense political and social debate took place from July 2000 to August 2001. The period was characterized by the emergence of numerous political forums or salons
Salon (gathering)
A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation. These gatherings often consciously followed Horace's definition of the aims of poetry, "either to...

 where groups of like minded people met in private houses to debate political and social issues. The phenomenon of salons spread rapidly in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 and to a lesser extent in other cities. Political activists, such as, Riad Seif
Riad Seif
Riad Seif is Syrian political dissident, formerly a member of the Parliament of Syria and prominent businessman, who founded and lead the Forum for National Dialogue. Seif was elected to parliament in 1994 as an independent and again in 1998...

, Haitham al-Maleh
Haitham al-Maleh
Haitham al-Maleh is a leading Syrian human rights activist and former judge. He is an outspoken critic of the current Syrian regime under Bashar al-Assad and has been imprisoned by the Syrian government as a political prisoner on several occasions since the 1960s...

, Kamal al-Labwani
Kamal al-Labwani
Dr. Kamal al-Labwani is a Syrian doctor and artist, considered one of the most prominent members of the Syrian opposition movement. He was imprisoned in Adra Prison, near Damascus until November 15, 2011, according to state media. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience.- Life...

, Riyad al-Turk
Riyad al-Turk
Riyad al-Turk is a prominent Syrian opposition leader, former political prisoner for about 20 years in Syria, and supporter of democracy, who has been called "the Old Man of Syrian opposition." He was secretary general of the Syrian Communist Party since its foundation in 1973 until 2005...

 and Aref Dalila
Aref Dalila
Professor Aref Dalila is a Syrian economics professor and former Dean of the Faculty of Economics in Damascus University. He was arrested for his political activity during the Damascus Spring period.-Life:...

 were important in mobilizing the movement. The most famous of the forums were the Riad Seif Forum
Riad Seif Forum
The Riad Seif Forum is or was a political forum, or muntadat, founded by "businessman-turned-dissident" Riad Seif, promoting political debate and freedom in Syria...

 and the Jamal al-Atassi Forum
Jamal al-Atassi
Jamal Al-Atassi was a Syrian nationalist, politician and author. He was one of the earliest ideologues of the nascent Syrian Baath Party, which he joined soon after it was founded...

. The Damascus Spring ended in August 2001 with the arrest and imprisonment of ten leading activists who had called for democratic elections and a campaign of civil disobedience. Renewed opposition activity occurred in October 2005 when activist Michel Kilo
Michel Kilo
Michel Kilo is a Syrian Christian writer and human rights activist, who has been called "one of Syria's leading opposition thinkers."-Career:He was born in the Syrian Mediterranean coastal city and province of Latakia in 1940....

 launched with leading opposition figures the Damascus Declaration
Damascus Declaration
The Damascus Declaration was a statement of unity by Syrian opposition figures issued in October 2005. It criticized the Syrian government regime as `authoritarian, totalitarian and cliquish,` and called for `peaceful, gradual,` reform `founded on accord, and based on dialogue and recognition of...

, which criticized the Syrian government as "authoritarian, totalitarian and cliquish" and called for democratic reform.

Kurdish-Arab riots have prompted increased tension in Syria's Kurdish areas since 2004. That year the Al-Qamishli riots
2004 Al-Qamishli riots
The 2004 Al-Qamishli riots refer to riots by Syrian Kurds in the northeastern city of al-Qamishli in March 2004. The riots started during a chaotic football match, when some people started raising Kurdish national flags, turning the match to political conflict...

 against the government began in the northeastern city of Al-Qamishli. During a chaotic soccer match, some people raised Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

 flags, and the match turned into a political conflict. In a brutal reaction by Syrian police and clashes between Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

 and Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 groups, at least 30 people were killed, with some claims indicating a casualty count of about 100 people. Smaller clashes with Kurdish protesters and government measures have continued since.

The al-Assad family
Assad family
The Assad family has ruled Syria, since Hafez al-Assad became Syrian President in 1971 and established an authoritarian regime under the control of the Baath party. After his death in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad succeeded him....

 is a member of the minority Alawite
Alawite
The Alawis, also known as Alawites, Nusayris and Ansaris are a prominent mystical and syncretic religious group centred in Syria who are a branch of Shia Islam.-Etymology:...

 sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam that numbers an estimated 6–12 percent of the Syrian
Syrian people
The Syrian people are the inhabitants and citizens of Syria. Syrians are tied together by geography, linguistic heritage, religion, and similar Eastern Mediterranean ethnicities...

 population, and has maintained "a tight grip" on Syria's security services, generating "deep resentment" among the Sunni Muslims that make up about three quarters of Syria's population. Minority Kurds have also protested and complained. Al-Assad declared that his state was immune from the kinds of mass protests that took place in Egypt. Bouthaina Shaaban
Bouthaina Shaaban
Bouthaina Shaaban is a Syrian politician and is currently the political and media adviser to the President of Syria. Shaaban served as the first Minister of Expatriates for the Syrian Arab Republic, between 2003 and 2008, and has been described as the Syrian "regime's face to the outside...

, a presidential adviser, blamed Sunni clerics and preachers for inciting Sunnis to revolt, such as Qatar
Qatar
Qatar , also known as the State of Qatar or locally Dawlat Qaṭar, is a sovereign Arab state, located in the Middle East, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its...

-based Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi in a sermon in Doha
Doha
Doha is the capital city of the state of Qatar. Located on the Persian Gulf, it had a population of 998,651 in 2008, and is also one of the municipalities of Qatar...

 on 25 March. According to The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

, the Syrian government has relied "almost exclusively" on Alawite-dominated units of the security services to fight the uprising. His younger brother Maher al-Assad
Maher al-Assad
Maher al-Assad is the brother of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the commander of the Republican Guard and the army's elite Fourth Armored Division, which together with Syria's secret police form the core of the country's security forces...

 commands the army's Fourth Armored Division
Defense companies
The Defense Companies were a paramilitary force in Syria that were controlled by Rifaat al-Assad. Their task was to defend the Assad government, and Damascus, from internal and external attack...

, and his brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, is deputy chief of staff of the army. His family is said to fear that failure to take a hard line on protesters could embolden them, bringing much larger crowds into the streets.

Socio-economics and civil rights



Socio-economic
As with much of the Middle East, high youth unemployment and economic disenfranchisement of young adults has been a significant factor in Syria. A 2007 study by the Dubai School of Government’s Wolfensohn Center for Development, “Youth Exclusion in Syria: Social, Economic, and Institutional Dimensions," examined the aspects of high unemployment rates among young adults ages 15–24 in the country using available jobs data and survey responses. The study found that certain dynamics are particularly acute in Syria, even relative to countries in the region. Though its overall overall unemployment rate has traditionally been about average for the Middle East (about 25%), what distinguishes Syria is that the youth jobless rate has been more than six times higher than the rate among older adults (only 4%); that constitutes “the highest ratio [youth-adult imbalance] among the region’s countries outside the Gulf States.” The average ratio in the Middle East is 3.3, whereas the world average is 3.5. Additionally, the participation rate of Syrian youth in the labor market relative to adults is “substantially lower than the worldwide average (0.66 compared to 0.79 percent)". Demographic trends have exacerbated the problem; according to the study, "the share of youth in the Syrian population peaked at 25.4 percent in 2005, presenting challenges in terms of job creation for young people; and in 2002, unemployed youth made up 77 percent of the working-age unemployed population in Syria." This is in spite of the burgeoning youth population; the study notes that “labor supply growth rates of around 5 percent per year between 1983 and 2003." Survey responses indicated that most youth were actively seeking employment, but more than “75 percent of unemployed youth had been searching for work for over a year.”

Socio-economic complaints have been reported, such as a deterioration in the country's standard of living
Standard of living
Standard of living is generally measured by standards such as real income per person and poverty rate. Other measures such as access and quality of health care, income growth inequality and educational standards are also used. Examples are access to certain goods , or measures of health such as...

, a reduction of state support for the poor resulting from the gradual transition towards a free market
Free market
A free market is a competitive market where prices are determined by supply and demand. However, the term is also commonly used for markets in which economic intervention and regulation by the state is limited to tax collection, and enforcement of private ownership and contracts...

 economy , the erosion of subsidies for basic goods and agriculture, free trade without suitable support to the local industry, and high youth unemployment rates.

Human rights
The state of human rights in Syria
Human rights in Syria
Human rights in Syria have been described as "poor". Since 1963, emergency rule has remained in effect which gives security forces sweeping powers of arrest and detention....

 has long been the subject of harsh criticism from global organizations. The country was under emergency rule
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

 from 1963 until 2011, effectively granting security forces sweeping powers of arrest and detention. After taking power in 1970, Hafez al-Assad quickly purged the government of any political adversaries and asserted his control over all aspects of Syrian society, consolidating his position as the despotic
Despotism
Despotism is a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power. That entity may be an individual, as in an autocracy, or it may be a group, as in an oligarchy...

 statesman of the country. He developed an elaborate cult of personality
Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships...

 and violently repressed any opposition, most notoriously in the 1982 Hama Massacre
Hama massacre
The Hama massacre occurred in February 1982, when the Syrian army, under the orders of the president of Syria Hafez al-Assad, conducted a scorched earth policy against the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Sunni Muslim community against the regime of al-Assad...

 when thousands were killed in order to suppress an Islamic uprising
Islamic uprising in Syria
The Islamic uprising in Syria was a series of revolts and armed insurgency by Sunni Islamists, mainly members of the Muslim Brotherhood from 1976 until 1982. The uprising was aimed against the authority of the Ba'ath Party-controlled government of Syria, in what has been called "long campaign of...

. After his death in 2000 and the succession of his son Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

 to the Presidency, it was hoped that the Syrian government would make concessions toward the development of a more liberal society; this period became known as the Damascus Spring
Damascus Spring
The Damascus Spring was a period of intense political and social debate in Syria which started after the death of President Hafiz al-Asad in June 2000 and continued to some degree until autumn 2001, when most of the activities associated with it were suppressed by the government.- Background...

. However, al-Assad is widely regarded to have been unsuccessful in implementing democratic change, with a 2010 report from Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 stating that he has failed to improve the state of human rights since taking power ten years prior. All other political parties have remained banned, thereby making Syria a one-party state without free elections.

Rights of expression, association and assembly are strictly controlled in Syria. The authorities harass and imprison human rights activists and other critics of the government, who are oftentimes indefinitely detained and tortured in poor prison conditions. While al-Assad permitted radio stations to play Western pop music, websites such as Amazon.com
Amazon.com
Amazon.com, Inc. is a multinational electronic commerce company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, United States. It is the world's largest online retailer. Amazon has separate websites for the following countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and...

, Facebook, Wikipedia and YouTube were blocked until 1 January 2011, when all citizens were permitted to sign up for high speed internet, and those sites were allowed. However, a 2007 law requires Internet cafe
Internet cafe
An Internet café or cybercafé is a place which provides internet access to the public, usually for a fee. These businesses usually provide snacks and drinks, hence the café in the name...

s to record all comments that users post on online chat
Online chat
Online chat may refer to any kind of communication over the Internet, that offers an instantaneous transmission of text-based messages from sender to receiver, hence the delay for visual access to the sent message shall not hamper the flow of communications in any of the directions...

 forums.

In an interview published 31 January 2011, al-Assad declared it was time to reform, that the protests in Egypt
2011 Egyptian revolution
The 2011 Egyptian revolution took place following a popular uprising that began on Tuesday, 25 January 2011 and is still continuing as of November 2011. The uprising was mainly a campaign of non-violent civil resistance, which featured a series of demonstrations, marches, acts of civil...

, Tunisia
Tunisian revolution
The Tunisian Revolution is an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia. The events began in December 2010 and led to the ousting of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011...

 and Yemen
2011 Yemeni uprising
The 2011 Yemen Uprising followed the initial stages of the Tunisian Revolution and occurred simultaneously with the Egyptian Revolution and other mass protests in the Middle East in early 2011. In its early phase, protests in Yemen were initially against unemployment, economic conditions and...

 indicated a "new era" was coming to the Middle East, and that Arab rulers needed to do more to accommodate their peoples' rising political and economic aspirations.

Women and ethnic minorities have faced discrimination in the public sector. Thousands of Syrian Kurds were denied citizenship in 1962, and their descendants continued to be labeled as "foreigners" until 2011, when 120,000 out of roughly 200,000 stateless Kurds were granted citizenship on 6 April. Because the government is dominated by the Shia Alawite
Alawite
The Alawis, also known as Alawites, Nusayris and Ansaris are a prominent mystical and syncretic religious group centred in Syria who are a branch of Shia Islam.-Etymology:...

 sect, it has had to make some gestures toward the majority Sunni sects and other minority populations in order to retain power.

Timeline




The protest movement in Syria was at first modest, and took a while to gain momentum. The events began on 26 January 2011, when Hasan Ali Akleh from Al-Hasakah
Al-Hasakah
Al-Hasakah...

 poured gasoline on himself and set himself on fire, in the same way Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi
Mohamed Bouazizi
Mohamed Bouazizi was a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on 17 December 2010, in protest of the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation that he reported was inflicted on him by a municipal official and her aides...

 had in Tunis on 17 December 2010. According to eyewitnesses, the action was "a protest against the Syrian government". Two days later, on 28 January 2011, an evening demonstration was held in Ar-Raqqah, to protest the killing of two soldiers of Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

 descent.
On 3 February, a "Day of Rage" was called for in Syria from 4 to 5 February on social media websites Facebook and Twitter. Protesters demanded governmental reform, but most protests took place outside of Syria, and were small. Hundreds marched in Al-Hasakah
Al-Hasakah
Al-Hasakah...

, but Syrian security forces dispersed the protest and arrested dozens of demonstrators. Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

 labeled Syria a "kingdom of silence", concluding that protests would not succeed due to the popularity of President Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

 and concerns over the prospects of insurgency
Insurgency
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

 like that seen in neighboring Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

. A protest in late February at the Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

n Embassy in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 to demonstrate against the government of Muammar Gaddafi
Muammar Gaddafi
Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Gaddafi or "September 1942" 20 October 2011), commonly known as Muammar Gaddafi or Colonel Gaddafi, was the official ruler of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then the "Brother Leader" of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011.He seized power in a...

, facing his own major protests
2011 Libyan civil war
The 2011 Libyan civil war was an armed conflict in the North African state of Libya, fought between forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and those seeking to oust his government. The war was preceded by protests in Benghazi beginning on 15 February 2011, which led to clashes with security...

 in Libya, was met with brutal beatings from Syrian police moving to disperse the demonstration against a friendly regime.
On 6 March, TIME
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine's suggestion that all protests needed to explode into a full-fledged rebellion was a flashpoint. Ribal al-Assad said that it was almost time for Syria to be the next domino
Domino theory
The domino theory was a reason for war during the 1950s to 1980s, promoted at times by the government of the United States, that speculated that if one state in a region came under the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries would follow in a domino effect...

 in the burgeoning Arab Spring
Arab Spring
The Arab Spring , otherwise known as the Arab Awakening, is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on Saturday, 18 December 2010...

. Indeed, on 15 March, the protest movement began to escalate, as simultaneous demonstrations took place in major cities across Syria. Increasingly, the city of Daraa became the focal point for the growing uprising. Over 100,000 people reportedly marched in Daraa on 25 March, but at least 20 protesters were reportedly killed. Protests also spread to other Syrian cities, including Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

, Hama
Hama
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria north of Damascus. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria—behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs—with a population of 696,863...

, Baniyas
Baniyas
Baniyas is a city of northwestern Syria, located at the foot of the hill of Qalaat el-Marqab , 55 km to the south of Latakia and 35 km north of Tartous , and a Catholic titular see under the Latin name of Balanea, which is presently vacant.It is famous for its orchards...

, Jassem, Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 and Latakia
Latakia
Latakia, or Latakiyah , is the principal port city of Syria, as well as the capital of the Latakia Governorate. In addition to serving as a port, the city is a manufacturing center for surrounding agricultural towns and villages...

. Over 70 protesters in total were reported dead. Late in the month, the first signs were seen that the government was willing to make concessions to the protestors, when al-Assad announced the release of as many as 200 political prisoners. An Assad adviser said the emergency law would be lifted, and Assad accepted the official resignation of the government led by Prime Minister Muhammad Naji al-Otari
Muhammad Naji al-Otari
Muhammad Naji al-Otari is a Syrian politician who was Prime Minister of Syria from 2003 to 2011.-Early life, education and career:...

. Assad denied the emergency law would be lifted at the end of March, however.
In April, the uprising became more extensive, and more violent. Protesters were shot at on 1 April, leading to at least 10 deaths. Well over 30 people were killed in a crackdown on protests on 8 April, activists and human rights groups claimed. Tens of thousands of protesters were prevented from entering Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 from Douma
Douma, Lebanon
Douma is a Lebanese village located at an altitude of 1000m, 80 km from Beirut and 30 km from Jbeil and 43 km from Tripoli. Douma is a part of Batroun District and is known for its special location in a valley surrounded by mountains. Almost all its houses are made of red brick...

 on 15 April, though this restriction did not prevent widespread protests in many Syrian cities. Other cities where protesting was particularly strong were in Daraa, Baniyas
Baniyas
Baniyas is a city of northwestern Syria, located at the foot of the hill of Qalaat el-Marqab , 55 km to the south of Latakia and 35 km north of Tartous , and a Catholic titular see under the Latin name of Balanea, which is presently vacant.It is famous for its orchards...

, Al-Qamishli and Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

. There were also protests in Douma and Harasta, suburbs of Damascus. Firing throughout the country resulted 88 deaths among security forces and protesters, making it the bloodiest day so far. tanks and soldiers entered Daraa and Douma. The border with Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 was also closed. According to an activist, 18 people were killed in Daraa. Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

 reported that some soldiers appeared to have been shot by their own comrades-in-arms after refusing orders to fire on protesters. On 29 April, more than 60 protesters were killed in demonstrations across Syria. The United States responded with harsh sanctions against the Syrian government.

As protests continued, the Syrian government used tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s and snipers to force people off the streets. Water and electricity were shut off in the city of Daraa
Siege of Daraa
The Siege of Daraa was a military operation, conducted by the Syrian military, in the city of Daraa against what the government called terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

 and security forces began confiscating flour and food. A similar situation was reported in Homs
Siege of Homs
The Siege of Homs is a military operation being conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Homs against what the government calls terrorist groups. The Syrian opposition however have called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors...

. In May, the Syrian army entered the cities of Baniyas
Siege of Baniyas
The Siege of Baniyas was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Baniyas against what the government calls terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

, Hama
Hama
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria north of Damascus. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria—behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs—with a population of 696,863...

, Homs
Siege of Homs
The Siege of Homs is a military operation being conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Homs against what the government calls terrorist groups. The Syrian opposition however have called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors...

, Talkalakh
Siege of Talkalakh
The Siege of Talkalakh was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Talkalakh against what the government called terrorist groups...

, Latakia
Latakia
Latakia, or Latakiyah , is the principal port city of Syria, as well as the capital of the Latakia Governorate. In addition to serving as a port, the city is a manufacturing center for surrounding agricultural towns and villages...

, the Al-Midan
Al-Midan
Al-Midan is a neighborhood located in Damascus, Syria. It lies just south of the old walled city of Damascus very to close to the modern city center. It's streets and alleys are full of heritage and history due to the age of the neighborhood...

 and Duma
Duma, Syria
Duma is a Syrian city administratively belonging to Rif Dimashq and the Duma District. Duma has an altitude of 428 meters. It has a population of 117,679 as of 2007, making it the ninth largest city per geographical entity in Syria. Duma is a very conservative Muslim city....

 districts of Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

, and several other towns.

