Syria: What Happened?

The ongoing violence in Syria is rarely off of the TV news. How did it get this bad? Here is a comprehensive and simple month by month guide to the Syrian Civil War so far.

February 2011

In Daraa, a small town close to the Jordan border, protesters took to the streets after receiving information that fifteen school children arrested for writing anti government graffiti on their school’s wall were reported to be being tortured in prison. The graffiti read: ‘The people want to topple the regime.’ Afterwards, police went to the school and arrested the suspects. Government officials reportedly responded to the pleas of parents asking for the return of their children with “Forget your children. If you really want your children, you should make more children. If you don’t know how to make more children, we’ll show you how to do it.”

March 2011

On March 16th, a group led by females, hold a sit-in in Damascus and demand that the government release the children. The protesters were reported to be beaten by authorities but the next day in Daraa a similar sit-in is held and further people are detained. On March 18th the first protest of what is to become a civil war is held in response to the arrests of the children. The group said that the authorities shot at least four protesters. Within a week thousands of people begin to take part in rallies and protests supporting the cause, Cities such as: Da’el, Inkhil, Sanamein and Jassem join in the protests. However, there were no such reported shootings here. Later in the monththe children are freed but news of the protests have already spread and violence increases with the help of you-tube promoting the protests. On March 30thAl-Assad addresses Syria in a very dismissive way he states “They started in the governorates (province) of Daraa, the conspirators took their plan to other governorates.”

April 2011

On the 2nd of April anger at the speech sparked weekly anti-government protests throughout Syria and by the 25th the government launches a full scale attack upon Daara. The end of April sees tales of terror and torture inflicted upon the people of Daara spread across the country. This fuels the uprising which has now become a direct attack upon Al-Assad’s regime.

May 2011

The beginning of the month sees: Homs, Baniyas, Tafas and Damascus under seige by the government’s army. In Tafas alone 250 people are arrested. Amongst the 10 dead and 20 reported injured in the provinces is a 12-year old boy.The government begins the raids on Hama, Dael, Jassem and Al-Harrah by the 12th.The next day sees ‘the Friday of free women’ and the government reportedly order Syrian troops not to shoot at protesters on the planned protests. Thousands take to the streets to protest in Damascus and Daraah but are in fact shot at in attempts in Baniyas and Latakia. As the month comes to an end raids continue and the government begins preventing food being sent to Daraah; the civilian death toll on the siege of Talkalakh’s is reported at 27. Over five-thousand people have now left Syria to seek refuge in Lebanon. Protests strengthen in Baniyas, Berze, Qatana, Deir al-Zur, Zabadani, Dael, Daraah  Ablu Kamal, Hama, Rastan, Talbiseh and Homs.  The government responds to the outrage at the exceedingly aggressive and violent siege on Rastan and Talbiseh by saying they opposed the military and this provoked their artillery attacks.

June 2011

The month opens with the government instigating raids on Maarat al-Numan and Jisrash-Shugur, they say in Jisrash-Shugar rebels have killed 120 of their security forces, this is close to the Turkish border and over 10000 civilians are now estimated to have fled to Turkey. More reports of children being tortured by the government come to light and the Iranian military are accused of helping the Syrian military who allegedly have executed the soldiers who refuse to shoot at civilians. Accusations of the Syrian government threatening UN peace makers come to light but later are revoked UN officials announce. Assad gives a speech of mixed messages refusing to reform Syria but promising to open a ‘national dialogue’ that could end his party’s total control of power but the Homs, Damascus and Daraah violence escalates along with the death toll.

July 2011

The free Syrian army is formed; they ask members of the Syrian governments army to join them. On the 18th Qatar make the decision to close its embassy which is located in Damascus following attacks by pro-regimists. Assad then removes the current governor in Hama due to the protests that are taking place the military responds and attacks reportedly opening fire on civilians marking a further increase in violence, 100 people are reported killed in this attack. Activists hold a meeting in Istanbul to discuss forming a more powerful opposition.

August 2011

The UN announces a crackdown in Syria, later they quote many serious crimes against humanity in a report that ended half way through July that have been committed by the government. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain remove their ambassadors after the Arab League make their first statement condemning the actions of the government. On the 18th Obama requests Assad steps down, Hama is now enduring a serious limitation of essential supplies and the violence intensifies even further. Since the end of July it is reported 200 people have died there, this is only on the 4th August. Assad releases a statement saying “Any action against Syria will have greater consequences [on those who carry it out], greater than they can tolerate” regarding the threat of foreign intervention. The end of August sees Arab foreign ministers urge Syrian government to ’follow the path of reason.’

September 2011

The UN announces a crackdown in Syria, later they quote many serious crimes against humanity in a report that ended half way through July that have been committed by the government. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain remove their ambassadors after the Arab League make their first statement condemning the actions of the government. On the 18th Obama requests Assad steps down, Hama is now enduring a serious limitation of essential supplies and the violence intensifies even further. Since the end of July it is reported 200 people have died there, this is only on the 4th August. Assad releases a statement saying “Any action against Syria will have greater consequences [on those who carry it out], greater than they can tolerate” regarding the threat of foreign intervention. The end of August sees Arab foreign ministers urge Syrian government to ’follow the path of reason.’

