World Bulletin / News Desk
Syria's civil war enters its fourth year this week having claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced millions both within Syria and abroad.
The fighting, which began with popular protests against President Bashar al-Assad's authoritarian rule started in early 2011, as part of the wider North African and Middle Eastern protest movements that came to be collectively known as the Arab Spring.
How the crisis began
March 15, 2011. In Daraa, a city near Syria's southern border with Jordan, a group of students inspired by protests in Egypt and Tunisia wrote "the people want to overthrow the regime", on a school wall. The children were arrested, detained and tortured; locals gathered peacefully to march through the city and demand the children's release as well as call for democracy, political freedom and an end to corruption.
The protests continued and security forces opened fire, killing four demonstrators. The government said the protesters “had caused chaos and riots”. Protests began to spread to Damascus, Homs and Baniyas, where the police again responded with force. Dozens of protesters were arrested.
March 25, 2011. At least 100,000 Syrians attend an anti-government demonstration. They burn a picture of Bashar al-Assad and topple a statue of his father, former president Hafez al-Assad. Gunmen start firing at the crowd. At least 20 were killed.
The government then launched a full-scale siege on Daraa and other towns. Mass arrests began and tales of torture spread across the country. The protest movement grew.
Protesters called for basic reforms; a multi-party political system, a democratic country. The regime introduced some limited reforms but the protesters demanded Assad, who had been in power since 2000, step down and allow a democratic election to take place.
Summer 2011. The violence continued and the Free Syrian Army was formed with the aim of overthrowing Assad’s regime. The number of people killed rapidly rose – around 2,000 people had been killed since March.
The United States and the European Union condemn the violence and demand the regime step down. The Arab League expelled Syria in November and imposed sanctions after it failed to end attacks on protesters.
By December 2011 the death toll had risen to 5,000, according to the UN. Assad gave an interview to American television channel ABC, denying allegations that he ordered his troops to kill protesters, which he said only "crazy" leaders would do.
Second year of the Syrian civil war
In 2012 the protests and violence spread to Syria’s capital Damascus and the city of Aleppo. Following the first anniversary of the uprising, the UN said that more than 8,500 people had been killed since the crisis began.
In opposition to the regime’s attacks on civilians, governments such as France, the UK, Canada, Australia, started to expel Syrian diplomats from their countries.
In April 2012 UN former Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed a peace plan and sent a team of observers to Syria. Syria decided to cooperate with the UN on the condition that the regime would still have the right to defend itself against so-called terrorists - the opposition. The agreement failed to hold and the UN observers suspended their patrols due to violence. In August Annan resigned as UN-Arab League envoy after failing to develop a peace plan.
In summer 2012 Syria threatened to use chemical and biological weapons, the first acknowledgement that Syria possesses weapons of mass destruction. U.S. President Barack Obama said the use of chemical or biological weapons would cross a “red line” and could force a military intervention.
By the end of the year Assad claimed it was, in fact, the rebels who were using chemical weapons. Obama, once again, warned the Assad regime about consequences that the use of chemical weapons would result in.
Third year of civil war
Going into the third year, Assad refused demands that he should step down, saying he was determined to fight “as long as there is one terrorist left”.
He offered a national reconciliation conference, elections and a new constitution on the condition that the West would stop funding and arming opposition rebels. The opposition rejected the proposal, saying they would only accept the end of Assad's presidency.
In February 2013, the UN stated that around 70,000 people had been killed since March 2011 and blamed the UN Security Council for its failure to end the crisis.
The EU decided to end its embargo on sending weapons to help Syrian rebels while Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah, announced his support for the Syria regime.
On August 21, 2013 rockets were fired into the suburbs of Damascus, killing up to 1,400 people during their sleep. The opposition and the West blamed the government for the attack, though Assad claimed the rebels were responsible.
Obama decided the US should take military action against the Syrian government but weeks later Assad agreed to a U.S.–Russia deal to remove and destroy all chemical weapons in Syria by June 2014.
In November, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported that a chemical weapons production facility in Syria is unusable and agreed to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons outside the country.
The U.N. also stated that in 2013 Syria's economy had lost US$103.1 billion. The number of refugees in Turkey alone had reached 200,000.
In December, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said there is strong evidence that Assad had committed war crimes.
The United States prepared a ship that would move Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles to another country.
Entering fourth year of Syria’s civil war
In January 2014, a week of peace talks in Geneva mediated by UN and Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi ended with no agreement being reached between the regime and opposition and a second round of discussions appearing unlikely. The regime insisted that "fighting terrorism" should be a focus of the talks, while the opposition delegation said they would not agree to any interim authority that involved President Assad.
The negotiations also failed to find a solution to humanitarian issues, as the regime did not concede opposition demands for an aid corridor to the besieged city of Homs.
Eventually a second round was agreed upon,for February 10, and Brahimi said he expected answers to key questions regarding a possible transition period. During the second round, the disagreements continued, especially in regards to what topics should discussed; the government rejected discussion of a transitional government. Temporary ceasefires and aid corridors into several cities were agreed. No agreement was reached on holding a third round of talks.
More than 100,000 people have been killed and around 9 million have been displaced during the three years of Syria's civil war, according to the latest figures from the UNHCR.
It has also led to 6.5 million people being internally displaced and there are now 2.5 million refugees abroad, according to the UN.
According to recent data from Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency of Turkey (AFAD), the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey that are hosted in border camps and city centers has exceeded 714,000. Seventy percent of the refugees are women and children.Last Mod: 19 Mart 2014, 18:15