Baniyas was besieged
Siege of Baniyas
The Siege of Baniyas was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Baniyas against what the government calls terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

 in early May, and divided into zones of de facto control, with protesters largely controlling the south and security forces enforcing the laws of the government in the north. Major demonstrations saw nearly 20 deaths on 6 May, and the government claimed 11 soldiers were shot by "armed groups" on the same day. The violent suppression of protests in Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

, Daraa, and other rebellious cities continued throughout the month. A 17 May report of claims by refugees coming from Telkalakh on the Lebanese border indicated that sectarian attacks may have been occurring. Sunni refugees claimed that uniformed “Shabiha” Alawite
Alawite
The Alawis, also known as Alawites, Nusayris and Ansaris are a prominent mystical and syncretic religious group centred in Syria who are a branch of Shia Islam.-Etymology:...

 militiamen were killing Sunnis in the town of Telkalakh. The reporter also stated that according to arms dealers, "sales of black market weapons in Lebanon have skyrocketed in recent weeks driven almost entirely by demand in Syria." Toward the end of the month, 13-year-old Hamza Ali Al-Khateeb's body was delivered to his family with three gunshot wounds and signs of torture, including severed genitals and massive bruising. The dead boy had lived with his parents in the village of Al Giza in the Daraa governorate. He joined his family in a rally to break the siege of the city of Daraa. He was detained among hundreds of Syrian during the massacre of Siada, where citizens of Daraa were shot at by Syrian security forces. Opposition activists claimed he was tortured and then shot to death. The chief of Syria's medical examiners association Dr. Akram El-Shaar denied that Hamza was tortured and claimed that he supervised the autopsy in Damascus and that the boy did not have any sign of torture and all signs of disfigurement were due to necrotic decay
Necrosis
Necrosis is the premature death of cells in living tissue. Necrosis is caused by factors external to the cell or tissue, such as infection, toxins, or trauma. This is in contrast to apoptosis, which is a naturally occurring cause of cellular death...

.
In early June, the Syrian government said more than 20 Syrian demonstrators were shot dead at the Golan Heights by Israeli forces, when trying to cross the cease-fire line during Naksa Day
Naksa Day
Naksa Day is the annual day of commemoration for the Palestinian people of the displacement that accompanied Israel's victory in the 1967 Six-Day War...

 demonstrations
2011 Israeli border demonstrations
The 2011 Israeli border demonstrations started on 15 May 2011, to commemorate what the Palestinians observe as Nakba Day. Various groups of people attempted to approach or breach Israel's borders from the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan. At least a dozen people were killed...

. This was perceived by Israelis as a way for the Syrian government to divert attention from the Syrian unrest by allowing demonstrators to reach all the way to the Heights. The army also besieged
Siege of Jisr al-Shughur
The Siege of Jisr al-Shughour was an operation conducted by the Syrian security forces in the city of Jisr ash-Shugur against what the government called terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protesters as part of the 2011 Syrian uprising.-Siege:On 4...

 the northern cities of Jisr ash-Shugur
Jisr ash-Shugur
Jisr ash-Shugur is a city in Syria in the Idlib Governorate. Situated at an altitude of above sea level on the Orontes river, the city was inhabited by 44,322 people as of 2010....

 and Maarat al-Numaan near the Turkish
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 border. The Syrian Army claimed the towns were the site of mass graves of Syrian security personnel killed during the uprising and justified the attacks as operations to rid the region of "armed gangs", though local residents claimed the dead Syrian troops and officers were executed for refusing to fire on protesters. The siege
Siege of Daraa
The Siege of Daraa was a military operation, conducted by the Syrian military, in the city of Daraa against what the government called terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

 of Daraa continued in the meantime, with a French journalist reporting famine
Famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

-like conditions in the town. On 20 June, in a speech lasting nearly an hour, in response to the demands of protesters and foreign pressure, Assad promised a "national dialogue" involving movement toward reform, new parliamentary elections, and greater freedoms. He also urged refugees to return home from Turkey, while assuring them amnesty and blaming all unrest on a small number of "saboteurs". The speech received mixed reactions domestically and abroad and was largely dismissed by protesters.

In mid-July, pro-government protesters attacked the US and French embassies in Damascus, responding to those countries' support for the opposition. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned both the attacks and the incumbent regime, stating that al-Assad had "lost legitimacy," and that "President Assad is not indispensable and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power." Attacks on protests continued throughout July, with government forces repeatedly firing at protester and employing tanks against demonstrations, as well as conducting arrests. On 31 July, a siege
Siege of Hama
The Siege of Hama, also known as the Hama Blockade, is a major arena of the 2011 Syrian uprising against president Bashar al-Assad. The city of Hama, in central Syria, erupted in violence on 3 June 2011 when tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to express their opposition to the...

 of Hama
Hama
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria north of Damascus. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria—behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs—with a population of 696,863...

 escalated during a so-called "Ramadan Massacre", in which at least 136 people were killed and hundreds wounded when Syrian forces attacked demonstrators across the country, employing tanks, artillery and snipers. Most of the deaths occurred in Hama.

Syrian forces continued to bombard Hama in early August, along with attacks in other cities and towns. On the first full weekend of Ramadan
Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during daylight hours and is intended to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility and...

, the Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

 and several Gulf Cooperation Council member states led by Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 broke their silence on the events in Syria to condemn the government's response. Throughout August, Syrian forces stormed major urban centers and outlying regions, and continued to attack protests.

On 14 August, the Syrian Navy
Syrian Navy
The Syrian Navy is the smallest of the Syrian Armed Forces. It is under the Syrian Army's Latakia regional command with the fleet based in the ports of Baniyas, Latakia, Minat al Bayda, and Tartus.- History :...

 became involved in the military crackdown. Gunboats fired heavy machine guns at waterfront districts in Latakia
Latakia
Latakia, or Latakiyah , is the principal port city of Syria, as well as the capital of the Latakia Governorate. In addition to serving as a port, the city is a manufacturing center for surrounding agricultural towns and villages...

 as ground troops and security agents backed by armor stormed several neighborhoods. Up to 28 people were killed. Eight more civilians were killed elsewhere in the country.

Throughout the next few days, the Siege of Latakia
Siege of Latakia
The siege of Latakia is an ongoing military operation during the 2011 Syrian uprising. It started in April 2011, but intensified dramatically in the early morning of 13 August 2011, when Syrian troops and tanks entered the city of Latakia, on Syria's Mediterranean coast.-Background:Latakia had been...

 dragged on, with government forces and shabiha militia continuing to fire on civilians in the city, as well as throughout the country over the following days. On 30 August, during the first day of Eid ul-Fitr
Eid ul-Fitr
Eid ul-Fitr, Eid al-Fitr, Id-ul-Fitr, or Id al-Fitr , often abbreviated to Eid, is a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting . Eid is an Arabic word meaning "festivity," while Fiṭr means "breaking the fast"...

, thousands of people demonstrated in Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

, Daraa, and suburbs of Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

. Nine people were killed when security forces fired on these demonstrations. Eid celebrations in the country were reportedly muted, with people trying to visit the graves of their loved ones being killed. Protests continued into the following months, with security forces and militia continuing to fire at demonstrators and raid towns and neighborhoods across the country.

On 7 October, prominent Kurdish rights activist Mishaal al-Tammo was assassinated when masked gunmen burst into his flat, with the Syrian government blamed for his death. At least 20 other civilians were also killed during crackdowns on demonstrations across the country. The next day, more than 50,000 mourners marched in Al-Qamishli to mark Tammo's funeral, and at least 14 were killed when security forces fired on them.

In August, The Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem Post is an Israeli daily English-language broadsheet newspaper, founded on December 1, 1932 by Gershon Agron as The Palestine Post. The daily readership numbers do not approach those of the major Hebrew newspapers....

reported that protesters enraged at Hezbollah's support for Assad's government burned Hezbollah flags and images of its leader Hassan Nasrallah
Hassan Nasrallah
Hasan Nasrallah, became the third Secretary General of the Lebanese political and paramilitary organization Hezbollah after Israel assassinated the previous leader, Abbas al-Musawi, in 1992. Hezbollah in its entirety is considered a terrorist organization by The United States, the Netherlands,...

 in several places in Syria. Pro-government protestors have carried posters of Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah states they support a process of reforms in Syria and that they also are against what they term US plots to destabilize and interfere in Syria.

Six months into the uprising, the inhabitants of Syria's two largest cities, Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 and Aleppo
Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

, remain largely uninvolved in the anti-government protests. The two cities central squares have seen rallies in the tens of thousands in support of President Assad and his government. Analysts and even opposition activists themselves acknowledge that without mass participation in the protest movement from these two cities, the government will survive and avoid the fate of its counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia.

Throughout August and September, Syrian forces continued to suppress protests, with hundreds of killings and arrests taking place. The crackdown continued into the first three days of November. On 3 November, the government accepted an Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

 peace plan to halt its crackdown. The ceasefire quickly broke down, as government forces continued their suppression of protests. Throughout the month, there were numerous reports of civilians taken from their homes turning up dead and mutilated, clashes between loyalist troops and defectors, and electric shocks and hot iron rods being used to torture detainees. From 2 to 12 November, more than 250 people were killed.

On 14 November, more than 70 people were killed across Syria as the army clashed with defectors and shot at civilians. Some 34 soldiers and 12 defectors were killed, along with 27 civilians.

On 1 December, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights declared the death toll to be in excess of 4,000 people; aswell as expressing the nine-month old conflict to be in a state of civil war.
The 2011 Syrian uprising is an ongoing internal conflict occurring in Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. Protests started on 26 January 2011, and escalated into an uprising
Uprising
-In music:* Uprising * Uprising , album by Concord Dawn* Uprising , album by Entombed* Uprising , album by Universal Poplab...

 by 15 March 2011. The uprising, which the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 considers a civil war
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

, is influenced by concurrent protests in the region
Arab Spring
The Arab Spring , otherwise known as the Arab Awakening, is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on Saturday, 18 December 2010...

, and has been described as "unprecedented." The demands of protesters include for President Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

 to step down; for the ruling Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party to allow other political parties; for equal rights for Kurdish people
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

; and for broad political freedoms, such as freedom of press, speech and assembly.

Like the revolutionary movements in Tunisia and Egypt
2011 Egyptian revolution
The 2011 Egyptian revolution took place following a popular uprising that began on Tuesday, 25 January 2011 and is still continuing as of November 2011. The uprising was mainly a campaign of non-violent civil resistance, which featured a series of demonstrations, marches, acts of civil...

, it has taken the form of protests of various types, including marches and hunger strikes, as well as rioting, vandalism of government property, and vandalism of private property, in a sustained campaign of civil resistance
Civil resistance
The term civil resistance, alongside the term nonviolent resistance, is used to describe political action that relies on the use of non-violent methods by civil groups to challenge a particular power, force, policy or regime. Civil resistance operates through appeals to the adversary, pressure and...

 escalating into rebellion and the subsequent recognition of the conflict as a civil war, according to the international politival body, the UN.

As protests continued, the Syrian government used tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s and snipers to force people off the streets. Water and electricity were shut off and security forces began confiscating flour and food in particularly restive areas, including Daraa, Douma
Duma, Syria
Duma is a Syrian city administratively belonging to Rif Dimashq and the Duma District. Duma has an altitude of 428 meters. It has a population of 117,679 as of 2007, making it the ninth largest city per geographical entity in Syria. Duma is a very conservative Muslim city....

 and Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

. During the course of the uprising, the Syrian Army
Syrian Army
The Syrian Army, officially called the Syrian Arab Army, is the land force branch of the Syrian Armed Forces. It is the dominant military service of the four uniformed services, controlling the senior most posts in the armed forces, and has the greatest manpower, approximately 80 percent of the...

 has stormed the cities of Daraa
Siege of Daraa
The Siege of Daraa was a military operation, conducted by the Syrian military, in the city of Daraa against what the government called terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

, Douma, Baniyas
Siege of Baniyas
The Siege of Baniyas was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Baniyas against what the government calls terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

, Hama
Siege of Hama
The Siege of Hama, also known as the Hama Blockade, is a major arena of the 2011 Syrian uprising against president Bashar al-Assad. The city of Hama, in central Syria, erupted in violence on 3 June 2011 when tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to express their opposition to the...

, Homs
Siege of Homs
The Siege of Homs is a military operation being conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Homs against what the government calls terrorist groups. The Syrian opposition however have called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors...

, Talkalakh
Siege of Talkalakh
The Siege of Talkalakh was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Talkalakh against what the government called terrorist groups...

, Rastan, Jisr ash-Shughur
Siege of Jisr al-Shughur
The Siege of Jisr al-Shughour was an operation conducted by the Syrian security forces in the city of Jisr ash-Shugur against what the government called terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protesters as part of the 2011 Syrian uprising.-Siege:On 4...

, Deir ez-Zor
Siege of Deir ez-Zor
The siege of Deir ez-Zour was military operation, part of the Syrian uprising, in the Syrian governorate of Deir ez-Zour cities, including Abu kamal and Deir ez-Zour. The operation started due to massive protests against the government in the area since spring 2011...

 and Latakia
Siege of Latakia
The siege of Latakia is an ongoing military operation during the 2011 Syrian uprising. It started in April 2011, but intensified dramatically in the early morning of 13 August 2011, when Syrian troops and tanks entered the city of Latakia, on Syria's Mediterranean coast.-Background:Latakia had been...

, among other towns, and occupied parts of Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

. The violence escalated as the crisis wore on, with the killing reaching its highest level in early August. Activists, fleeing civilians, and soldiers who defected claimed that soldiers who refuse to fire on civilians are executed by the Syrian Army
Syrian Army
The Syrian Army, officially called the Syrian Arab Army, is the land force branch of the Syrian Armed Forces. It is the dominant military service of the four uniformed services, controlling the senior most posts in the armed forces, and has the greatest manpower, approximately 80 percent of the...

. The Syrian government has denied the reports of defections and blames "armed gangs" for causing trouble.

More than 4,000 people have been killed, many more injured, and thousands of protesters have been detained. Dozens of detainees have reportedly been tortured and killed.

Since the beginning of the uprising, the Syrian government has made several concessions, though widely considered trivial by protesters demanding more meaningful reform. On 21 April, the government repealed an emergency law that had been in place since 1963, which allowed the government sweeping authority to suspend constitutional rights. Yet crackdowns on protesters have continued to heighten since the beginning of the uprising. On 24 July, a draft law was created, to be debated by parliament, to allow more political parties, under the conditions that they were not based on religious, tribal or ethnic beliefs and does not discriminate against gender or race. Protesters have dismissed the law as superficial, as Article 8 of the Syrian Constitution, which grants the Ba'ath party the role of leader of the state and society, would need to be repealed.

There have been several international reactions to the uprising
International reactions to the 2011 Syrian uprising
The international reactions to the 2011 Syrian uprising concern the response of international bodies, foreign governments, non-governmental organisations and petroleum multinational corporations headquartered outside of Syria...

. The Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

, the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Gulf Cooperation Council
Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf
The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf , also known as the Gulf Cooperation Council , is a political and economic union of the Arab states bordering the Persian Gulf and constituting the Arabian Peninsula, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates...

, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 and the United States have among others condemned the use of violence against the protesters. The government of Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Assad's government's regional and political ally, suggested the demonstrations were a foreign plot, but President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has since called for reforms and an end to violence. However, military intervention has been generally ruled out by foreign powers. The Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

 has suspended Syria's membership over the government's response to the crisis.

History



The ruling Ba'ath Party first came to power in a 1963 military coup d'état, although the country remained politically unstable until 1970 when Defence Minister
Minister of Defence (Syria)
The Ministry of Defense is a government ministry office of the Syrian Arab Republic, responsible for defense affairs in Syria.-Ministers of Defense since 1963:*Muhammad Umran *Hafez al-Assad *Mustafa Tlass...

 Hafez al-Assad
Hafez al-Assad
Hafez ibn 'Ali ibn Sulayman al-Assad or more commonly Hafez al-Assad was the President of Syria for three decades. Assad's rule consolidated the power of the central government after decades of coups and counter-coups, such as Operation Wappen in 1957 conducted by the Eisenhower administration and...

 seized power
1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution
The 1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution, better known as the Syrian Corrective Movement, was a military-pragmatist faction's takeover within the Ba'ath party regime of Syria on November 13, 1970, bringing Hafez al-Assad to power.-Background:...

 and declared himself President, a position he would hold until his death in 2000. Syria was under Emergency Law from 1963 to 2011, which effectively suspended most constitutional protections for its citizens. Syrian governments justified this state of emergency
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

 by pointing to the fact that Syria was in a state of war with Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. Since then, Syrian citizens may only approve the President by referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 and do not hold multi-party elections for the legislature. Despite internal power changes, such as the 1966 coup and the 1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution
1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution
The 1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution, better known as the Syrian Corrective Movement, was a military-pragmatist faction's takeover within the Ba'ath party regime of Syria on November 13, 1970, bringing Hafez al-Assad to power.-Background:...

, the Ba'ath Party has remained the sole authority in Syria.

After the 1970 Revolution
1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution
The 1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution, better known as the Syrian Corrective Movement, was a military-pragmatist faction's takeover within the Ba'ath party regime of Syria on November 13, 1970, bringing Hafez al-Assad to power.-Background:...

, President Hafez al-Assad
Hafez al-Assad
Hafez ibn 'Ali ibn Sulayman al-Assad or more commonly Hafez al-Assad was the President of Syria for three decades. Assad's rule consolidated the power of the central government after decades of coups and counter-coups, such as Operation Wappen in 1957 conducted by the Eisenhower administration and...

 led Syria for nearly 30 years, banning any opposing political party and any opposition candidate in any election. In 1982, at the climax of a six-year Islamic insurgency
Islamic uprising in Syria
The Islamic uprising in Syria was a series of revolts and armed insurgency by Sunni Islamists, mainly members of the Muslim Brotherhood from 1976 until 1982. The uprising was aimed against the authority of the Ba'ath Party-controlled government of Syria, in what has been called "long campaign of...

 throughout the country, Hafez al-Assad conducted a scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

 policy against the town of Hama
Hama
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria north of Damascus. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria—behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs—with a population of 696,863...

 to quell an uprising by the Sunni Muslim community, including the Muslim Brotherhood
History of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria
Muslim Brotherhood in Syria was founded in the late 1930s or mid 1940s. In the first decade or so of independence it was part of the legal opposition, and in the 1961 parliamentary elections it won ten seats. After the 1963 coup brought the secularist, pan-Arabist Baath Party to power, it was banned...

 and others. Tens of thousands of people, including 10–80,000 civilians, were killed in the Hama massacre
Hama massacre
The Hama massacre occurred in February 1982, when the Syrian army, under the orders of the president of Syria Hafez al-Assad, conducted a scorched earth policy against the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Sunni Muslim community against the regime of al-Assad...

.

The issue of Hafez al-Assad's succession prompted the 1999 Latakia incident
1999 Latakia protests
1999 Latakia protests were violent protests and armed clashes, which erupted in Latakia, Syria following 1998 People's Assembly's Elections. The violent events were an explosion of a long-running feud between Hafez al-Assad and his younger brother Rifaat...

, when violent protests and armed clashes erupted following 1998 People's Assembly's Elections. The violent events were an explosion of a long-running feud between Hafez al-Assad
Hafez al-Assad
Hafez ibn 'Ali ibn Sulayman al-Assad or more commonly Hafez al-Assad was the President of Syria for three decades. Assad's rule consolidated the power of the central government after decades of coups and counter-coups, such as Operation Wappen in 1957 conducted by the Eisenhower administration and...

 and his younger brother Rifaat
Rifaat al-Assad
Rifaat al-Assad is the younger brother of the former President of Syria, Hafez al-Assad, and the uncle of the current President Bashar al-Assad, all of whom come from the minority Alawite Muslim sect. He was born in the village of Qardaha, near Lattakia in western Syria. He is perhaps best known...

. Two people were killed in fire exchanges between Syrian police and Rifaat's supporters during a police crack-down on Rifaat's port compound in Latakia. According to opposition sources, denied by the government, the protests resulted in hundreds of dead and injured. Hafez al-Assad died one year later, from pulmonary fibrosis
Pulmonary fibrosis
Pulmonary fibrosis is the formation or development of excess fibrous connective tissue in the lungs. It is also described as "scarring of the lung".-Symptoms:Symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis are mainly:...

. He was succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

, who was appointed after a constitutional amendment lowered the age requirement for President from 40 to his age of 34.