October 2011

Russia and China forbid the UN’s resolution that condemns the Syrian government. The Syrian government then denies the claims that their soldiers who refuse to shoot protesters have then been shot themselves. At the end of October Assad warns the West during an interview with the telegraph that if they were to intervene they would risk another ‘ Afghanistan’ situation but the girl who had been reported as brutally murdered in September appears on Syrian television. The newly formed ‘Syrian National Council’ ask Nato to grant them a ‘no-fly zone’ in Homs, where the violence is raging to stop the military’s air attacks. In Turkey a similar group has been formed by a number of the activists, they call themselves ‘The Syrian National Council Coalition.’

November 2011

Jordan’s king is the first Arab country leader to support the plea for Assad to step down as ruler of Syria; at the end of the month the Arab League says that Syria has failed to implement the plan which was previously agreed to and responds by removing the country from the league. Turkey supports this by threatening to cut their electrical exports to Syria – one of the country’s biggest partners. On November 16th the protester’s  ‘Rebel Free Syrian Army’ are thought to carry out their boldest advance yet, invading a military government security base in Damascus. In Homs the government’s resistance increases due to the daily protests taking place. Syria takes the Arab League’s decision to potentially remove funding and sever the transactions it has with the Syrian national bank as a serious betrayal.

December 2011

Assad quotes that ‘killing his own people would be crazy’ in a response to accusations of: ordering the assassination of peaceful protesters  The situation briefly seems more positive as elections are held in favour of reform and the Arab League’s peace plan is signed. Half way through the month Canadian diplomats are told that due to the violence preventing them from properly executing their job they are urged to leave Syria. On the 26th Protesters in Homs gather to meet the observers from the Arab League, the League and Syria form an agreement to allow the Arab observers to enter Syria – (this is however suspended by January due to the dangers to the observers.) Their job was to evaluate if Syria was holding its end of the agreement and to make every effort to end their brutal crackdown on protesters  The violence now worsens at the end of the month with reports of 200 deaths of protesters after a 2-day campaign by the military in Idlib. At the end of December thousands of protesters call for the assassination of Assad. Homs is now recognized as the most violent place in the country after refusing to comply with the 72 hour deadline for surrender the death toll soars while the military attacks. Following this a car bomb explodes in Damascus killing 44 people.


January 2012

Assad continues his refusal to step down as ruler as the reports of a high death toll as a result of car bomb begin to be Half way through the month reports of the first agreed ceasefire between the military and protestors is agreed in Zabadani. A few days later Assad rejects the Arab League’s plea that he steps down. A French journalist is killed during attacks in Homs, he marks the first western journalist to be killed in the civil war, Gilles Jacquier.  Another car bomb goes off in Damascus killing 26 people. At the end of the month the Arab League remove its observers, this is due to the huge increase in violence with Homs reported to be the worst across Syria. The league says that they have managed to remove heavy weaponry from some cities but the government is still killing protestors. They then ask the UN to use their plan to implement a resolution that includes Assad stepping down.

February 2012

Again in support of Syria Russia and China do not accept a proposal set out by the UN to end the violence. The US then decides to close its embassy in Syria early in the month. Two more journalists, French and English, Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik are killed in Homs during a shelling attack. In Hom’s protestors strong holds are attacked by the military, reportedly causing ‘scores’ of deaths. In attacks of a government building in Alleppo the Government names terrorists as the perpetrators after dozens are said to be killed. Half-way through the month the military open fire on a funeral march of dead protestors in Damascus; the attacks by the military in Homs become more aggressive, Homs being the biggest strong hold of the opposition. Car bombs in detonate in Allepo and kill 28 people and the Arab league continues to offer support to the anti-regimists. The end of the month marks a major conference being held in Tunisia: ‘Friends of Syria,’ Arab, European and North American officials meet. They name the anti-regime group ‘Syrian National Council’ as official representatives of Syria and Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister states it would be an excellent idea to arm Syrian rebels. The ultimatum states that the violence must be ended and aid will then be allowed in to Syria.

March 2012

Homs protestors say they are leaving Bab Amr after the month-long fight; the Syrian army reportedly kills scores of protestors. Around 4,000 civilians made the decision to stay in Homs, for these, aid was granted to be sent via the Red Cross.  A few days later a senior UN chief meets with government officials in Damascus to discuss the situation; the UN Arab-League also visit Damascus to try and find resolution on the 10th. Six days later Kofi Annan’s (UN Arab-League) peace plan is accepted, this lies out conditions to end the violence, secure a peaceful power transition and for human aid to be provided. China and Russia agree to back this once it is drafted for a second time. On the 13th March Assad released a statement to the public which announced that parliamentary elections would be held in May; the next day the pro-regimists take over control of Idlib from the protestors; numerous deaths occur. March sees mass deaths in both: Homs and Idlib, Assad tours Homs at the end promising life to return to better than how it was.