Bashar, who speaks English and some French and has a British-born Syrian wife
Asma Assad
Asma al-Assad ; born 11 August 1975; née Asma Fawaz al-Akhras , is the British-born First Lady of Syria. She moved to Syria to marry President Bashar al-Assad in December 2000, having previously pursued a career in investment banking....

, was said to have "inspired hopes" for reform, and a "Damascus Spring
Damascus Spring
The Damascus Spring was a period of intense political and social debate in Syria which started after the death of President Hafiz al-Asad in June 2000 and continued to some degree until autumn 2001, when most of the activities associated with it were suppressed by the government.- Background...

" of intense political and social debate took place from July 2000 to August 2001. The period was characterized by the emergence of numerous political forums or salons
Salon (gathering)
A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation. These gatherings often consciously followed Horace's definition of the aims of poetry, "either to...

 where groups of like minded people met in private houses to debate political and social issues. The phenomenon of salons spread rapidly in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 and to a lesser extent in other cities. Political activists, such as, Riad Seif
Riad Seif
Riad Seif is Syrian political dissident, formerly a member of the Parliament of Syria and prominent businessman, who founded and lead the Forum for National Dialogue. Seif was elected to parliament in 1994 as an independent and again in 1998...

, Haitham al-Maleh
Haitham al-Maleh
Haitham al-Maleh is a leading Syrian human rights activist and former judge. He is an outspoken critic of the current Syrian regime under Bashar al-Assad and has been imprisoned by the Syrian government as a political prisoner on several occasions since the 1960s...

, Kamal al-Labwani
Kamal al-Labwani
Dr. Kamal al-Labwani is a Syrian doctor and artist, considered one of the most prominent members of the Syrian opposition movement. He was imprisoned in Adra Prison, near Damascus until November 15, 2011, according to state media. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience.- Life...

, Riyad al-Turk
Riyad al-Turk
Riyad al-Turk is a prominent Syrian opposition leader, former political prisoner for about 20 years in Syria, and supporter of democracy, who has been called "the Old Man of Syrian opposition." He was secretary general of the Syrian Communist Party since its foundation in 1973 until 2005...

 and Aref Dalila
Aref Dalila
Professor Aref Dalila is a Syrian economics professor and former Dean of the Faculty of Economics in Damascus University. He was arrested for his political activity during the Damascus Spring period.-Life:...

 were important in mobilizing the movement. The most famous of the forums were the Riad Seif Forum
Riad Seif Forum
The Riad Seif Forum is or was a political forum, or muntadat, founded by "businessman-turned-dissident" Riad Seif, promoting political debate and freedom in Syria...

 and the Jamal al-Atassi Forum
Jamal al-Atassi
Jamal Al-Atassi was a Syrian nationalist, politician and author. He was one of the earliest ideologues of the nascent Syrian Baath Party, which he joined soon after it was founded...

. The Damascus Spring ended in August 2001 with the arrest and imprisonment of ten leading activists who had called for democratic elections and a campaign of civil disobedience. Renewed opposition activity occurred in October 2005 when activist Michel Kilo
Michel Kilo
Michel Kilo is a Syrian Christian writer and human rights activist, who has been called "one of Syria's leading opposition thinkers."-Career:He was born in the Syrian Mediterranean coastal city and province of Latakia in 1940....

 launched with leading opposition figures the Damascus Declaration
Damascus Declaration
The Damascus Declaration was a statement of unity by Syrian opposition figures issued in October 2005. It criticized the Syrian government regime as `authoritarian, totalitarian and cliquish,` and called for `peaceful, gradual,` reform `founded on accord, and based on dialogue and recognition of...

, which criticized the Syrian government as "authoritarian, totalitarian and cliquish" and called for democratic reform.

Kurdish-Arab riots have prompted increased tension in Syria's Kurdish areas since 2004. That year the Al-Qamishli riots
2004 Al-Qamishli riots
The 2004 Al-Qamishli riots refer to riots by Syrian Kurds in the northeastern city of al-Qamishli in March 2004. The riots started during a chaotic football match, when some people started raising Kurdish national flags, turning the match to political conflict...

 against the government began in the northeastern city of Al-Qamishli. During a chaotic soccer match, some people raised Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

 flags, and the match turned into a political conflict. In a brutal reaction by Syrian police and clashes between Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

 and Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 groups, at least 30 people were killed, with some claims indicating a casualty count of about 100 people.MidEastWeb. Kurdish agony – the forgotten massacre of Qamishlo. March 2004.http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000231.htm MidEastWeb Smaller clashes with Kurdish protesters and government measures have continued since.

The al-Assad family
Assad family
The Assad family has ruled Syria, since Hafez al-Assad became Syrian President in 1971 and established an authoritarian regime under the control of the Baath party. After his death in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad succeeded him....

 is a member of the minority Alawite
Alawite
The Alawis, also known as Alawites, Nusayris and Ansaris are a prominent mystical and syncretic religious group centred in Syria who are a branch of Shia Islam.-Etymology:...

 sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam that numbers an estimated 6–12 percent of the Syrian
Syrian people
The Syrian people are the inhabitants and citizens of Syria. Syrians are tied together by geography, linguistic heritage, religion, and similar Eastern Mediterranean ethnicities...

 population, and has maintained "a tight grip" on Syria's security services, generating "deep resentment" among the Sunni Muslims that make up about three quarters of Syria's population."Syria – International Religious Freedom Report 2006". U.S. Department of State. 2006. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2006/71432.htm. Retrieved 28 June 2009. Minority Kurds have also protested and complained. Al-Assad declared that his state was immune from the kinds of mass protests that took place in Egypt.FOX News opinion. Bouthaina Shaaban
Bouthaina Shaaban
Bouthaina Shaaban is a Syrian politician and is currently the political and media adviser to the President of Syria. Shaaban served as the first Minister of Expatriates for the Syrian Arab Republic, between 2003 and 2008, and has been described as the Syrian "regime's face to the outside...

, a presidential adviser, blamed Sunni clerics and preachers for inciting Sunnis to revolt, such as Qatar
Qatar
Qatar , also known as the State of Qatar or locally Dawlat Qaṭar, is a sovereign Arab state, located in the Middle East, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its...

-based Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi in a sermon in Doha
Doha
Doha is the capital city of the state of Qatar. Located on the Persian Gulf, it had a population of 998,651 in 2008, and is also one of the municipalities of Qatar...

 on 25 March."US will not intervene in Syria as it has in Libya, says Hillary Clinton". The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

. 27 March 2011.
According to The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

, the Syrian government has relied "almost exclusively" on Alawite-dominated units of the security services to fight the uprising. His younger brother Maher al-Assad
Maher al-Assad
Maher al-Assad is the brother of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the commander of the Republican Guard and the army's elite Fourth Armored Division, which together with Syria's secret police form the core of the country's security forces...

 commands the army's Fourth Armored Division
Defense companies
The Defense Companies were a paramilitary force in Syria that were controlled by Rifaat al-Assad. Their task was to defend the Assad government, and Damascus, from internal and external attack...

, and his brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, is deputy chief of staff of the army. His family is said to fear that failure to take a hard line on protesters could embolden them, bringing much larger crowds into the streets.

Socio-economics and civil rights



Socio-economic
As with much of the Middle East, high youth unemployment and economic disenfranchisement of young adults has been a significant factor in Syria. A 2007 study by the Dubai School of Government’s Wolfensohn Center for Development, “Youth Exclusion in Syria: Social, Economic, and Institutional Dimensions," examined the aspects of high unemployment rates among young adults ages 15–24 in the country using available jobs data and survey responses. The study found that certain dynamics are particularly acute in Syria, even relative to countries in the region. Though its overall overall unemployment rate has traditionally been about average for the Middle East (about 25%), what distinguishes Syria is that the youth jobless rate has been more than six times higher than the rate among older adults (only 4%); that constitutes “the highest ratio [youth-adult imbalance] among the region’s countries outside the Gulf States.” The average ratio in the Middle East is 3.3, whereas the world average is 3.5. Additionally, the participation rate of Syrian youth in the labor market relative to adults is “substantially lower than the worldwide average (0.66 compared to 0.79 percent)". Demographic trends have exacerbated the problem; according to the study, "the share of youth in the Syrian population peaked at 25.4 percent in 2005, presenting challenges in terms of job creation for young people; and in 2002, unemployed youth made up 77 percent of the working-age unemployed population in Syria." This is in spite of the burgeoning youth population; the study notes that “labor supply growth rates of around 5 percent per year between 1983 and 2003." Survey responses indicated that most youth were actively seeking employment, but more than “75 percent of unemployed youth had been searching for work for over a year.”

Socio-economic complaints have been reported, such as a deterioration in the country's standard of living
Standard of living
Standard of living is generally measured by standards such as real income per person and poverty rate. Other measures such as access and quality of health care, income growth inequality and educational standards are also used. Examples are access to certain goods , or measures of health such as...

, a reduction of state support for the poor resulting from the gradual transition towards a free market
Free market
A free market is a competitive market where prices are determined by supply and demand. However, the term is also commonly used for markets in which economic intervention and regulation by the state is limited to tax collection, and enforcement of private ownership and contracts...

 economy , the erosion of subsidies for basic goods and agriculture, free trade without suitable support to the local industry, and high youth unemployment rates.

Human rights
The state of human rights in Syria
Human rights in Syria
Human rights in Syria have been described as "poor". Since 1963, emergency rule has remained in effect which gives security forces sweeping powers of arrest and detention....

 has long been the subject of harsh criticism from global organizations. The country was under emergency rule
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

 from 1963 until 2011, effectively granting security forces sweeping powers of arrest and detention. After taking power in 1970, Hafez al-Assad quickly purged the government of any political adversaries and asserted his control over all aspects of Syrian society, consolidating his position as the despotic
Despotism
Despotism is a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power. That entity may be an individual, as in an autocracy, or it may be a group, as in an oligarchy...

 statesman of the country. He developed an elaborate cult of personality
Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships...

 and violently repressed any opposition, most notoriously in the 1982 Hama Massacre
Hama massacre
The Hama massacre occurred in February 1982, when the Syrian army, under the orders of the president of Syria Hafez al-Assad, conducted a scorched earth policy against the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Sunni Muslim community against the regime of al-Assad...

 when thousands were killed in order to suppress an Islamic uprising
Islamic uprising in Syria
The Islamic uprising in Syria was a series of revolts and armed insurgency by Sunni Islamists, mainly members of the Muslim Brotherhood from 1976 until 1982. The uprising was aimed against the authority of the Ba'ath Party-controlled government of Syria, in what has been called "long campaign of...

. After his death in 2000 and the succession of his son Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

 to the Presidency, it was hoped that the Syrian government would make concessions toward the development of a more liberal society; this period became known as the Damascus Spring
Damascus Spring
The Damascus Spring was a period of intense political and social debate in Syria which started after the death of President Hafiz al-Asad in June 2000 and continued to some degree until autumn 2001, when most of the activities associated with it were suppressed by the government.- Background...

. However, al-Assad is widely regarded to have been unsuccessful in implementing democratic change, with a 2010 report from Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 stating that he has failed to improve the state of human rights since taking power ten years prior. All other political parties have remained banned, thereby making Syria a one-party state without free elections.

Rights of expression, association and assembly are strictly controlled in Syria. The authorities harass and imprison human rights activists and other critics of the government, who are oftentimes indefinitely detained and tortured in poor prison conditions. While al-Assad permitted radio stations to play Western pop music, websites such as Amazon.com
Amazon.com
Amazon.com, Inc. is a multinational electronic commerce company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, United States. It is the world's largest online retailer. Amazon has separate websites for the following countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and...

, Facebook, Wikipedia and YouTube were blocked until 1 January 2011, when all citizens were permitted to sign up for high speed internet, and those sites were allowed. However, a 2007 law requires Internet cafe
Internet cafe
An Internet café or cybercafé is a place which provides internet access to the public, usually for a fee. These businesses usually provide snacks and drinks, hence the café in the name...

s to record all comments that users post on online chat
Online chat
Online chat may refer to any kind of communication over the Internet, that offers an instantaneous transmission of text-based messages from sender to receiver, hence the delay for visual access to the sent message shall not hamper the flow of communications in any of the directions...

 forums.

In an interview published 31 January 2011, al-Assad declared it was time to reform, that the protests in Egypt
2011 Egyptian revolution
The 2011 Egyptian revolution took place following a popular uprising that began on Tuesday, 25 January 2011 and is still continuing as of November 2011. The uprising was mainly a campaign of non-violent civil resistance, which featured a series of demonstrations, marches, acts of civil...

, Tunisia
Tunisian revolution
The Tunisian Revolution is an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia. The events began in December 2010 and led to the ousting of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011...

 and Yemen
2011 Yemeni uprising
The 2011 Yemen Uprising followed the initial stages of the Tunisian Revolution and occurred simultaneously with the Egyptian Revolution and other mass protests in the Middle East in early 2011. In its early phase, protests in Yemen were initially against unemployment, economic conditions and...

 indicated a "new era" was coming to the Middle East, and that Arab rulers needed to do more to accommodate their peoples' rising political and economic aspirations.

Women and ethnic minorities have faced discrimination in the public sector. Thousands of Syrian Kurds were denied citizenship in 1962, and their descendants continued to be labeled as "foreigners" until 2011, when 120,000 out of roughly 200,000 stateless Kurds were granted citizenship on 6 April. Because the government is dominated by the Shia Alawite
Alawite
The Alawis, also known as Alawites, Nusayris and Ansaris are a prominent mystical and syncretic religious group centred in Syria who are a branch of Shia Islam.-Etymology:...

 sect, it has had to make some gestures toward the majority Sunni sects and other minority populations in order to retain power.

Timeline




The protest movement in Syria was at first modest, and took a while to gain momentum. The events began on 26 January 2011, when Hasan Ali Akleh from Al-Hasakah
Al-Hasakah
Al-Hasakah...

 poured gasoline on himself and set himself on fire, in the same way Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi
Mohamed Bouazizi
Mohamed Bouazizi was a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on 17 December 2010, in protest of the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation that he reported was inflicted on him by a municipal official and her aides...

 had in Tunis on 17 December 2010. According to eyewitnesses, the action was "a protest against the Syrian government". Two days later, on 28 January 2011, an evening demonstration was held in Ar-Raqqah, to protest the killing of two soldiers of Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

 descent.
On 3 February, a "Day of Rage" was called for in Syria from 4 to 5 February on social media websites Facebook and Twitter. Protesters demanded governmental reform, but most protests took place outside of Syria, and were small. Hundreds marched in Al-Hasakah
Al-Hasakah
Al-Hasakah...

, but Syrian security forces dispersed the protest and arrested dozens of demonstrators. Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

 labeled Syria a "kingdom of silence", concluding that protests would not succeed due to the popularity of President Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

 and concerns over the prospects of insurgency
Insurgency
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

 like that seen in neighboring Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

. A protest in late February at the Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

n Embassy in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 to demonstrate against the government of Muammar Gaddafi
Muammar Gaddafi
Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Gaddafi or "September 1942" 20 October 2011), commonly known as Muammar Gaddafi or Colonel Gaddafi, was the official ruler of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then the "Brother Leader" of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011.He seized power in a...

, facing his own major protests
2011 Libyan civil war
The 2011 Libyan civil war was an armed conflict in the North African state of Libya, fought between forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and those seeking to oust his government. The war was preceded by protests in Benghazi beginning on 15 February 2011, which led to clashes with security...

 in Libya, was met with brutal beatings from Syrian police moving to disperse the demonstration against a friendly regime.
On 6 March, TIME
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine's suggestion that all protests needed to explode into a full-fledged rebellion was a flashpoint. Ribal al-Assad said that it was almost time for Syria to be the next domino
Domino theory
The domino theory was a reason for war during the 1950s to 1980s, promoted at times by the government of the United States, that speculated that if one state in a region came under the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries would follow in a domino effect...

 in the burgeoning Arab Spring
Arab Spring
The Arab Spring , otherwise known as the Arab Awakening, is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on Saturday, 18 December 2010...

. Indeed, on 15 March, the protest movement began to escalate, as simultaneous demonstrations took place in major cities across Syria. Increasingly, the city of Daraa became the focal point for the growing uprising. Over 100,000 people reportedly marched in Daraa on 25 March, but at least 20 protesters were reportedly killed. Protests also spread to other Syrian cities, including Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

, Hama
Hama
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria north of Damascus. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria—behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs—with a population of 696,863...

, Baniyas
Baniyas
Baniyas is a city of northwestern Syria, located at the foot of the hill of Qalaat el-Marqab , 55 km to the south of Latakia and 35 km north of Tartous , and a Catholic titular see under the Latin name of Balanea, which is presently vacant.It is famous for its orchards...

, Jassem, Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 and Latakia
Latakia
Latakia, or Latakiyah , is the principal port city of Syria, as well as the capital of the Latakia Governorate. In addition to serving as a port, the city is a manufacturing center for surrounding agricultural towns and villages...

. Over 70 protesters in total were reported dead. Late in the month, the first signs were seen that the government was willing to make concessions to the protestors, when al-Assad announced the release of as many as 200 political prisoners. An Assad adviser said the emergency law would be lifted, and Assad accepted the official resignation of the government led by Prime Minister Muhammad Naji al-Otari
Muhammad Naji al-Otari
Muhammad Naji al-Otari is a Syrian politician who was Prime Minister of Syria from 2003 to 2011.-Early life, education and career:...

. Assad denied the emergency law would be lifted at the end of March, however.
In April, the uprising became more extensive, and more violent. Protesters were shot at on 1 April, leading to at least 10 deaths. Well over 30 people were killed in a crackdown on protests on 8 April, activists and human rights groups claimed. Tens of thousands of protesters were prevented from entering Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 from Douma
Douma, Lebanon
Douma is a Lebanese village located at an altitude of 1000m, 80 km from Beirut and 30 km from Jbeil and 43 km from Tripoli. Douma is a part of Batroun District and is known for its special location in a valley surrounded by mountains. Almost all its houses are made of red brick...

 on 15 April, though this restriction did not prevent widespread protests in many Syrian cities. Other cities where protesting was particularly strong were in Daraa, Baniyas
Baniyas
Baniyas is a city of northwestern Syria, located at the foot of the hill of Qalaat el-Marqab , 55 km to the south of Latakia and 35 km north of Tartous , and a Catholic titular see under the Latin name of Balanea, which is presently vacant.It is famous for its orchards...

, Al-Qamishli and Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

. There were also protests in Douma and Harasta, suburbs of Damascus. Firing throughout the country resulted 88 deaths among security forces and protesters, making it the bloodiest day so far. tanks and soldiers entered Daraa and Douma. The border with Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 was also closed. According to an activist, 18 people were killed in Daraa. Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

 reported that some soldiers appeared to have been shot by their own comrades-in-arms after refusing orders to fire on protesters. On 29 April, more than 60 protesters were killed in demonstrations across Syria. The United States responded with harsh sanctions against the Syrian government.

As protests continued, the Syrian government used tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s and snipers to force people off the streets. Water and electricity were shut off in the city of Daraa
Siege of Daraa
The Siege of Daraa was a military operation, conducted by the Syrian military, in the city of Daraa against what the government called terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

 and security forces began confiscating flour and food. A similar situation was reported in Homs
Siege of Homs
The Siege of Homs is a military operation being conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Homs against what the government calls terrorist groups. The Syrian opposition however have called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors...

. In May, the Syrian army entered the cities of Baniyas
Siege of Baniyas
The Siege of Baniyas was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Baniyas against what the government calls terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

, Hama
Hama
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria north of Damascus. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria—behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs—with a population of 696,863...

, Homs
Siege of Homs
The Siege of Homs is a military operation being conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Homs against what the government calls terrorist groups. The Syrian opposition however have called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors...

, Talkalakh
Siege of Talkalakh
The Siege of Talkalakh was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Talkalakh against what the government called terrorist groups...

, Latakia
Latakia
Latakia, or Latakiyah , is the principal port city of Syria, as well as the capital of the Latakia Governorate. In addition to serving as a port, the city is a manufacturing center for surrounding agricultural towns and villages...

, the Al-Midan
Al-Midan
Al-Midan is a neighborhood located in Damascus, Syria. It lies just south of the old walled city of Damascus very to close to the modern city center. It's streets and alleys are full of heritage and history due to the age of the neighborhood...

 and Duma
Duma, Syria
Duma is a Syrian city administratively belonging to Rif Dimashq and the Duma District. Duma has an altitude of 428 meters. It has a population of 117,679 as of 2007, making it the ninth largest city per geographical entity in Syria. Duma is a very conservative Muslim city....

 districts of Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

, and several other towns.

Baniyas was besieged
Siege of Baniyas
The Siege of Baniyas was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Baniyas against what the government calls terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

 in early May, and divided into zones of de facto control, with protesters largely controlling the south and security forces enforcing the laws of the government in the north. Major demonstrations saw nearly 20 deaths on 6 May, and the government claimed 11 soldiers were shot by "armed groups" on the same day. The violent suppression of protests in Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

, Daraa, and other rebellious cities continued throughout the month. A 17 May report of claims by refugees coming from Telkalakh on the Lebanese border indicated that sectarian attacks may have been occurring. Sunni refugees claimed that uniformed “Shabiha” Alawite
Alawite
The Alawis, also known as Alawites, Nusayris and Ansaris are a prominent mystical and syncretic religious group centred in Syria who are a branch of Shia Islam.-Etymology:...

 militiamen were killing Sunnis in the town of Telkalakh. The reporter also stated that according to arms dealers, "sales of black market weapons in Lebanon have skyrocketed in recent weeks driven almost entirely by demand in Syria."Syrian refugees describe gangs fomenting sectarian strife, by Nicholas Blanford, correspondent / 17 May 2011. Toward the end of the month, 13-year-old Hamza Ali Al-Khateeb's body was delivered to his family with three gunshot wounds and signs of torture, including severed genitals and massive bruising. The dead boy had lived with his parents in the village of Al Giza in the Daraa governorate. He joined his family in a rally to break the siege of the city of Daraa. He was detained among hundreds of Syrian during the massacre of Siada, where citizens of Daraa were shot at by Syrian security forces. Opposition activists claimed he was tortured and then shot to death. The chief of Syria's medical examiners association Dr. Akram El-Shaar denied that Hamza was tortured and claimed that he supervised the autopsy in Damascus and that the boy did not have any sign of torture and all signs of disfigurement were due to necrotic decay
Necrosis
Necrosis is the premature death of cells in living tissue. Necrosis is caused by factors external to the cell or tissue, such as infection, toxins, or trauma. This is in contrast to apoptosis, which is a naturally occurring cause of cellular death...

.
In early June, the Syrian government said more than 20 Syrian demonstrators were shot dead at the Golan Heights by Israeli forces, when trying to cross the cease-fire line during Naksa Day
Naksa Day
Naksa Day is the annual day of commemoration for the Palestinian people of the displacement that accompanied Israel's victory in the 1967 Six-Day War...

 demonstrations
2011 Israeli border demonstrations
The 2011 Israeli border demonstrations started on 15 May 2011, to commemorate what the Palestinians observe as Nakba Day. Various groups of people attempted to approach or breach Israel's borders from the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan. At least a dozen people were killed...

. This was perceived by Israelis as a way for the Syrian government to divert attention from the Syrian unrest by allowing demonstrators to reach all the way to the Heights. The army also besieged
Siege of Jisr al-Shughur
The Siege of Jisr al-Shughour was an operation conducted by the Syrian security forces in the city of Jisr ash-Shugur against what the government called terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protesters as part of the 2011 Syrian uprising.-Siege:On 4...

 the northern cities of Jisr ash-Shugur
Jisr ash-Shugur
Jisr ash-Shugur is a city in Syria in the Idlib Governorate. Situated at an altitude of above sea level on the Orontes river, the city was inhabited by 44,322 people as of 2010....

 and Maarat al-Numaan near the Turkish
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 border. The Syrian Army claimed the towns were the site of mass graves of Syrian security personnel killed during the uprising and justified the attacks as operations to rid the region of "armed gangs", though local residents claimed the dead Syrian troops and officers were executed for refusing to fire on protesters. The siege
Siege of Daraa
The Siege of Daraa was a military operation, conducted by the Syrian military, in the city of Daraa against what the government called terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

 of Daraa continued in the meantime, with a French journalist reporting famine
Famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

-like conditions in the town. On 20 June, in a speech lasting nearly an hour, in response to the demands of protesters and foreign pressure, Assad promised a "national dialogue" involving movement toward reform, new parliamentary elections, and greater freedoms. He also urged refugees to return home from Turkey, while assuring them amnesty and blaming all unrest on a small number of "saboteurs". The speech received mixed reactions domestically and abroad and was largely dismissed by protesters.

In mid-July, pro-government protesters attacked the US and French embassies in Damascus, responding to those countries' support for the opposition. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned both the attacks and the incumbent regime, stating that al-Assad had "lost legitimacy," and that "President Assad is not indispensable and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power." Attacks on protests continued throughout July, with government forces repeatedly firing at protester and employing tanks against demonstrations, as well as conducting arrests. On 31 July, a siege
Siege of Hama
The Siege of Hama, also known as the Hama Blockade, is a major arena of the 2011 Syrian uprising against president Bashar al-Assad. The city of Hama, in central Syria, erupted in violence on 3 June 2011 when tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to express their opposition to the...

 of Hama
Hama
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria north of Damascus. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria—behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs—with a population of 696,863...

 escalated during a so-called "Ramadan Massacre", in which at least 136 people were killed and hundreds wounded when Syrian forces attacked demonstrators across the country, employing tanks, artillery and snipers. Most of the deaths occurred in Hama.Al Jazeera English – 'Scores dead' as Syrian tanks storm Hama city – 31 July 2011.

Syrian forces continued to bombard Hama in early August, along with attacks in other cities and towns. On the first full weekend of Ramadan
Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during daylight hours and is intended to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility and...

, the Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

 and several Gulf Cooperation Council member states led by Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 broke their silence on the events in Syria to condemn the government's response. Throughout August, Syrian forces stormed major urban centers and outlying regions, and continued to attack protests.

On 14 August, the Syrian Navy
Syrian Navy
The Syrian Navy is the smallest of the Syrian Armed Forces. It is under the Syrian Army's Latakia regional command with the fleet based in the ports of Baniyas, Latakia, Minat al Bayda, and Tartus.- History :...

 became involved in the military crackdown. Gunboats fired heavy machine guns at waterfront districts in Latakia
Latakia
Latakia, or Latakiyah , is the principal port city of Syria, as well as the capital of the Latakia Governorate. In addition to serving as a port, the city is a manufacturing center for surrounding agricultural towns and villages...

 as ground troops and security agents backed by armor stormed several neighborhoods. Up to 28 people were killed. Eight more civilians were killed elsewhere in the country.

Throughout the next few days, the Siege of Latakia
Siege of Latakia
The siege of Latakia is an ongoing military operation during the 2011 Syrian uprising. It started in April 2011, but intensified dramatically in the early morning of 13 August 2011, when Syrian troops and tanks entered the city of Latakia, on Syria's Mediterranean coast.-Background:Latakia had been...

 dragged on, with government forces and shabiha militia continuing to fire on civilians in the city, as well as throughout the country over the following days. On 30 August, during the first day of Eid ul-Fitr
Eid ul-Fitr
Eid ul-Fitr, Eid al-Fitr, Id-ul-Fitr, or Id al-Fitr , often abbreviated to Eid, is a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting . Eid is an Arabic word meaning "festivity," while Fiṭr means "breaking the fast"...

, thousands of people demonstrated in Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

, Daraa, and suburbs of Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

. Nine people were killed when security forces fired on these demonstrations. Eid celebrations in the country were reportedly muted, with people trying to visit the graves of their loved ones being killed. Protests continued into the following months, with security forces and militia continuing to fire at demonstrators and raid towns and neighborhoods across the country.

On 7 October, prominent Kurdish rights activist Mishaal al-Tammo was assassinated when masked gunmen burst into his flat, with the Syrian government blamed for his death. At least 20 other civilians were also killed during crackdowns on demonstrations across the country. The next day, more than 50,000 mourners marched in Al-Qamishli to mark Tammo's funeral, and at least 14 were killed when security forces fired on them.

In August, The Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem Post is an Israeli daily English-language broadsheet newspaper, founded on December 1, 1932 by Gershon Agron as The Palestine Post. The daily readership numbers do not approach those of the major Hebrew newspapers....

reported that protesters enraged at Hezbollah's support for Assad's government burned Hezbollah flags and images of its leader Hassan Nasrallah
Hassan Nasrallah
Hasan Nasrallah, became the third Secretary General of the Lebanese political and paramilitary organization Hezbollah after Israel assassinated the previous leader, Abbas al-Musawi, in 1992. Hezbollah in its entirety is considered a terrorist organization by The United States, the Netherlands,...

 in several places in Syria. Pro-government protestors have carried posters of Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah states they support a process of reforms in Syria and that they also are against what they term US plots to destabilize and interfere in Syria.

Six months into the uprising, the inhabitants of Syria's two largest cities, Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 and Aleppo
Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

, remain largely uninvolved in the anti-government protests. The two cities central squares have seen rallies in the tens of thousands in support of President Assad and his government. Analysts and even opposition activists themselves acknowledge that without mass participation in the protest movement from these two cities, the government will survive and avoid the fate of its counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia.

Throughout August and September, Syrian forces continued to suppress protests, with hundreds of killings and arrests taking place. The crackdown continued into the first three days of November. On 3 November, the government accepted an Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

 peace plan to halt its crackdown. The ceasefire quickly broke down, as government forces continued their suppression of protests. Throughout the month, there were numerous reports of civilians taken from their homes turning up dead and mutilated, clashes between loyalist troops and defectors, and electric shocks and hot iron rods being used to torture detainees. From 2 to 12 November, more than 250 people were killed.http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-417168,00.html

On 14 November, more than 70 people were killed across Syria as the army clashed with defectors and shot at civilians. Some 34 soldiers and 12 defectors were killed, along with 27 civilians.http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/149803

On 1 December, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights declared the death toll to be in excess of 4,000 people; aswell as expressing the nine-month old conflict to be in a state of civil war.
The 2011 Syrian uprising is an ongoing internal conflict occurring in Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. Protests started on 26 January 2011, and escalated into an uprising
Uprising
-In music:* Uprising * Uprising , album by Concord Dawn* Uprising , album by Entombed* Uprising , album by Universal Poplab...

 by 15 March 2011. The uprising, which the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 considers a civil war
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

, is influenced by concurrent protests in the region
Arab Spring
The Arab Spring , otherwise known as the Arab Awakening, is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on Saturday, 18 December 2010...

, and has been described as "unprecedented." The demands of protesters include for President Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

 to step down; for the ruling Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party to allow other political parties; for equal rights for Kurdish people
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

; and for broad political freedoms, such as freedom of press, speech and assembly.

Like the revolutionary movements in Tunisia and Egypt
2011 Egyptian revolution
The 2011 Egyptian revolution took place following a popular uprising that began on Tuesday, 25 January 2011 and is still continuing as of November 2011. The uprising was mainly a campaign of non-violent civil resistance, which featured a series of demonstrations, marches, acts of civil...

, it has taken the form of protests of various types, including marches and hunger strikes, as well as rioting, vandalism of government property, and vandalism of private property, in a sustained campaign of civil resistance
Civil resistance
The term civil resistance, alongside the term nonviolent resistance, is used to describe political action that relies on the use of non-violent methods by civil groups to challenge a particular power, force, policy or regime. Civil resistance operates through appeals to the adversary, pressure and...

 escalating into rebellion and the subsequent recognition of the conflict as a civil war, according to the international politival body, the UN.

As protests continued, the Syrian government used tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s and snipers to force people off the streets. Water and electricity were shut off and security forces began confiscating flour and food in particularly restive areas, including Daraa, Douma
Duma, Syria
Duma is a Syrian city administratively belonging to Rif Dimashq and the Duma District. Duma has an altitude of 428 meters. It has a population of 117,679 as of 2007, making it the ninth largest city per geographical entity in Syria. Duma is a very conservative Muslim city....

 and Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

. During the course of the uprising, the Syrian Army
Syrian Army
The Syrian Army, officially called the Syrian Arab Army, is the land force branch of the Syrian Armed Forces. It is the dominant military service of the four uniformed services, controlling the senior most posts in the armed forces, and has the greatest manpower, approximately 80 percent of the...

 has stormed the cities of Daraa
Siege of Daraa
The Siege of Daraa was a military operation, conducted by the Syrian military, in the city of Daraa against what the government called terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

, Douma, Baniyas
Siege of Baniyas
The Siege of Baniyas was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Baniyas against what the government calls terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

, Hama
Siege of Hama
The Siege of Hama, also known as the Hama Blockade, is a major arena of the 2011 Syrian uprising against president Bashar al-Assad. The city of Hama, in central Syria, erupted in violence on 3 June 2011 when tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to express their opposition to the...

, Homs
Siege of Homs
The Siege of Homs is a military operation being conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Homs against what the government calls terrorist groups. The Syrian opposition however have called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors...

, Talkalakh
Siege of Talkalakh
The Siege of Talkalakh was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Talkalakh against what the government called terrorist groups...

, Rastan, Jisr ash-Shughur
Siege of Jisr al-Shughur
The Siege of Jisr al-Shughour was an operation conducted by the Syrian security forces in the city of Jisr ash-Shugur against what the government called terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protesters as part of the 2011 Syrian uprising.-Siege:On 4...

, Deir ez-Zor
Siege of Deir ez-Zor
The siege of Deir ez-Zour was military operation, part of the Syrian uprising, in the Syrian governorate of Deir ez-Zour cities, including Abu kamal and Deir ez-Zour. The operation started due to massive protests against the government in the area since spring 2011...

 and Latakia
Siege of Latakia
The siege of Latakia is an ongoing military operation during the 2011 Syrian uprising. It started in April 2011, but intensified dramatically in the early morning of 13 August 2011, when Syrian troops and tanks entered the city of Latakia, on Syria's Mediterranean coast.-Background:Latakia had been...

, among other towns, and occupied parts of Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

. The violence escalated as the crisis wore on, with the killing reaching its highest level in early August. Activists, fleeing civilians, and soldiers who defected claimed that soldiers who refuse to fire on civilians are executed by the Syrian Army
Syrian Army
The Syrian Army, officially called the Syrian Arab Army, is the land force branch of the Syrian Armed Forces. It is the dominant military service of the four uniformed services, controlling the senior most posts in the armed forces, and has the greatest manpower, approximately 80 percent of the...

. The Syrian government has denied the reports of defections and blames "armed gangs" for causing trouble.

More than 4,000 people have been killed, many more injured, and thousands of protesters have been detained. Dozens of detainees have reportedly been tortured and killed.

Since the beginning of the uprising, the Syrian government has made several concessions, though widely considered trivial by protesters demanding more meaningful reform. On 21 April, the government repealed an emergency law that had been in place since 1963, which allowed the government sweeping authority to suspend constitutional rights. Yet crackdowns on protesters have continued to heighten since the beginning of the uprising. On 24 July, a draft law was created, to be debated by parliament, to allow more political parties, under the conditions that they were not based on religious, tribal or ethnic beliefs and does not discriminate against gender or race. Protesters have dismissed the law as superficial, as Article 8 of the Syrian Constitution, which grants the Ba'ath party the role of leader of the state and society, would need to be repealed.

There have been several international reactions to the uprising
International reactions to the 2011 Syrian uprising
The international reactions to the 2011 Syrian uprising concern the response of international bodies, foreign governments, non-governmental organisations and petroleum multinational corporations headquartered outside of Syria...

. The Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

, the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Gulf Cooperation Council
Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf
The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf , also known as the Gulf Cooperation Council , is a political and economic union of the Arab states bordering the Persian Gulf and constituting the Arabian Peninsula, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates...

, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 and the United States have among others condemned the use of violence against the protesters. The government of Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Assad's government's regional and political ally, suggested the demonstrations were a foreign plot, but President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has since called for reforms and an end to violence. However, military intervention has been generally ruled out by foreign powers. The Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

 has suspended Syria's membership over the government's response to the crisis.

History



The ruling Ba'ath Party first came to power in a 1963 military coup d'état, although the country remained politically unstable until 1970 when Defence Minister
Minister of Defence (Syria)
The Ministry of Defense is a government ministry office of the Syrian Arab Republic, responsible for defense affairs in Syria.-Ministers of Defense since 1963:*Muhammad Umran *Hafez al-Assad *Mustafa Tlass...

 Hafez al-Assad
Hafez al-Assad
Hafez ibn 'Ali ibn Sulayman al-Assad or more commonly Hafez al-Assad was the President of Syria for three decades. Assad's rule consolidated the power of the central government after decades of coups and counter-coups, such as Operation Wappen in 1957 conducted by the Eisenhower administration and...

 seized power
1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution
The 1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution, better known as the Syrian Corrective Movement, was a military-pragmatist faction's takeover within the Ba'ath party regime of Syria on November 13, 1970, bringing Hafez al-Assad to power.-Background:...

 and declared himself President, a position he would hold until his death in 2000. Syria was under Emergency Law from 1963 to 2011, which effectively suspended most constitutional protections for its citizens. Syrian governments justified this state of emergency
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

 by pointing to the fact that Syria was in a state of war with Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. Since then, Syrian citizens may only approve the President by referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 and do not hold multi-party elections for the legislature. Despite internal power changes, such as the 1966 coup and the 1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution
1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution
The 1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution, better known as the Syrian Corrective Movement, was a military-pragmatist faction's takeover within the Ba'ath party regime of Syria on November 13, 1970, bringing Hafez al-Assad to power.-Background:...

, the Ba'ath Party has remained the sole authority in Syria.

After the 1970 Revolution
1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution
The 1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution, better known as the Syrian Corrective Movement, was a military-pragmatist faction's takeover within the Ba'ath party regime of Syria on November 13, 1970, bringing Hafez al-Assad to power.-Background:...

, President Hafez al-Assad
Hafez al-Assad
Hafez ibn 'Ali ibn Sulayman al-Assad or more commonly Hafez al-Assad was the President of Syria for three decades. Assad's rule consolidated the power of the central government after decades of coups and counter-coups, such as Operation Wappen in 1957 conducted by the Eisenhower administration and...

 led Syria for nearly 30 years, banning any opposing political party and any opposition candidate in any election. In 1982, at the climax of a six-year Islamic insurgency
Islamic uprising in Syria
The Islamic uprising in Syria was a series of revolts and armed insurgency by Sunni Islamists, mainly members of the Muslim Brotherhood from 1976 until 1982. The uprising was aimed against the authority of the Ba'ath Party-controlled government of Syria, in what has been called "long campaign of...

 throughout the country, Hafez al-Assad conducted a scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

 policy against the town of Hama
Hama
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria north of Damascus. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria—behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs—with a population of 696,863...

 to quell an uprising by the Sunni Muslim community, including the Muslim Brotherhood
History of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria
Muslim Brotherhood in Syria was founded in the late 1930s or mid 1940s. In the first decade or so of independence it was part of the legal opposition, and in the 1961 parliamentary elections it won ten seats. After the 1963 coup brought the secularist, pan-Arabist Baath Party to power, it was banned...

 and others. Tens of thousands of people, including 10–80,000 civilians, were killed in the Hama massacre
Hama massacre
The Hama massacre occurred in February 1982, when the Syrian army, under the orders of the president of Syria Hafez al-Assad, conducted a scorched earth policy against the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Sunni Muslim community against the regime of al-Assad...

.

The issue of Hafez al-Assad's succession prompted the 1999 Latakia incident
1999 Latakia protests
1999 Latakia protests were violent protests and armed clashes, which erupted in Latakia, Syria following 1998 People's Assembly's Elections. The violent events were an explosion of a long-running feud between Hafez al-Assad and his younger brother Rifaat...