April 2012

The beginning of the month sees the death toll soar; on the 10th of April the Syrian government failed to meet the deadline to withdraw its troops from the residential areas across the country but the ceasefire which is backed by the UN does begin to take effect. The protests increase due to the cease-fires prevention of violence towards the activists. Kofi-Annan’s peace plan begins to be implemented and the UN sends observers to monitor how effective this is. Three-hundred observers are eventually placed in Syria over the next few weeks. The free Syrian army which is made up of fourteen different nations urge the government to stop the violence and in return they will help to make sure the peace plan is successful. A rocket attack in Hama marks the failure of the ceasefire, 69 people are killed including children. A couple of days later 11 people are killed and more injured after a bombing in Damascus, the bomber was a suicide.

May 2012

A protest march at Aleppo university leaves 4 students dead and 200 are arrested.  In Damascus 55 people die in a suicide bomb attack, the government places blame with groups linked to Al-Qaeda. After this the UN seriously condemns the government’s attacks in Taldlou, Houla, Homs, heavy weaponry was used and 100 civilians are killed. This is allegedly one of the ‘bloodiest days’ ever in the uprising. Syrian diplomats are removed by France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada and Australia. The government blame terrorists for the attacks in Houla but evidence points to their military as the perpetrators, the majority of those killed were shot and not killed in shell fire. Many of these were women and children.

June 2012

Shabila are blamed for killings that take place in al-Qubayr while activists blame the government. The UN suspends their observer mission. Assad says that him and his government face a ‘’real war’’ he suggests the situation is going to continue on a long-term basis and that other government priorities will be sidelined in order for this instead to be the top priority.  By the 12th the UN have also said the situation in Syria is a ’full scale civil war’ Assad appoints a new Priminister: Riad Farid Hijab; with the intention of reforming his government. Turkey changes its earlier rules after the Syrian government shoot down one of their jets, Syria will now be established as a threat if the military are seen to be attempting to breach its border. Syria calls it ‘self defence’ while Ankara call it an ’act of aggression’ At the end of July after world powers hold a meeting they come to the decision Syria should have a ‘transitional government’ to end the violence.

July 2012

Assad announces that he regrets the decision to shoot down the Turkish jet and doesn’t want to go to war with Turkey. The beginning of July sees one of Assad’s heavily relied upon brigadiers (Manaf Tlas) of a branch of the ‘Syrian republican guard’s exit; on the same day ‘The friends of Syria’ hold a meeting in Paris, and, they decide to increase the aid that they are providing the rebels with.  Another loss to Assad takes place 5 days later on the 6th, his ambassador to Iraq also leaves and joins the opposition (Nawaf-Al-Fares.) He is later confirmed to be in France. Activists then report that between 100 and 200 people were massacred in Tremseh by the military; the UN observers say that the attack targeted activists and protestors but not civilians. On the 12th defections from Assad’s government and the increasing number of activist’s leads to an even higher level of violence, on July 19th the ant-government protestors gained control of the Iraqi borders. On July 23rd Syria announces in their first admission of having weapons of mass destruction that they will use them in case of a foreign attack. The free Syrian army also seize parts of Aleppo, the governments attempts to recapture the city only has limited results.

August 2012

Kofi Annan steps down from the UN leaving his position as special envoy to Syria; his peace plan was previously tried in Syria. He is replaced by Lakhdar Brahimi. Ryad Hijab also defects from the government, he then joins the opposition. The organisation of Islamic Cooperation removes Syria’s membership of their organisation and the UN discontinues their observer mission on the 19th. They disclose that their findings show that over two million people are in desperate need of aid in Syria and that 18,000 people have been killed since the start of the violence. 320 are found dead in Daraya close to the capital, the military are blamed for the massacre. The opposition claim that in defence of their cause they brought down a Syrian fighter plane dangerously close to the border on the 30th. Obama warns Syria during July that if they were to use chemical weapons the US would be ‘forced’ to intervene.

September 2012

The beginning of the month (1st) sees an extremely aggressive attack on Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city with the military attack using ground forces, planes and bombs. This is likely to be in response to the rebels serious advances on attacking security compounds in the city that started on August 31st. Assad tells the red cross as long as they remain independent and neutral that they are welcome to operate in Syria on the ground. But, the UN admit that ending the civil war in Syria will be a ‘very very difficult task’ The free Syrian army claim responsibility for the Damascus bombings near the military staffs offices- no officers were killed, but four were wounded. Egypt’s president urges Assad to step down and a linked al-Qaida member threatens to attack Syria in support of anti-regimists. Half-way through the month the international envoy admit that they aren’t much closer to ending the bloodshed and that it could be a potential threat to world peace. Save the children create a report following the detonation of several bombs in a school, it details atrocities committed against children throughout the war and includes first hand accounts. Regimists were allegedly using the school as headquarters.


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