, when violent protests and armed clashes erupted following 1998 People's Assembly's Elections. The violent events were an explosion of a long-running feud between Hafez al-Assad
Hafez al-Assad
Hafez ibn 'Ali ibn Sulayman al-Assad or more commonly Hafez al-Assad was the President of Syria for three decades. Assad's rule consolidated the power of the central government after decades of coups and counter-coups, such as Operation Wappen in 1957 conducted by the Eisenhower administration and...

 and his younger brother Rifaat
Rifaat al-Assad
Rifaat al-Assad is the younger brother of the former President of Syria, Hafez al-Assad, and the uncle of the current President Bashar al-Assad, all of whom come from the minority Alawite Muslim sect. He was born in the village of Qardaha, near Lattakia in western Syria. He is perhaps best known...

. Two people were killed in fire exchanges between Syrian police and Rifaat's supporters during a police crack-down on Rifaat's port compound in Latakia. According to opposition sources, denied by the government, the protests resulted in hundreds of dead and injured. Hafez al-Assad died one year later, from pulmonary fibrosis
Pulmonary fibrosis
Pulmonary fibrosis is the formation or development of excess fibrous connective tissue in the lungs. It is also described as "scarring of the lung".-Symptoms:Symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis are mainly:...

. He was succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

, who was appointed after a constitutional amendment lowered the age requirement for President from 40 to his age of 34.

Bashar, who speaks English and some French and has a British-born Syrian wife
Asma Assad
Asma al-Assad ; born 11 August 1975; née Asma Fawaz al-Akhras , is the British-born First Lady of Syria. She moved to Syria to marry President Bashar al-Assad in December 2000, having previously pursued a career in investment banking....

, was said to have "inspired hopes" for reform, and a "Damascus Spring
Damascus Spring
The Damascus Spring was a period of intense political and social debate in Syria which started after the death of President Hafiz al-Asad in June 2000 and continued to some degree until autumn 2001, when most of the activities associated with it were suppressed by the government.- Background...

" of intense political and social debate took place from July 2000 to August 2001. The period was characterized by the emergence of numerous political forums or salons
Salon (gathering)
A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation. These gatherings often consciously followed Horace's definition of the aims of poetry, "either to...

 where groups of like minded people met in private houses to debate political and social issues. The phenomenon of salons spread rapidly in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 and to a lesser extent in other cities. Political activists, such as, Riad Seif
Riad Seif
Riad Seif is Syrian political dissident, formerly a member of the Parliament of Syria and prominent businessman, who founded and lead the Forum for National Dialogue. Seif was elected to parliament in 1994 as an independent and again in 1998...

, Haitham al-Maleh
Haitham al-Maleh
Haitham al-Maleh is a leading Syrian human rights activist and former judge. He is an outspoken critic of the current Syrian regime under Bashar al-Assad and has been imprisoned by the Syrian government as a political prisoner on several occasions since the 1960s...

, Kamal al-Labwani
Kamal al-Labwani
Dr. Kamal al-Labwani is a Syrian doctor and artist, considered one of the most prominent members of the Syrian opposition movement. He was imprisoned in Adra Prison, near Damascus until November 15, 2011, according to state media. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience.- Life...

, Riyad al-Turk
Riyad al-Turk
Riyad al-Turk is a prominent Syrian opposition leader, former political prisoner for about 20 years in Syria, and supporter of democracy, who has been called "the Old Man of Syrian opposition." He was secretary general of the Syrian Communist Party since its foundation in 1973 until 2005...

 and Aref Dalila
Aref Dalila
Professor Aref Dalila is a Syrian economics professor and former Dean of the Faculty of Economics in Damascus University. He was arrested for his political activity during the Damascus Spring period.-Life:...

 were important in mobilizing the movement. The most famous of the forums were the Riad Seif Forum
Riad Seif Forum
The Riad Seif Forum is or was a political forum, or muntadat, founded by "businessman-turned-dissident" Riad Seif, promoting political debate and freedom in Syria...

 and the Jamal al-Atassi Forum
Jamal al-Atassi
Jamal Al-Atassi was a Syrian nationalist, politician and author. He was one of the earliest ideologues of the nascent Syrian Baath Party, which he joined soon after it was founded...

. The Damascus Spring ended in August 2001 with the arrest and imprisonment of ten leading activists who had called for democratic elections and a campaign of civil disobedience. Renewed opposition activity occurred in October 2005 when activist Michel Kilo
Michel Kilo
Michel Kilo is a Syrian Christian writer and human rights activist, who has been called "one of Syria's leading opposition thinkers."-Career:He was born in the Syrian Mediterranean coastal city and province of Latakia in 1940....

 launched with leading opposition figures the Damascus Declaration
Damascus Declaration
The Damascus Declaration was a statement of unity by Syrian opposition figures issued in October 2005. It criticized the Syrian government regime as `authoritarian, totalitarian and cliquish,` and called for `peaceful, gradual,` reform `founded on accord, and based on dialogue and recognition of...

, which criticized the Syrian government as "authoritarian, totalitarian and cliquish" and called for democratic reform.

Kurdish-Arab riots have prompted increased tension in Syria's Kurdish areas since 2004. That year the Al-Qamishli riots
2004 Al-Qamishli riots
The 2004 Al-Qamishli riots refer to riots by Syrian Kurds in the northeastern city of al-Qamishli in March 2004. The riots started during a chaotic football match, when some people started raising Kurdish national flags, turning the match to political conflict...

 against the government began in the northeastern city of Al-Qamishli. During a chaotic soccer match, some people raised Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

 flags, and the match turned into a political conflict. In a brutal reaction by Syrian police and clashes between Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

 and Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 groups, at least 30 people were killed, with some claims indicating a casualty count of about 100 people.MidEastWeb. Kurdish agony – the forgotten massacre of Qamishlo. March 2004.http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000231.htm MidEastWeb Smaller clashes with Kurdish protesters and government measures have continued since.

The al-Assad family
Assad family
The Assad family has ruled Syria, since Hafez al-Assad became Syrian President in 1971 and established an authoritarian regime under the control of the Baath party. After his death in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad succeeded him....

 is a member of the minority Alawite
Alawite
The Alawis, also known as Alawites, Nusayris and Ansaris are a prominent mystical and syncretic religious group centred in Syria who are a branch of Shia Islam.-Etymology:...

 sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam that numbers an estimated 6–12 percent of the Syrian
Syrian people
The Syrian people are the inhabitants and citizens of Syria. Syrians are tied together by geography, linguistic heritage, religion, and similar Eastern Mediterranean ethnicities...

 population, and has maintained "a tight grip" on Syria's security services, generating "deep resentment" among the Sunni Muslims that make up about three quarters of Syria's population."Syria – International Religious Freedom Report 2006". U.S. Department of State. 2006. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2006/71432.htm. Retrieved 28 June 2009. Minority Kurds have also protested and complained. Al-Assad declared that his state was immune from the kinds of mass protests that took place in Egypt.FOX News opinion. Bouthaina Shaaban
Bouthaina Shaaban
Bouthaina Shaaban is a Syrian politician and is currently the political and media adviser to the President of Syria. Shaaban served as the first Minister of Expatriates for the Syrian Arab Republic, between 2003 and 2008, and has been described as the Syrian "regime's face to the outside...

, a presidential adviser, blamed Sunni clerics and preachers for inciting Sunnis to revolt, such as Qatar
Qatar
Qatar , also known as the State of Qatar or locally Dawlat Qaṭar, is a sovereign Arab state, located in the Middle East, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its...

-based Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi in a sermon in Doha
Doha
Doha is the capital city of the state of Qatar. Located on the Persian Gulf, it had a population of 998,651 in 2008, and is also one of the municipalities of Qatar...

 on 25 March."US will not intervene in Syria as it has in Libya, says Hillary Clinton". The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

. 27 March 2011.
According to The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

, the Syrian government has relied "almost exclusively" on Alawite-dominated units of the security services to fight the uprising. His younger brother Maher al-Assad
Maher al-Assad
Maher al-Assad is the brother of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the commander of the Republican Guard and the army's elite Fourth Armored Division, which together with Syria's secret police form the core of the country's security forces...

 commands the army's Fourth Armored Division
Defense companies
The Defense Companies were a paramilitary force in Syria that were controlled by Rifaat al-Assad. Their task was to defend the Assad government, and Damascus, from internal and external attack...

, and his brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, is deputy chief of staff of the army. His family is said to fear that failure to take a hard line on protesters could embolden them, bringing much larger crowds into the streets.

Socio-economics and civil rights



Socio-economic
As with much of the Middle East, high youth unemployment and economic disenfranchisement of young adults has been a significant factor in Syria. A 2007 study by the Dubai School of Government’s Wolfensohn Center for Development, “Youth Exclusion in Syria: Social, Economic, and Institutional Dimensions," examined the aspects of high unemployment rates among young adults ages 15–24 in the country using available jobs data and survey responses. The study found that certain dynamics are particularly acute in Syria, even relative to countries in the region. Though its overall overall unemployment rate has traditionally been about average for the Middle East (about 25%), what distinguishes Syria is that the youth jobless rate has been more than six times higher than the rate among older adults (only 4%); that constitutes “the highest ratio [youth-adult imbalance] among the region’s countries outside the Gulf States.” The average ratio in the Middle East is 3.3, whereas the world average is 3.5. Additionally, the participation rate of Syrian youth in the labor market relative to adults is “substantially lower than the worldwide average (0.66 compared to 0.79 percent)". Demographic trends have exacerbated the problem; according to the study, "the share of youth in the Syrian population peaked at 25.4 percent in 2005, presenting challenges in terms of job creation for young people; and in 2002, unemployed youth made up 77 percent of the working-age unemployed population in Syria." This is in spite of the burgeoning youth population; the study notes that “labor supply growth rates of around 5 percent per year between 1983 and 2003." Survey responses indicated that most youth were actively seeking employment, but more than “75 percent of unemployed youth had been searching for work for over a year.”

Socio-economic complaints have been reported, such as a deterioration in the country's standard of living
Standard of living
Standard of living is generally measured by standards such as real income per person and poverty rate. Other measures such as access and quality of health care, income growth inequality and educational standards are also used. Examples are access to certain goods , or measures of health such as...

, a reduction of state support for the poor resulting from the gradual transition towards a free market
Free market
A free market is a competitive market where prices are determined by supply and demand. However, the term is also commonly used for markets in which economic intervention and regulation by the state is limited to tax collection, and enforcement of private ownership and contracts...

 economy , the erosion of subsidies for basic goods and agriculture, free trade without suitable support to the local industry, and high youth unemployment rates.

Human rights
The state of human rights in Syria
Human rights in Syria
Human rights in Syria have been described as "poor". Since 1963, emergency rule has remained in effect which gives security forces sweeping powers of arrest and detention....

 has long been the subject of harsh criticism from global organizations. The country was under emergency rule
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

 from 1963 until 2011, effectively granting security forces sweeping powers of arrest and detention. After taking power in 1970, Hafez al-Assad quickly purged the government of any political adversaries and asserted his control over all aspects of Syrian society, consolidating his position as the despotic
Despotism
Despotism is a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power. That entity may be an individual, as in an autocracy, or it may be a group, as in an oligarchy...

 statesman of the country. He developed an elaborate cult of personality
Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships...

 and violently repressed any opposition, most notoriously in the 1982 Hama Massacre
Hama massacre
The Hama massacre occurred in February 1982, when the Syrian army, under the orders of the president of Syria Hafez al-Assad, conducted a scorched earth policy against the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Sunni Muslim community against the regime of al-Assad...

 when thousands were killed in order to suppress an Islamic uprising
Islamic uprising in Syria
The Islamic uprising in Syria was a series of revolts and armed insurgency by Sunni Islamists, mainly members of the Muslim Brotherhood from 1976 until 1982. The uprising was aimed against the authority of the Ba'ath Party-controlled government of Syria, in what has been called "long campaign of...

. After his death in 2000 and the succession of his son Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

 to the Presidency, it was hoped that the Syrian government would make concessions toward the development of a more liberal society; this period became known as the Damascus Spring
Damascus Spring
The Damascus Spring was a period of intense political and social debate in Syria which started after the death of President Hafiz al-Asad in June 2000 and continued to some degree until autumn 2001, when most of the activities associated with it were suppressed by the government.- Background...

. However, al-Assad is widely regarded to have been unsuccessful in implementing democratic change, with a 2010 report from Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 stating that he has failed to improve the state of human rights since taking power ten years prior. All other political parties have remained banned, thereby making Syria a one-party state without free elections.

Rights of expression, association and assembly are strictly controlled in Syria. The authorities harass and imprison human rights activists and other critics of the government, who are oftentimes indefinitely detained and tortured in poor prison conditions. While al-Assad permitted radio stations to play Western pop music, websites such as Amazon.com
Amazon.com
Amazon.com, Inc. is a multinational electronic commerce company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, United States. It is the world's largest online retailer. Amazon has separate websites for the following countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and...

, Facebook, Wikipedia and YouTube were blocked until 1 January 2011, when all citizens were permitted to sign up for high speed internet, and those sites were allowed. However, a 2007 law requires Internet cafe
Internet cafe
An Internet café or cybercafé is a place which provides internet access to the public, usually for a fee. These businesses usually provide snacks and drinks, hence the café in the name...

s to record all comments that users post on online chat
Online chat
Online chat may refer to any kind of communication over the Internet, that offers an instantaneous transmission of text-based messages from sender to receiver, hence the delay for visual access to the sent message shall not hamper the flow of communications in any of the directions...

 forums.

In an interview published 31 January 2011, al-Assad declared it was time to reform, that the protests in Egypt
2011 Egyptian revolution
The 2011 Egyptian revolution took place following a popular uprising that began on Tuesday, 25 January 2011 and is still continuing as of November 2011. The uprising was mainly a campaign of non-violent civil resistance, which featured a series of demonstrations, marches, acts of civil...

, Tunisia
Tunisian revolution
The Tunisian Revolution is an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia. The events began in December 2010 and led to the ousting of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011...

 and Yemen
2011 Yemeni uprising
The 2011 Yemen Uprising followed the initial stages of the Tunisian Revolution and occurred simultaneously with the Egyptian Revolution and other mass protests in the Middle East in early 2011. In its early phase, protests in Yemen were initially against unemployment, economic conditions and...

 indicated a "new era" was coming to the Middle East, and that Arab rulers needed to do more to accommodate their peoples' rising political and economic aspirations.

Women and ethnic minorities have faced discrimination in the public sector. Thousands of Syrian Kurds were denied citizenship in 1962, and their descendants continued to be labeled as "foreigners" until 2011, when 120,000 out of roughly 200,000 stateless Kurds were granted citizenship on 6 April. Because the government is dominated by the Shia Alawite
Alawite
The Alawis, also known as Alawites, Nusayris and Ansaris are a prominent mystical and syncretic religious group centred in Syria who are a branch of Shia Islam.-Etymology:...

 sect, it has had to make some gestures toward the majority Sunni sects and other minority populations in order to retain power.

Timeline




The protest movement in Syria was at first modest, and took a while to gain momentum. The events began on 26 January 2011, when Hasan Ali Akleh from Al-Hasakah
Al-Hasakah
Al-Hasakah...

 poured gasoline on himself and set himself on fire, in the same way Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi
Mohamed Bouazizi
Mohamed Bouazizi was a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on 17 December 2010, in protest of the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation that he reported was inflicted on him by a municipal official and her aides...

 had in Tunis on 17 December 2010. According to eyewitnesses, the action was "a protest against the Syrian government". Two days later, on 28 January 2011, an evening demonstration was held in Ar-Raqqah, to protest the killing of two soldiers of Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

 descent.
On 3 February, a "Day of Rage" was called for in Syria from 4 to 5 February on social media websites Facebook and Twitter. Protesters demanded governmental reform, but most protests took place outside of Syria, and were small. Hundreds marched in Al-Hasakah
Al-Hasakah
Al-Hasakah...

, but Syrian security forces dispersed the protest and arrested dozens of demonstrators. Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

 labeled Syria a "kingdom of silence", concluding that protests would not succeed due to the popularity of President Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

 and concerns over the prospects of insurgency
Insurgency
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

 like that seen in neighboring Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

. A protest in late February at the Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

n Embassy in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 to demonstrate against the government of Muammar Gaddafi
Muammar Gaddafi
Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Gaddafi or "September 1942" 20 October 2011), commonly known as Muammar Gaddafi or Colonel Gaddafi, was the official ruler of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then the "Brother Leader" of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011.He seized power in a...

, facing his own major protests
2011 Libyan civil war
The 2011 Libyan civil war was an armed conflict in the North African state of Libya, fought between forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and those seeking to oust his government. The war was preceded by protests in Benghazi beginning on 15 February 2011, which led to clashes with security...

 in Libya, was met with brutal beatings from Syrian police moving to disperse the demonstration against a friendly regime.
On 6 March, TIME
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine's suggestion that all protests needed to explode into a full-fledged rebellion was a flashpoint. Ribal al-Assad said that it was almost time for Syria to be the next domino
Domino theory
The domino theory was a reason for war during the 1950s to 1980s, promoted at times by the government of the United States, that speculated that if one state in a region came under the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries would follow in a domino effect...

 in the burgeoning Arab Spring
Arab Spring
The Arab Spring , otherwise known as the Arab Awakening, is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on Saturday, 18 December 2010...

. Indeed, on 15 March, the protest movement began to escalate, as simultaneous demonstrations took place in major cities across Syria. Increasingly, the city of Daraa became the focal point for the growing uprising. Over 100,000 people reportedly marched in Daraa on 25 March, but at least 20 protesters were reportedly killed. Protests also spread to other Syrian cities, including Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

, Hama
Hama
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria north of Damascus. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria—behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs—with a population of 696,863...

, Baniyas
Baniyas
Baniyas is a city of northwestern Syria, located at the foot of the hill of Qalaat el-Marqab , 55 km to the south of Latakia and 35 km north of Tartous , and a Catholic titular see under the Latin name of Balanea, which is presently vacant.It is famous for its orchards...

, Jassem, Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 and Latakia
Latakia
Latakia, or Latakiyah , is the principal port city of Syria, as well as the capital of the Latakia Governorate. In addition to serving as a port, the city is a manufacturing center for surrounding agricultural towns and villages...

. Over 70 protesters in total were reported dead. Late in the month, the first signs were seen that the government was willing to make concessions to the protestors, when al-Assad announced the release of as many as 200 political prisoners. An Assad adviser said the emergency law would be lifted, and Assad accepted the official resignation of the government led by Prime Minister Muhammad Naji al-Otari
Muhammad Naji al-Otari
Muhammad Naji al-Otari is a Syrian politician who was Prime Minister of Syria from 2003 to 2011.-Early life, education and career:...

. Assad denied the emergency law would be lifted at the end of March, however.
In April, the uprising became more extensive, and more violent. Protesters were shot at on 1 April, leading to at least 10 deaths. Well over 30 people were killed in a crackdown on protests on 8 April, activists and human rights groups claimed. Tens of thousands of protesters were prevented from entering Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 from Douma
Douma, Lebanon
Douma is a Lebanese village located at an altitude of 1000m, 80 km from Beirut and 30 km from Jbeil and 43 km from Tripoli. Douma is a part of Batroun District and is known for its special location in a valley surrounded by mountains. Almost all its houses are made of red brick...

 on 15 April, though this restriction did not prevent widespread protests in many Syrian cities. Other cities where protesting was particularly strong were in Daraa, Baniyas
Baniyas
Baniyas is a city of northwestern Syria, located at the foot of the hill of Qalaat el-Marqab , 55 km to the south of Latakia and 35 km north of Tartous , and a Catholic titular see under the Latin name of Balanea, which is presently vacant.It is famous for its orchards...

, Al-Qamishli and Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

. There were also protests in Douma and Harasta, suburbs of Damascus. Firing throughout the country resulted 88 deaths among security forces and protesters, making it the bloodiest day so far. tanks and soldiers entered Daraa and Douma. The border with Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 was also closed. According to an activist, 18 people were killed in Daraa. Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

 reported that some soldiers appeared to have been shot by their own comrades-in-arms after refusing orders to fire on protesters. On 29 April, more than 60 protesters were killed in demonstrations across Syria. The United States responded with harsh sanctions against the Syrian government.

As protests continued, the Syrian government used tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s and snipers to force people off the streets. Water and electricity were shut off in the city of Daraa
Siege of Daraa
The Siege of Daraa was a military operation, conducted by the Syrian military, in the city of Daraa against what the government called terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

 and security forces began confiscating flour and food. A similar situation was reported in Homs
Siege of Homs
The Siege of Homs is a military operation being conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Homs against what the government calls terrorist groups. The Syrian opposition however have called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors...

. In May, the Syrian army entered the cities of Baniyas
Siege of Baniyas
The Siege of Baniyas was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Baniyas against what the government calls terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

, Hama
Hama
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria north of Damascus. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria—behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs—with a population of 696,863...

, Homs
Siege of Homs
The Siege of Homs is a military operation being conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Homs against what the government calls terrorist groups. The Syrian opposition however have called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors...

, Talkalakh
Siege of Talkalakh
The Siege of Talkalakh was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Talkalakh against what the government called terrorist groups...

, Latakia
Latakia
Latakia, or Latakiyah , is the principal port city of Syria, as well as the capital of the Latakia Governorate. In addition to serving as a port, the city is a manufacturing center for surrounding agricultural towns and villages...

, the Al-Midan
Al-Midan
Al-Midan is a neighborhood located in Damascus, Syria. It lies just south of the old walled city of Damascus very to close to the modern city center. It's streets and alleys are full of heritage and history due to the age of the neighborhood...

 and Duma
Duma, Syria
Duma is a Syrian city administratively belonging to Rif Dimashq and the Duma District. Duma has an altitude of 428 meters. It has a population of 117,679 as of 2007, making it the ninth largest city per geographical entity in Syria. Duma is a very conservative Muslim city....

 districts of Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

, and several other towns.

Baniyas was besieged
Siege of Baniyas
The Siege of Baniyas was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Baniyas against what the government calls terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

 in early May, and divided into zones of de facto control, with protesters largely controlling the south and security forces enforcing the laws of the government in the north. Major demonstrations saw nearly 20 deaths on 6 May, and the government claimed 11 soldiers were shot by "armed groups" on the same day. The violent suppression of protests in Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

, Daraa, and other rebellious cities continued throughout the month. A 17 May report of claims by refugees coming from Telkalakh on the Lebanese border indicated that sectarian attacks may have been occurring. Sunni refugees claimed that uniformed “Shabiha” Alawite
Alawite
The Alawis, also known as Alawites, Nusayris and Ansaris are a prominent mystical and syncretic religious group centred in Syria who are a branch of Shia Islam.-Etymology:...

 militiamen were killing Sunnis in the town of Telkalakh. The reporter also stated that according to arms dealers, "sales of black market weapons in Lebanon have skyrocketed in recent weeks driven almost entirely by demand in Syria."Syrian refugees describe gangs fomenting sectarian strife, by Nicholas Blanford, correspondent / 17 May 2011. Toward the end of the month, 13-year-old Hamza Ali Al-Khateeb's body was delivered to his family with three gunshot wounds and signs of torture, including severed genitals and massive bruising. The dead boy had lived with his parents in the village of Al Giza in the Daraa governorate. He joined his family in a rally to break the siege of the city of Daraa. He was detained among hundreds of Syrian during the massacre of Siada, where citizens of Daraa were shot at by Syrian security forces. Opposition activists claimed he was tortured and then shot to death. The chief of Syria's medical examiners association Dr. Akram El-Shaar denied that Hamza was tortured and claimed that he supervised the autopsy in Damascus and that the boy did not have any sign of torture and all signs of disfigurement were due to necrotic decay
Necrosis
Necrosis is the premature death of cells in living tissue. Necrosis is caused by factors external to the cell or tissue, such as infection, toxins, or trauma. This is in contrast to apoptosis, which is a naturally occurring cause of cellular death...

.
In early June, the Syrian government said more than 20 Syrian demonstrators were shot dead at the Golan Heights by Israeli forces, when trying to cross the cease-fire line during Naksa Day
Naksa Day
Naksa Day is the annual day of commemoration for the Palestinian people of the displacement that accompanied Israel's victory in the 1967 Six-Day War...

 demonstrations
2011 Israeli border demonstrations
The 2011 Israeli border demonstrations started on 15 May 2011, to commemorate what the Palestinians observe as Nakba Day. Various groups of people attempted to approach or breach Israel's borders from the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan. At least a dozen people were killed...

. This was perceived by Israelis as a way for the Syrian government to divert attention from the Syrian unrest by allowing demonstrators to reach all the way to the Heights. The army also besieged
Siege of Jisr al-Shughur
The Siege of Jisr al-Shughour was an operation conducted by the Syrian security forces in the city of Jisr ash-Shugur against what the government called terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protesters as part of the 2011 Syrian uprising.-Siege:On 4...

 the northern cities of Jisr ash-Shugur
Jisr ash-Shugur
Jisr ash-Shugur is a city in Syria in the Idlib Governorate. Situated at an altitude of above sea level on the Orontes river, the city was inhabited by 44,322 people as of 2010....

 and Maarat al-Numaan near the Turkish
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 border. The Syrian Army claimed the towns were the site of mass graves of Syrian security personnel killed during the uprising and justified the attacks as operations to rid the region of "armed gangs", though local residents claimed the dead Syrian troops and officers were executed for refusing to fire on protesters. The siege
Siege of Daraa
The Siege of Daraa was a military operation, conducted by the Syrian military, in the city of Daraa against what the government called terrorist groups, while the opposition called it a crackdown against pro-democracy protestors.-Background:...

 of Daraa continued in the meantime, with a French journalist reporting famine
Famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

-like conditions in the town. On 20 June, in a speech lasting nearly an hour, in response to the demands of protesters and foreign pressure, Assad promised a "national dialogue" involving movement toward reform, new parliamentary elections, and greater freedoms. He also urged refugees to return home from Turkey, while assuring them amnesty and blaming all unrest on a small number of "saboteurs". The speech received mixed reactions domestically and abroad and was largely dismissed by protesters.

In mid-July, pro-government protesters attacked the US and French embassies in Damascus, responding to those countries' support for the opposition. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned both the attacks and the incumbent regime, stating that al-Assad had "lost legitimacy," and that "President Assad is not indispensable and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power." Attacks on protests continued throughout July, with government forces repeatedly firing at protester and employing tanks against demonstrations, as well as conducting arrests. On 31 July, a siege
Siege of Hama
The Siege of Hama, also known as the Hama Blockade, is a major arena of the 2011 Syrian uprising against president Bashar al-Assad. The city of Hama, in central Syria, erupted in violence on 3 June 2011 when tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to express their opposition to the...

 of Hama
Hama
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria north of Damascus. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria—behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs—with a population of 696,863...

 escalated during a so-called "Ramadan Massacre", in which at least 136 people were killed and hundreds wounded when Syrian forces attacked demonstrators across the country, employing tanks, artillery and snipers. Most of the deaths occurred in Hama.Al Jazeera English – 'Scores dead' as Syrian tanks storm Hama city – 31 July 2011.

Syrian forces continued to bombard Hama in early August, along with attacks in other cities and towns. On the first full weekend of Ramadan
Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during daylight hours and is intended to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility and...

, the Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

 and several Gulf Cooperation Council member states led by Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 broke their silence on the events in Syria to condemn the government's response. Throughout August, Syrian forces stormed major urban centers and outlying regions, and continued to attack protests.

On 14 August, the Syrian Navy
Syrian Navy
The Syrian Navy is the smallest of the Syrian Armed Forces. It is under the Syrian Army's Latakia regional command with the fleet based in the ports of Baniyas, Latakia, Minat al Bayda, and Tartus.- History :...

 became involved in the military crackdown. Gunboats fired heavy machine guns at waterfront districts in Latakia
Latakia
Latakia, or Latakiyah , is the principal port city of Syria, as well as the capital of the Latakia Governorate. In addition to serving as a port, the city is a manufacturing center for surrounding agricultural towns and villages...

 as ground troops and security agents backed by armor stormed several neighborhoods. Up to 28 people were killed. Eight more civilians were killed elsewhere in the country.

Throughout the next few days, the Siege of Latakia
Siege of Latakia
The siege of Latakia is an ongoing military operation during the 2011 Syrian uprising. It started in April 2011, but intensified dramatically in the early morning of 13 August 2011, when Syrian troops and tanks entered the city of Latakia, on Syria's Mediterranean coast.-Background:Latakia had been...

 dragged on, with government forces and shabiha militia continuing to fire on civilians in the city, as well as throughout the country over the following days. On 30 August, during the first day of Eid ul-Fitr
Eid ul-Fitr
Eid ul-Fitr, Eid al-Fitr, Id-ul-Fitr, or Id al-Fitr , often abbreviated to Eid, is a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting . Eid is an Arabic word meaning "festivity," while Fiṭr means "breaking the fast"...

, thousands of people demonstrated in Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

, Daraa, and suburbs of Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

. Nine people were killed when security forces fired on these demonstrations. Eid celebrations in the country were reportedly muted, with people trying to visit the graves of their loved ones being killed. Protests continued into the following months, with security forces and militia continuing to fire at demonstrators and raid towns and neighborhoods across the country.

On 7 October, prominent Kurdish rights activist Mishaal al-Tammo was assassinated when masked gunmen burst into his flat, with the Syrian government blamed for his death. At least 20 other civilians were also killed during crackdowns on demonstrations across the country. The next day, more than 50,000 mourners marched in Al-Qamishli to mark Tammo's funeral, and at least 14 were killed when security forces fired on them.

In August, The Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem Post is an Israeli daily English-language broadsheet newspaper, founded on December 1, 1932 by Gershon Agron as The Palestine Post. The daily readership numbers do not approach those of the major Hebrew newspapers....

reported that protesters enraged at Hezbollah's support for Assad's government burned Hezbollah flags and images of its leader Hassan Nasrallah
Hassan Nasrallah
Hasan Nasrallah, became the third Secretary General of the Lebanese political and paramilitary organization Hezbollah after Israel assassinated the previous leader, Abbas al-Musawi, in 1992. Hezbollah in its entirety is considered a terrorist organization by The United States, the Netherlands,...

 in several places in Syria. Pro-government protestors have carried posters of Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah states they support a process of reforms in Syria and that they also are against what they term US plots to destabilize and interfere in Syria.

Six months into the uprising, the inhabitants of Syria's two largest cities, Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 and Aleppo
Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

, remain largely uninvolved in the anti-government protests. The two cities central squares have seen rallies in the tens of thousands in support of President Assad and his government. Analysts and even opposition activists themselves acknowledge that without mass participation in the protest movement from these two cities, the government will survive and avoid the fate of its counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia.

Throughout August and September, Syrian forces continued to suppress protests, with hundreds of killings and arrests taking place. The crackdown continued into the first three days of November. On 3 November, the government accepted an Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

 peace plan to halt its crackdown. The ceasefire quickly broke down, as government forces continued their suppression of protests. Throughout the month, there were numerous reports of civilians taken from their homes turning up dead and mutilated, clashes between loyalist troops and defectors, and electric shocks and hot iron rods being used to torture detainees. From 2 to 12 November, more than 250 people were killed.http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-417168,00.html

On 14 November, more than 70 people were killed across Syria as the army clashed with defectors and shot at civilians. Some 34 soldiers and 12 defectors were killed, along with 27 civilians.http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/149803

On 1 December, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights declared the death toll to be in excess of 4,000 people; aswell as expressing the nine-month old conflict to be in a state of civil war. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2011/12/2011121151646992237.html

Shabbiha


Shabbiha (from the root شبح "ghost") have been described as "a notorious Alawite paramilitary, who are accused of acting as unofficial enforcers for Assad’s regime";Assad’s Devious, Cruel Plan to Stay in Power By Dividing Syria—And Why It’s Working| Oliver Holmes | 15 August 2011. "gunmen loyal to Assad";reuters Analysis: Assad retrenches into Alawite power base "semi-criminal gangs thugs close to the regime.”Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies Analysis: Assad retrenches into Alawite power base

According to a Syrian citizen, shabbiha is a term that was used to refer to gangs involved in smuggling during the Syrian occupation of Lebanon: "They used to travel in ghost cars without plates; that’s how they got the name Shabbiha. They would smuggle cars from Lebanon to Syria. The police turned a blind eye, and in return Shabbiha would act as a shadow militia in case of need". Witnesses and refugees from the northwestern region say that the shabbiha have reemerged during the uprising and in June were being used by the Syrian government to carry out "a scorched earthed campaign [...] burning crops, ransacking houses and shooting randomly". In April, Wissam Tarif, director of the human rights group Insan, said the Shabbiha was operating in Homs, and an anonymous witness said they were to blame for some of the 21 deaths there over the course of two days.

Local coordination committees


The networks of anti-government protest organizers formed decentralized "Local Coordination Committees" which drew together the young, unorganized protesters. The Committees are used to document protests and spread anti-government messages throughout Syria. Though they have only a few hundred members, the Local Coordination Committees rose to prominence as the core of the protest movement on the ground, separate from the organized political opposition. The Committees are also noted for trying to reach out to minority groups and diversify the demonstrations.

Armed elements


Some elements among the anti-government protesters are armed, and the Syrian government claims these represent Salafists. More than 1200 members of the Syrian security forces have been killed, which the Syrian government states is due to "armed gangs" being among the protesters, yet the opposition blames the deaths on the regime. Syrians have been crossing the border to Lebanon to buy weapons on the black market since the beginning of the protests. Clan leaders in Syria claim that the armed uprising is of a tribal, revenge-based nature, not Islamist. On 6 June, the government said more than 120 security personnel were killed by "armed gangs"; 20 in an ambush and 82 in an attack on a security post. The main centers of unrest – Daraa near Jordan, where the uprising began, Talkalakh
Talkalakh
Talkalakh is a Syrian city . It has a population of 31,479, most of them are Turkmen. Talkalakh is the principal urban centre of Talkalakh District in Homs Governorate. It is also known as Tall Kalakh....

, Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

, Talbiseh and Al-Rastan near Lebanon, and Jisr ash-Shugur
Jisr ash-Shugur
Jisr ash-Shugur is a city in Syria in the Idlib Governorate. Situated at an altitude of above sea level on the Orontes river, the city was inhabited by 44,322 people as of 2010....

 near Turkey – have been described as being predominately Sunni Muslim towns and cities close to the country's borders where smuggling has been common for generations, and thus have more access to smuggled weapons.Has Syria's peaceful uprising turned into an insurrection?, By Nicholas Blanford, / csmonitor.com 9 June 2011

During the Hama fighting, it was reported that gunmen were driving around on motorcycles shooting at people, and dumping bodies in a river.

An official from the Obama administration stated "We see the elements of an armed opposition across Syria, in the northwest, we see it as having taken over. There are a lot of them. We don’t really know who these armed groups are," but added they were "religiously based, absolutely."

In September, the Syrian government claimed to have killed a total of 700 insurgents.

Kurdish participation in the uprising


Kurds have participated in the uprising in much smaller numbers than their Syrian Arab counterparts. "The regime tried to neutralize Kurds," said Hassan Saleh, leader of the Kurdish Yekiti Party. "In the Kurdish areas, people are not being repressed like the Arab areas. But activists are being arrested."
Reese Erlich, “In Syria, Kurds Split Over Support for Assad Regime,” The Atlantic Online, 27 October 2011. http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/syria-kurdish-groups-armed-forces-assad-controversy According to Ariel Zirulnick of the Christian Science Monitor, the Assad "regime has successfully convinced many of Syria’s Kurds and Christians that without the iron grip of a leader sympathetic to the threats posed to minorities, they might meet the same fate" as minorities in Lebanon and Iraq.Who backs Syria's Assad? Top 4 sources of support. csmonitor.com . Ariel Zirulnick . accessed 2 November 2011.

Kurds make up about eight percent of Syria’s 22.5 million people. The government considers the Kurdish northeast strategically important because it contains most of the country’s limited oil supplies.[CIA Factbook https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sy.html]

The National Movement of Kurdish Parties in Syria, which consists of Syria's 12 Kurdish parties, boycotted Syrian opposition summit in Antalya
Antalya
Antalya is a city on the Mediterranean coast of southwestern Turkey. With a population 1,001,318 as of 2010. It is the eighth most populous city in Turkey and country's biggest international sea resort.- History :...

, Turkey on 31 May, stating that "any such meeting held in Turkey can only be a detriment to the Kurds in Syria, because Turkey is against the aspirations of the Kurds, not just with regards to northern Kurdistan, but in all four parts of Kurdistan, including the Kurdish region of Syria." Kurdish Leftist Party representative Saleh Kado stated that "we, the Kurds in Syria, do not trust Turkey or its policies, and that is why we have decided to boycott the summit."

During the August summit in Istanbul, which led to the creation of the Syrian National Council, only two of the parties in the National Movement of Kurdish Parties in Syria, the Kurdish Union Party and the Kurdish Freedom Party, attended the summit. Kurdish leader Shelal Gado stated the reason they did not participate was that "Turkey is against the Kurds…in all parts of the world," and that "If Turkey doesn’t give rights to its 25 million Kurds, how can it defend the rights of the Syrian people and the Kurds there?" Abdulbaqi Yusuf, representing the Kurdish Freedom Party, however, stated that his party felt no Turkish pressure during the meeting and participated to represent Kurdish demands.

Democratic Union Party (PYD) chairman Salih Muslim Muhammad said that the lack of participation is due a tactical decission, explaining that: "There is a de facto truce between the Kurds and the government. The security forces are overstretched over Syria's Arab provinces to face demonstrators, and cannot afford the opening of a second front in Syrian Kurdistan. On our side, we need the army to stay away. Our party is busy establishing organizations, committees, able to take over from the Ba'ath administration the moment the regime collapses."Kurdish Leader: We Oppose Foreign Intervention in Syria

Senior Kurdistan Workers' Party
Kurdistan Workers' Party
The Kurdistan Workers' Party , commonly known as PKK, also known as KGK and formerly known as KADEK or KONGRA-GEL , is a Kurdish organization which has since 1984 been fighting an armed struggle against the Turkish state for an autonomous Kurdistan and greater cultural and political rights...

 (PKK) leader Cemil Bayik
Cemil Bayik
Cemil Bayik , also known as Cuma, is one of the five founders of the Kurdish separatist movement Kurdistan Workers' Party , who are still alive and is among the organisation's top leadership as he is a member of the 12-man leadership council of the Koma Civaken Kurdistan , a Kurdish political...

 stated that if Turkey were to intervene against al-Assad, the PKK would fight on the Syrian side. The PKK's Syrian branch is alleged to be involved in the targeting of Kurds participating in the uprising.

Sectarianism


Sectarian chants by anti-regime protesters have spread fear among Syria's minorities. During the beginning of the uprising, protesters chanted “Christians to Beirut; Alawites to the coffin”. Christians and other minorities have been protected under Assad rule, which guaranteed religious freedom, and fear that they will suffer the same consequences as the Christians of Iraq if the government is overthrown. Most of the protests have taken place after Muslim Friday prayer
Jumu'ah
Jumu'ah is a congregational prayer that Muslims hold every Friday, just after noon in lieu of dhuhr...

, and the Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church
Syriac Orthodox Church
The Syriac Orthodox Church; is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church based in the Eastern Mediterranean, with members spread throughout the world. The Syriac Orthodox Church claims to derive its origin from one of the first Christian communities, established in Antioch by the Apostle St....

 in Aleppo has told the Daily Star (Lebanon)
Daily Star (Lebanon)
The Daily Star is a pan-Middle East English language newspaper edited in Beirut. It was founded in 1952 by Kamel Mrowa, the publisher of the Arabic daily Al-Hayat to serve the growing number of expatriates brought by the oil industry...

 that "To be honest, everybody’s worried, we don’t want what happened in Iraq to happen in Syria. We don’t want the country to be divided. And we don’t want Christians to leave Syria."

According to International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern is a non-denominational, non-governmental, Christian watchdog group, located in Washington, DC, whose concern is the human rights of Christians...

, Christian Syrians have been attacked by anti-government protesters in recent weeks, for not joining the protests.

Members of the Alawite sect are afraid of Sunni hegemony, as they have traditionally been oppressed by them.Assad's Alawites: The guardians of the throne – Features – Al Jazeera English

In an interview with AP, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the primarily Sunni protesters “have a lot of work to do internally” toward becoming a truly national opposition movement that also represents the aspirations of Syria’s minorities” and “It is not yet accepted by many groups within Syria that their life will be better without Assad than with Assad. There are a lot of minority groups that are very concerned.”

Free Syrian Army


In late July 2011, a web video featuring a group of uniformed men claiming to be defected Syrian Army
Syrian Army
The Syrian Army, officially called the Syrian Arab Army, is the land force branch of the Syrian Armed Forces. It is the dominant military service of the four uniformed services, controlling the senior most posts in the armed forces, and has the greatest manpower, approximately 80 percent of the...

 officers proclaimed the formation of a Free Syrian Army
Free Syrian Army
The Free Syrian Army is the main opposition army group in Syria. It is composed of defected Syrian Armed Forces personnel, who have been active during the 2011 Syrian uprising...

 (FSA). In the video, the men called upon Syrian soldiers and officers to defect to their ranks and said the purpose of the Free Syrian Army was to defend protesters from violence by the state. Many Syrian soldiers subsequently deserted to join the FSA.

As deserting soldiers had to abandon their armored vehicles and bring only light weaponry and munitions, FSA adopted guerilla-style tactics against security forces inside cities. Its primary target has been the shabiha militias. Most of their attacks focused on buses bringing in security reinforcements, which were often attacked either with bombs or through hit-and-run attacks. To encourage defection, the FSA began attacking army patrols, shooting the commanders and trying to convice the soldiers to switch sides. FSA units have also acted as defense forces by guarding neighborhoods rife with opposition, guarding streets while protests take place, and attacking shabiha members. However, the FSA engaged in street battles with security forces in Deir ez-Zor, Al-Rastan and Al-Bukamal. Fighting in these cities raged for days, with no clear victor. In Hama
Hama
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria north of Damascus. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria—behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs—with a population of 696,863...

, Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

, Al-Rastan, Deir ez-Zor and Daraa, the Syrian military used airstrikes against them, leading to calls from the FSA for the imposition of a no-fly zone
No-fly zone
A no-fly zone is a territory or an area over which aircraft are not permitted to fly. Such zones are usually set up in a military context, somewhat like a demilitarized zone in the sky, and usually prohibit military aircraft of a belligerent nation from operating in the region.-Iraq,...

. The Free Syrian Army numbers to about 15,000 men according to a statement its leader Riyad al-Asad
Riyad al-Asad
Riyad Mousa al-Asad is the commander of the Free Syrian Army. He is a former Colonel in the Syrian Air Force who defected in July 2011. John Simpson who tracking down and interviewed Col.Al-Asad. He said he is based in a refugee camp at Apaydin, 9 miles from the town of Antakya and very close to...

 made on Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

, and he added that these were almost exclusively reserve troops that defected from the Syrian army, and thus were no match against the government's highly trained active-duty troops.

On 15 November, the FSA attacked an air force intelligence complex in the Damascus suburb of of Harasta
Harasta
Harasta , also known as Harasta al-Basal, is a Syrian city administratively belonging to Rif Dimashq. Harasta has an altitude of 702 meters. It has a population of 38,184 as of 2007, making it the 43rd largest city per geographical entity in Syria....

 with shoulder-fired missiles and heavy machine guns. A gunfight ensued, and helicopters were deployed to the area.http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4148920,00.htmlhttp://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2011/11/201111163538991291.html

Foreign involvement


Iran’s supreme leader
Supreme leader
A supreme leader typically refers to a figure in the highest leadership position of an entity, group, organization, or state, who exercises strong or all-powerful authority over it. In religion, the supreme leader or supreme leaders is God or Gods...

, Ali Khamenei
Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i is the Supreme Leader of Iran and the figurative head of the Muslim conservative establishment in Iran and Twelver Shi'a marja...

, has spoken out in favor of the Syrian government in regards to the uprising—“Wherever a movement is Islamic, populist and anti-American, we support it”—and news media sources such as The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

, Telegraph and Reuters
Reuters
Reuters is a news agency headquartered in New York City. Until 2008 the Reuters news agency formed part of a British independent company, Reuters Group plc, which was also a provider of financial market data...

 have reported that the Iranian government is assisting the Syrian government with riot control equipment, intelligence monitoring techniques, oil supply and snipers.Iran helping Syrian regime crack down on protesters, say diplomats| Simon Tisdall and foreign staff in Damascus| guardian.co.uk| 9 May 2011.

Khamenei and other Iranian leaders have accused the US and Israel of creating the uprising.“In Syria, the hand of America and Israel is evident.” How Iran Keeps Assad in Power in Syria| Geneive Abdo| 29 August 2011. In mid-April, WikiLeaks
Wikileaks
WikiLeaks is an international self-described not-for-profit organisation that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources, news leaks, and whistleblowers. Its website, launched in 2006 under The Sunshine Press organisation, claimed a database of more...

 revealed that the US has secretly been funding as much as $6 million to a London-based opposition group Movement for Justice and Development since 2006 to operate the Barada TV
Barada TV
Barada TV is a London-based, U.S. government-funded Syrian opposition satellite television network....

 satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria."U.S. Secretly Backed Syrian Opposition Groups, Cables Released By WikiLeaks Show", Huffington Post. 17 April 2011. Accessed 17 April 2011. In May, the Syrian government claimed it arrested some and killed other members of terrorist cells with foreign ties it cited as having killed military and police personnel."Syria arrests suspected terrorists", Rebel News. 9 May 2011. Accessed 6 June 2011."Syrian army kills ten "terrorists", arrests 499", Xinhua News Agency. 2 May 2011. Accessed 6 June 2011. According to US journalist Geneive Abdo
Geneive Abdo
Geneive Abdo is an American journalist who has covered "numerous Islamic countries for over a decade."She was the correspondent in Iran for The Guardian starting in 1998 before "slipping out" of the country with her husband in February 2001 under threat of arrest for "publishing fabrications and...

, the Iranian government has provided the Syrian regime
with technology to monitor e-mail, cell phones and social media. Iran developed these capabilities in the wake of the 2009 protests and spent millions of dollars establishing a “cyber army” to track down dissidents online. Iran’s monitoring technology is believed to be among the most sophisticated in the world – second, perhaps, only to China.

U.S. President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice have also accused Iran of secretly aiding President Assad in his efforts to quell the protests. According to Israeli Army Radio, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official stated that local protesters claimed to have heard security forces members speaking Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

.
Iran denied any involvement in suppressing the protests.

Turkey has provided refuge for Syrian dissidents. Syrian opposition activists convened in Istanbul in May to discuss regime change, and Turkey hosts the head of the Free Syria Army, Colonel Riad al-Asaad.

On 1 November, NATO says it has no intention of taking military action in Syria, after closing its seven-month campaign
2011 military intervention in Libya
On 19 March 2011, a multi-state coalition began a military intervention in Libya to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which was taken in response to events during the 2011 Libyan civil war...

 to protect civilians in Libya.

Syrian refugees



By April 2011, a refugee problem has begun unfolding across Syrian borders, beginning with the siege of Talkalakh
Siege of Talkalakh
The Siege of Talkalakh was a military operation conducted by the Syrian military in the city of Talkalakh against what the government called terrorist groups...

 and unrest near the Turkish border. By 3 May, the number of Syrian citizens, crossing the Turkish border was estimated at 300. President of Turkey, Abdullah Gül, said that Turkey is preparing for “a worst case scenario,” in an apparent reference to a possible influx of large numbers of refugees from Syria. He was referring to the fact that Turkey had already set up a small camp in southern Hatay province for 263 Syrians who fled their country on Friday, 29 April.

By early July 2011, some 15,000 Syrian citizens had taken shelter in tent cities, set up in the Yayladağı, Reyhanlı and Altınözü districts of Hatay
Hatay Province
Hatay Province is a province in southern Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast. It is bordered by Syria to the south and east and the Turkish provinces of Adana and Osmaniye to the north. The province is part of Çukurova, a geographical, economical and cultural region that covers the provinces of...

 near Turkey’s border with Syria, with 5,000 of them returning back to Syria by that time of their own volition. The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon had reached some 10,000 by late June. On 12 July, Al-Jazeera reported that some Syrian refugees had found a sanctuary in Jordan, though didn't give numbers. The reports came from the Jordanian town of Ramtha, along the border with Syria.

To block the flow of refugees, the Syrian military deployed troops and tanks along the border and set up checkpoints, arresting anyone caught trying to cross. Militiamen reportedly attacked people trying to deliver relief and food to refugees trying to flee. On 19 June, Syrian forces attacked the border town of Bdama, burning homes and a bakery supplying bread to refugees, and arresting people for assisting refugees.Al Jazeera English – Syrian forces 'prevent refugees from fleeing' – 19 June 2011. On 4 October, Syrian forces reportedly made an incursion into Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 to search for refugees and army defectors. Lebanese media claimed that two tanks were among the forces deployed, with one source claiming that they shelled a battery factory, and another claiming that they had targeted a deserted farm. The following day, Syrian forces launched again crossed into Lebanon, firing at several farmhouses and killing one person before fleeing across the border. On 11 October, Syrian forces shot and killed a fleeing dissident during an incursion into Lebanon. Syrian forces also been began planting land mines along parts of the border with Lebanon. As of 1 November, the first known victim was a refugee who lost his foot.

Deaths


The number of casualties in the protests, according to sources in the Syrian opposition, is 4,550, updated to 21 November 2011:

List of casualities by governorate
Governorate Number of deaths Latakia
Latakia Governorate
Latakia Governorate or muhafazah al Ladhiqiyah is one of the fourteen governorates of Syria. It is situated in western Syria, bordering Turkey. Its reported area varies in different sources from 2,297 km² to 2,437 km² . The Governorate has a population of 991,000 and is one of the...

 
187
Rif Dimashq  364
Homs
Homs Governorate
Homs Governorate is one of the fourteen muhafazat of Syria. It is situated in central Syria. Its area differs in various sources, from 40,940 km². to 42,223 km² . It is thus geographically the largest governorate of Syria. Homs Governorate has a population of 1,763,000 . The capital is...

 
1,615
Hama
Hama Governorate
Hama is one of the fourteen governorates of Syria. It is situated in western-central Syria. Its area depends of sources. It varies from 8,844 km² to 8,883 km². Governorate has a population of 1,593,000...

 
498
Al-Hasakah  13
Daraa  785
Aleppo
Aleppo Governorate
Aleppo Governorate is one of the fourteen governorates of Syria. It is the most populous governorate in Syria with a population of more than 4,744,000 , almost 23% of the total population of Syria. The governorate is the fifth in area with an area of 18,482 km², about 10% of the total area of...

 
39
Deir ez-Zour
Deir ez-Zor Governorate
Deir ez-Zor Governorate or Muhafazah Dayr az Zawr is one of the fourteen governorates of Syria. It is situated in eastern Syria, bordering Iraq. It has an area of 33,060 km² and a population of 1,202,000...

 
238
Damascus
Damascus Governorate
Damascus Governorate is one of the 14 governorates of Syria and consists of only the city of Damascus and the suburb of Yarmouk....

 
137
Tartous  52
Idlib
Idlib Governorate
Idlib Governorate is one of the fourteen governorates of Syria. It is situated in northwestern Syria, bordering Turkey. Its area depends on sources - estimated vary from 5,933 km² to 6,097 km². The Governorate has a population of 1,464,000...

 
584
Quneitra  29
As-Suwayda  4
Ar-Raqqah  5
(Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

)
3


Other estimates range from 2,550 to 4,500. Except for the N.O.H.R.S. claim, which only counts civilians, all tolls include both civilians, defectors and security forces:
Source Casualties Time period
Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights 3,482 killed 15 March – 24 October 2011
United Nations 3,500 killed 15 March – 8 November 2011
National Organization for Human Rights in Syria 4,500 killed 15 March – 18 November 2011
Syrian government 2,816 killed1,400 security forces,http://www.channel4.com/news/syrian-death-toll-inflated-says-regime-spokesman 716 insurgents http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/13/us-syria-idUSL5E7KB0NC20110913http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-11/26/c_122338446.htm and 700 civilians http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2011/Sep-16/148923-syrian-forces-kill-six-villagers-near-hama-activists.ashx#axzz1cFlfrpX0 killed, total of 2,800 reported killed. 15 March – 24 November 2011
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 3,708 killed2,365 civilians and 680 security forces killed (15 March-4 October),http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/04/world/meast/syria-unrest/index.html?hpt=wo_c2 14 civilians and 17 security forces killed (10 October),http://www.dawn.com/2011/10/10/syria-violence-kills-31-activists.html 11 civilians and 25 security forces killed (14 October),http://www.dawn.com/2011/10/14/syria-army-losses-climb-as-crackdown-toll-soars.html 41 civilians and 48 security forces killed (28–29 October),http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/18911-20-syrian-soldiers-killed-in-clashes-with-deserters-in-homs 250 civilians and 100 security forces killed (1–11 November),http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2011-11-11/16-dead-syria-violence/51167794/1 42 civilians and 46 security forces killed (14 November),http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/11/15/syrian-soldiers-killed-in-clash-with-defectors/ 54 security forces killed (21–25 November),http://ewn.co.za/Story.aspx?Id=78100http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-11/26/c_122338446.htm 15 civilians killed (24–25 November),http://ewn.co.za/Story.aspx?Id=78100http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-11/26/c_122338446.htm total of 2,738 civilians and 970 security forces killed 15 March – 25 November 2011

Arrests and convictions


Days before protests planned for 5 February, Syrian authorities arrested several political activists, such as businessman Ghassan al-Najar, leader of the Islamic Democratic movement, the writer Ali al-Abdallah
Ali al-Abdallah
Ali al-Abdallah is a Syrian writer and human rights activist.He was arrested in Syria in March 2006. He was again arrested and jailed during 2007 after trying to revive the Damascus Declaration, a rights movement named after a 2005 document that demanded that bans on freedom of speech and assembly...

, Abbas Abbas, from the Syrian Communist Party
Syrian Communist Party
The Syrian Communist Party was a political party in Syria, founded in 1944. It became a member of the National Progressive Front in 1972...

and several other political personalities of Kurdish background, such as Adnan Mustafa.

On 14 February, blogger and student Tal al-Mallohi was convicted of spying for the United States and sentenced to five years in prison. Washington denied these allegations and asked for al-Mallohi's immediate release. On 15 February under pressure from human rights organizations, the Syrian government released Ghassan al-Najar after he went on a hunger strike following his arrest for calling for mass protests.

On 22 March Syrian authorities arrested Loay Hussein, a human rights campaigner. On 25 March there were reports of mass arrests and detentions of protesters taking place.

On 29 April Dorothy Parvaz
Dorothy Parvaz
Homa Dorothy Parvaz is an Al Jazeera journalist who entered Syria at Damascus on Friday, April 29, 2011, to cover the Syrian protests and was not heard from for the next nineteen days. After it was reported that she was missing, campaigns were formed on Twitter and Facebook to press the Syrian...

 of Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

 arrived in Damascus and was not heard of for several days The Syrian government later confirmed that she had been detained, she had attempted to enter the country illegally with an expired Iranian passport. She was released on 18 May after detention in Syria and Iran.

Many news outlets reported that a prominent LGBT
LGBT
LGBT is an initialism that collectively refers to "lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender" people. In use since the 1990s, the term "LGBT" is an adaptation of the initialism "LGB", which itself started replacing the phrase "gay community" beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s, which many within the...

 anti-government blogger called Amina Arraf was allegedly arrested by Syrian authorities, but questions arose of whether she was a real person in the first place. She later tuned out to be an American man blogging under a false name, who had used a photo of a random British woman as that of "Amina".

Zainab al-Hosni, who was claimed to have been detained and beheaded by Syrian authorities, later turned out to be alive.

A Syrian American
Syrian American
Syrian Americans are residents of the United States of Syrian ancestry or nationality. This group includes Americans of Syrian ancestry, Syrian first generation immigrants, or descendants of Syrians who emigrated to the United States. Syrian Americans may be members of a number of differing...

 man, Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid
Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid
Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid is a Syrian-born naturalized United States citizen and a resident of Leesburg, Virginia who was indicted on espionage-related charges by federal prosecutors in October 2011...

, was charged by U.S. federal prosecutors on 5 October with tracking Syrian American
Syrian American
Syrian Americans are residents of the United States of Syrian ancestry or nationality. This group includes Americans of Syrian ancestry, Syrian first generation immigrants, or descendants of Syrians who emigrated to the United States. Syrian Americans may be members of a number of differing...

s supporting the uprising in the United States and passing information to Syrian authorities, who then arrested family members of the dissidents living in Syria. The U.S. government alleges that Soueid met with Assad during a two-week trip to Syria in summer 2011.J. David Goodman. "U.S. Accuses Virginia Man of Espionage at Syria Protests" (12 October 2011). New York Times.

In October, Amnesty International
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

 published a report showing that at least 30 Syrian dissidents living in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, faced intimidation by Syrian embassy officials, and that in some cases, their relatives in Syria were harassed, detained and tortured. Syrian embassy officials in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 and Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 were alleged to have taken photographs and videos of local Syrian dissidents and sent them to Syrian authorities, who then retaliated against their families.http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/u-s-raps-over-claim-of-photographing-d-c--demonstrations-1.372268

Censorship


On 5 February, Internet services were said to have been curbed, although Facebook and YouTube were reported to have been restored three days later. Suggestions were made that easing the ban could be a way to track activists.

As of 29 July 2011, social media censorship took these forms:

– Facebook: Homepage is normally accessible. HTTPS connection is blocked so users aren't able to login.

– YouTube: Homepage and all other pages are normally accessible but the streaming domain, however, is blocked. Users can surf the website but can't watch videos.

– Twitter: No direct blocking, but it's undergoing heavy throttling (limiting the number of connections) rendering the service inaccessible.

In August 2011, Syrian security forces attacked the country's best-known political cartoonist, Ali Farzat
Ali Farzat
Ali Farzat , is a renowned Syrian political cartoonist. He has published more than 15,000 caricatures between Syrian, Arab and international newspapers. He serves as the head of the Arab Cartoonists' Association.-Career:...

, a noted critic of Syria's government and its five-month crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators and dissent. Relatives of the severely beaten humorist told Western media the attackers threatened to break Farzat's bones as a warning for him to stop drawing cartoons of government officials, particularly Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Ferzat, who recently celebrated his 60th birthday, was hospitalized with fractures in both hands and blunt force trauma to the head.http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/25/syria-cartoonist-ali-ferzat-beaten, 25 August 2011.http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Syrian-Activists-Anti-Regime-Cartoonist-Attacked-Beaten-128385448.html, 25 August 2011.

Allegations of rape


Defected soldiers reported rapes in restive towns and districts.

Syrian activists say regime forces have abducted and raped women in rebellious parts of the country, possibly using sexual violence as a means of quelling dissent. An opposition campaigner has supplied The Globe and Mail with details about six previously unknown cases of violence against women in recent months, saying that more such incidents remain hidden as Damascus struggles to contain the uprising.

Syrian refugees fleeing to Turkey report of mass rape by Syrian soldiers.

Concessions


On 19 March by legislative decree 35, al-Assad shortened the length of mandatory army conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 from 21 months to 18 months."President al-Assad Issues Legislative Decree Reducing Mandatory Military Service by Three Months". Syrian Arab News Agency
Syrian Arab News Agency
The Syrian Arab News Agency is a news agency in Syria. It is a state media organisation linked to the Ministry of Information. It was established in 1965....

. 20 March 2011.


On 20 March, the Syrian government announced that it would release 15 children who had been arrested on 6 March for writing pro-democracy graffiti.

On 23 March, by regional decree 120, Faisal Ahmad Kolthoum was removed as Governor of Daraa.President al-Assad Issues Decree on Discharging Governor of Daraa from His Post, SANA
Sana
-Geography:* Sana'a, the capital of Yemen* Sana, Haute-Garonne, France, a commune in the Haute-Garonne département* Sana, Bhutan, a town in Bhutan* Sana, Greece, a village in the northern part of the prefecture of Chalkidiki...

, 24 March 2011.


On 24 March, al-Assad's media adviser, Buthaina Shaaban, said that the government will be "studying the possibility of lifting the emergency law and licensing political parties". The Syrian government also announced a cut in personal taxation rates, an increase in public sector salaries of 1,500 Syrian pound
Syrian pound
-Use of 10 Syrian pound coins in Norway:The shape of the 10 Syrian pound coin has been found to so resemble the 20 Norwegian krone coin that it can fool vending machines, coins-to-cash machines, arcade machines, and any other coin-operated, automated service machine in the country...

s ($32.60 US) a month and pledges to increase press freedom, create more employment opportunities, and reduce corruption. |accessdate=24 March 2011}}

On 26 March, Syrian authorities freed more than 200 political prisoners – 70 according to other sources – mostly Islamists, held in Saidnaya prison.

On 27 March, Bouthaina Shaaban confirmed that the emergency law would be lifted, but did not say when.

On 29 March, the Syrian cabinet submitted its official resignation to al-Assad.

On 31 March, al-Assad set up a committee of legal experts to study legislation that would pave the way to replacing decades-old emergency laws. The committee was to complete its study by 25 April. Al-Assad also set up a judicial committee tasked with investigating the circumstances that led to the death of Syrian civilians and security forces in the cities of Daraa and Latakia.

The government, dominated by the Shia Alawite
Alawite
The Alawis, also known as Alawites, Nusayris and Ansaris are a prominent mystical and syncretic religious group centred in Syria who are a branch of Shia Islam.-Etymology:...

 sect, also made some concessions to the majority Sunni and some minority populations in April. On 6 April, it was reported that teachers would once again be allowed to wear the niqab
Niqab
A niqab is a cloth which covers the face, worn by some Muslim women as a part of sartorial hijāb...

, and that the government has closed the country's only casino. Of the 200,000 descendants of Syrian Kurds denied citizenship in 1962, 120,000 who were labeled "foreigners" were granted citizenship.

On 7 April, al-Assad relieved the Governor of Homs province
Homs Governorate
Homs Governorate is one of the fourteen muhafazat of Syria. It is situated in central Syria. Its area differs in various sources, from 40,940 km². to 42,223 km² . It is thus geographically the largest governorate of Syria. Homs Governorate has a population of 1,763,000 . The capital is...

 from his duties and issued a decree granting nationality to thousands of Kurds living in the eastern al Hasakah province while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the 48 Kurds were released, more than a year after they were arrested in the eastern city of Raqqa. This came a day after al-Assad met with Kurdish tribal leaders to discuss citizenship issues concerning the Kurds of Syria’s north-eastern provinces, as hundreds of thousands of Kurds were stripped of their citizenship rights as a result of the 1962 national census.

On 16 April, al-Assad spoke to the People's Assembly in a televised speech, stating that he expected his government to lift the emergency law the following week. He acknowledged there is a gap between citizens and the state, and that government has to "keep up with the aspirations of the people". Later in the day he welcomed the new ministers in the Cabinet of Syria with a speech containing more specifics (full text). He spoke of the importance of reaching "a state of unity, unity between the government, state institutions and the people"; stressed the need for dialogue and consultation in multiple channels, popular support, trust and transparency; explained the interrelatedness of reform and the needs of citizens for services, security and dignity. He stated the first priorities were citizenship for Kurds, lifting the state of emergency in the coming week or at the latest the week after, regulating demonstrations without chaos and sabotage, political party law, local administration law in both structure and elections, and new and modern media law, all with public timeframes. The next topics were unemployment, the economy, rural services, attracting investment, the public and private sectors, justice, corruption, petty bribery, tax reform and reducing government waste, followed by tackling government itself with more participation
Participatory democracy
Participatory Democracy, also known as Deliberative Democracy, Direct Democracy and Real Democracy , is a process where political decisions are made directly by regular people...

, e-government, decentralization
Decentralization
__FORCETOC__Decentralization or decentralisation is the process of dispersing decision-making governance closer to the people and/or citizens. It includes the dispersal of administration or governance in sectors or areas like engineering, management science, political science, political economy,...

, effectiveness and efficiency, as well as closer cooperation with civil society, mass organizations and trade unions.

On 19 April, a bill was approved by the Syrian government to lift the emergency law. Two days later, al-Assad signed legislative decree 50 into law.

On 30 April, Prime Minister Adel Safar
Adel Safar
Adel Safar is a Syrian politician and academic, serving as Prime Minister of Syria since 3 April 2011. He previously served as Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform from 2003 to 2011.-Early life and education:...

 announced a comprehensive plan for reforms in the coming weeks in three areas: political reform, security and judicial reform; economic reform and social policies; and the development of administration and governmental work.Cabinet: Comprehensive Plan for Reform in Various Fields, Employment Programs in Private Sector, SANA
Sana
-Geography:* Sana'a, the capital of Yemen* Sana, Haute-Garonne, France, a commune in the Haute-Garonne département* Sana, Bhutan, a town in Bhutan* Sana, Greece, a village in the northern part of the prefecture of Chalkidiki...

, 1 May 2011.
Syrian Cabinet: Comprehensive Plan for Reform in all Fields, SANA
Sana
-Geography:* Sana'a, the capital of Yemen* Sana, Haute-Garonne, France, a commune in the Haute-Garonne département* Sana, Bhutan, a town in Bhutan* Sana, Greece, a village in the northern part of the prefecture of Chalkidiki...

on DayPress, 1 May 2011.


On 24 July, a draft law was created, to be debated by parliament, to allow more political parties, under the conditions that they were not based on religious, tribal or ethnic beliefs and does not discriminate against gender or race. Protesters have dismissed the law as superficial, as Article 8 of the Syrian Constitution, which grants the Ba'ath party the role of leader of the state and society, would need to be repealed.

Rallies in support of the Assad regime


Since the start of the uprising, large crowds,http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xlsq7n_thousands-attend-pro-assad-rally_news sometimes gathering hundreds of thousands,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmNcqj5Bg-c&feature=related have rallied in the support of the Assad regime, especially in the cities of Damascushttp://mwcnews.net/news/middle-east/14395-pro-assad-rally.html, Aleppohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3f9QB_z-_Q&feature=related, Tartoushttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpkbcIPmkmg&feature=related and Lattakia Such rallies have been held since March 2011 and have increased following the suspension of Syria from the Arab League.

The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

reported on 22 March that one of responses of the Syrian authorities to the unrest was to organise pro-Assad rallies. Pro-Assad rallies were held in the capital city of Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 on 25 March. In mid-June, rallies in support of Assad and his government increased; protests held in front of the French and Turkish embassies over their condemnations of the Syrian government's response to the unrest, and on 15 June, people at a pro-government demonstration in Damascus carried a 2.3 kilometres (1.4 mi) long Syrian flag down the Mezzeh boulevard. State television said "two million" people attended to express "Syrian national unity and Syria's rejection of foreign interference in its internal affairs."

The day after President Assad addressed the nation on 20 June, state television reported that "more than 1 million" people gathered in Umayyad Square in Damascus, and there were demonstrations in Homs, Aleppo, Sweida, Lattakia, Deraa, Hasaka, Tartous and elsewhere to express support for the reforms the president said he would carry out.

Other


On 8 March, SANA
Syrian Arab News Agency
The Syrian Arab News Agency is a news agency in Syria. It is a state media organisation linked to the Ministry of Information. It was established in 1965....

, the official Syrian news agency, published an article on its website titled "President al-Assad issued a decree provides for a legislative grant amnesty for political crimes committed before the date of 2011-03-08". Three hours later, the publication was removed. Hours later, Syrian authorities released Haitham al-Maleh
Haitham al-Maleh
Haitham al-Maleh is a leading Syrian human rights activist and former judge. He is an outspoken critic of the current Syrian regime under Bashar al-Assad and has been imprisoned by the Syrian government as a political prisoner on several occasions since the 1960s...

, an 80-year-old former judge, one of al-Assad's most outspoken critics, under an amnesty marking the anniversary of the 1963 coup which brought the Ba'ath Party to power. Twelve Syrian human rights organisations called on the government to scrap the state of emergency
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

 which had been in effect for almost 50 years.

On 12 March, newly released Haitham al-Maleh announced in a YouTube video his support and assistance to the Syrian youth who are behind the new wave of protests and hoped that he will soon see democracy in Syria.

On 16 February, regime critic and director of the Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria (ODFS) Ribal al-Assad, son of Rifaat al-Assad
Rifaat al-Assad
Rifaat al-Assad is the younger brother of the former President of Syria, Hafez al-Assad, and the uncle of the current President Bashar al-Assad, all of whom come from the minority Alawite Muslim sect. He was born in the village of Qardaha, near Lattakia in western Syria. He is perhaps best known...

 and cousin to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, held a press conference in London, in which he made it clear that he "does not want to see a Syrian revolution, but a peaceful change of power". In a 5 April interview, Ribal al-Assad warned of Syria's risk for a civil war, saying

International


The Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

, the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and many Western governments condemned the violence, the Syrian government's response to the protests, and many expressed support for the protesters' right to exercise their free speech., while China and Russiahttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15738482 have been supporting the government against international sanctionshttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/05/russia-china-veto-syria-s_n_995600.html. Russia, in particular, denounced the use of violence by the opposition and the presence of "terrorists" within its rankshttp://en.rian.ru/russia/20111003/167347814.html.

On 7 June, the Syrian Ambassador to France Lamia Shakkour was impersonated in announcing her resignation on France 24
France 24
France 24 is an international news and current affairs television channel. The service is aimed at the overseas market, similar to BBC World News, DW-TV, NHK World and RT, and broadcast through satellite and cable operators throughout the world. During 2010 the channel started broadcasting through...

 over the protests through a caller. The elaborate hoax was later exposed, resulting in the network filing legal charges."France 24 to sue over hoax Syrian resignation", Kim Willsher. The Guardian. 10 June 2011. Accessed 11 June 2011."Syria’s Ambassador to France Denies Resigning On-Air", New York Mag. 7 June 2011. Accessed 11 June 2011..

Amnesty International
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

, a human rights advocacy group based in London, announced on 6 July that it had proof that the Syrian government committed crimes against humanity in Tel Kalakh, a town in Syria's restive north.

On 9 July, Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 issued a report stating that Syrian Army
Syrian Army
The Syrian Army, officially called the Syrian Arab Army, is the land force branch of the Syrian Armed Forces. It is the dominant military service of the four uniformed services, controlling the senior most posts in the armed forces, and has the greatest manpower, approximately 80 percent of the...

 soldiers were ordered to shoot protesters during demonstrations, as well as take part in arbitrary detentions. The group cites defectors as saying that if they did not obey orders, they would have been shot.HRW: Syrian troops describe shooting protesters – World news – Mideast/N. Africa – msnbc.com

As of mid-September, the United States and Turkey (both of whom had condemned regime violence against peaceful protesters in Syria) were reportedly working together to prepare for a post-Assad Syria, and to prevent a possible sectarian
Religion in Syria
Membership in a religious community is ordinarily determined by birth. Based on statistical analyses from 2006, Muslims were estimated as constituting 87% of the total population, although their proportion was possibly greater and was certainly growing. The Muslim birthrate reportedly was higher...

 civil war. A “senior Obama administration
Presidency of Barack Obama
The Presidency of Barack Obama began at noon EST on January 20, 2009 when he became the 44th President of the United States. Obama was a United States Senator from Illinois at the time of his victory over Arizona Senator John McCain in the 2008 presidential election...

 official” told the New York Times newspaper, “there’s a real consensus” that Bashir al-Assad is “beyond the pale and over the edge. Intelligence services say he’s not coming back.”U.S. Is Quietly Getting Ready for Syria Without Assad By HELENE COOPER nyt.com 19 September 2011]

A poll by the Arab American Institute revealed that the vast majority of Arabs side with the revolutionaries against the regime. Hezbollah, a long-standing ally of the regime, has stood in support of Bashar al-Assad, citing their status as a state of "resistance". A story in Arabiya suggested that Hezbollah is planning a military coup in Lebanon should the Assad regime fall, with the assistance of the Free Patriotic Movement
Free Patriotic Movement
The Free Patriotic Movement , also known as the "Aounist Movement" , is a Lebanese political party, led by Michel Aoun and allied with Hezbollah, The movement was officially declared a political party on September 18, 2005Though most of the party's support comes from Lebanon's...

.

On 12 November, the Arab League voted to suspend Syria from the organization if Al-Assad's government would not stop violence against protestors by 16 November, and invited Syria's opposition parties to join talks in the League's headquarters in Cairo. Syria, Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 and Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 voted against the action, while Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 abstained from the vote. The League also warned of possible sanctions against Syria.

On 23 November 2011, the U.S. Embassy in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 issued a call for American nationals to depart Syria "immediately while commercial transportation is available" on 23 November 2011. Also, on 24 November, a Reuters
Reuters
Reuters is a news agency headquartered in New York City. Until 2008 the Reuters news agency formed part of a British independent company, Reuters Group plc, which was also a provider of financial market data...

 news dispatch reported U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group Two
Carrier Strike Group Two
Carrier Strike Group Two, abbreviated CSG-2 or CARSTRKGRU 2, is one of five U.S. Navy carrier strike groups currently assigned the United States Fleet Forces Command. U.S...

 operating off the coast of Syria to monitor the ongoing Syrian uprising, with an unamed Western diplomat in the region noting: "It is probably routine movement. But it is going to put psychological pressure on the regime, and the Americans don’t mind that."

BRICS group of emerging economies urged Syria to start talks with the opposition and warned against foreign intervention without U.N. backing.

Media


Under criticism from Internet activists for failing to acknowledge the Syrian uprising, Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

 provided analysis of the largest opposition parties in Syria that might have great political influence in any change of power: Syrian People's Democratic Party, Muslim Brotherhood, National Salvation Front
National Salvation Front in Syria
The National Salvation Front in Syria is a political party founded and based in Belgium. It was founded by Abdul Halim Khaddam, former Vice President of Syria and interim President from June-July 2000, and nationalist, moderate islamist, liberal and social-democratic opposition factions in exile....

, Movement for Justice and Development
Movement for Justice and Development in Syria
The Movement for Justice and Development in Syria is a political movement founded and based in London, United Kingdom...

, Reform Party
Reform Party of Syria
The Reform Party of Syria , or RPS is a political party committed to democracy and reform in Syria. It is based in the United States because the present Syrian government does not allow opposition political parties to form without permission. The party is made up of Syrians living in America,...

, Arab Socialist Movement
Arab Socialist Movement
The Arab Socialist Movement is a political party in Syria.It is an Arab socialist party, with roots in the peasant movement. It traces its roots back to the 1930s radical anti-feudal group led by Akram al-Hawrani, which merged with the Ba'th Party in 1953, only to withdraw again in 1963. It is...

, Arab Socialist Union
Arab Socialist Union (Syria)
The Arab Socialist Union Party of Syria is a Nasserist political party in Syria. ASU is led by Safwan al-Qudsi. The party was formed in 1973, following a split from the original ASU....

, Workers Revolutionary Party, Communist Party of Labour, and others. On 9 March, Al Jazeera continued its reporting with an analysis of political detainees in Syria, and two days later another special report reported that many activists indicated displeasure that the general decree of amnesty did not include political prisoners. Al Jazeera launched an internet page for the Syrian revolt as part of their "Arab Revolution Spring" portal.

On 23 March, a column was published in The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. The newspaper was founded by Arthur B...

by Con Coughlin
Con Coughlin
Con Coughlin is a British journalist and author, currently an editor for the Daily Telegraph.-Early years:He was born in London, England, the son of the Daily Telegraph crime correspondent C.A. Coughlin. The eldest of four children he grew up in Upminster, Essex...

, the newspaper's executive foreign editor, calling for the creation of a no-fly zone
No-fly zone
A no-fly zone is a territory or an area over which aircraft are not permitted to fly. Such zones are usually set up in a military context, somewhat like a demilitarized zone in the sky, and usually prohibit military aircraft of a belligerent nation from operating in the region.-Iraq,...

 over Syria to protect innocent protesters.

Internet activists


Facebook
As in the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the internet is playing a major role in the organization and covering of the protests. The largest Facebook site in support of the Syrian uprising called "The Syrian Revolution 2011" alone has more than 310,000 supporters. The site which was co-founded by Fida al-Sayed
Fida al-Sayed
Fidaaldin Al-Sayed Issa born January 15, 1985 is a Syrian political activist who lives in Eskilstuna, SwedenFida is the chairman of the Youth Coalition of March 15 and former spokesperson for the Facebook page "The Syrian Revolution". Fida is together with his father and siblings, one of the...

 reports on news related to the uprising and provides general guidelines for the protests. For every Friday, the site suggests a new name that has so far been adopted by the demonstrators in Syria. As Facebook
Facebook
Facebook is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004, operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. , Facebook has more than 800 million active users. Users must register before using the site, after which they may create a personal profile, add other users as...

 only was recently unblocked
Censorship of Facebook
Censorship of Facebook has occurred because of the open nature of Facebook; several countries have interfered with or banned access to it, including Syria, China, Iran, Vietnam and the United Kingdom.-China:...

, many governmental institutions are now on Facebook, such as Syrian TV etc.

Mobiles
Since international news media was banned in Syria, the main source of information has been private videos usually taken by mobile phone cameras and uploaded to YouTube. Such videos are difficult to verify independently, and several TV stations have shown older footage from Iraq and Lebanon, which was claimed to have been filmed in Syria.

Websites
To add credibility to the videos, protestors often explicitly mention the date and location of the scene. Sometimes current newspaper issues are also shown. The largest collection of these videos is found on Onsyria, which currently has more than 60,000 videos.

Opposition publications



Hurriyat Magazine
In August 2011, Hurriyat magazine, which claims to be the first Syrian magazine opposing the Assad regime, published its first issue. The weekly magazine, was initially published in Arabic and distributed underground in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 and Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

, due to government regulation that in practice does not allow opposition newspapers. The magazine is run, written, published, and distributed by Syrian activists and target all segments of Syrian society, even those who are still supportive of the regime and those who have been labeled the "silent majority." Soft copies of the magazine articles can be found on the Hurriyat Facebook page.

Syrian opposition



The Syrian opposition met several times in conferences held mostly in Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 and formed a National Council.

The Federation of Tenseekiet Syrian Revolution helped in the formation of a Transitional National Assembly on 23 August in Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

 "to serve as a the political stage of the Revolution of the Syrian people".

See also



  • 1999 Latakia protests
    1999 Latakia protests
    1999 Latakia protests were violent protests and armed clashes, which erupted in Latakia, Syria following 1998 People's Assembly's Elections. The violent events were an explosion of a long-running feud between Hafez al-Assad and his younger brother Rifaat...

  • Death of Hamza Ali Al-Khateeb
    Death of Hamza Ali Al-Khateeb
    Hamza Ali Al-Khateeb was a 13-year-old Syrian boy who died while in the custody of the Syrian government in Daraa during the 2011 Syrian uprising. On April 29, 2011, he was detained during a protest...

  • Great Syrian Revolt
  • Hama massacre
    Hama massacre
    The Hama massacre occurred in February 1982, when the Syrian army, under the orders of the president of Syria Hafez al-Assad, conducted a scorched earth policy against the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Sunni Muslim community against the regime of al-Assad...

  • List of freedom indices
  • List of modern conflicts in the Middle East
  • Nonviolent resistance
    Nonviolent resistance
    Nonviolent resistance is the practice of achieving goals through symbolic protests, civil disobedience, economic or political noncooperation, and other methods, without using violence. It is largely synonymous with civil resistance...

  • Politics of Syria
    Politics of Syria
    Politics in the Syrian Arab Republic takes place in the framework of what is officially a parliamentary republic, but what is considered an authoritarian government where the power is in the hands of the President of Syria, his family, the ruling Ba'ath Party, and the Alawi sect.The two presidents...

  • Syrian Free Press


Further reading

(Reviewed in The Montreal Review)

External links