Safety and Security in the Post-Hiroshima World

Syria Two Years On

It has been two years since the uprising against Bashar  Al Assad’s regime began in Syria. This long conflict has been characterized by complexity, confusion, frustration, and most of all, death and destruction. The death toll alone nears 70,000; the number of refugees recently passed the 1 million mark. A recent report from Save the Children documents the trauma sustained by Syria’s children, who are being deemed a “lost generation.” Research cited in the report claims that nearly 1 in 3 Syrian children have been punched, kicked, or shot at, and many children have suffered torture and rape. The following this provides a breakdown of the two-year long Syrian conflict.

Key Stories

This timeline from Global News offers a day-by-day breakdown of key events from the conflict.

Some of the most important events:

–> The uprising begins with 35 protesters arrested in Damascus and several more killed at another protest in Deraa. (March 16, 2011)

–> The Syrian government resigns but the move is merely symbolic, as the government has little power; Bashar Al Assad stays on as president. (March 29,    2011)

–> After five months of strike, US President Barack Obama calls for Assad’s resignation. (Aug. 18, 2011)

–> The Arab League approves sanctions against Syria (Nov. 27, 2011). Nearly a month later, delegates arrive in Damascus as the death tolls rise. (Dec 22, 2011)

–> A UN resolution calling for Assad’s resignation is vetoed by Russia and China. Throughout the conflict, Russia and China will throw their support behind the Assad regime (citing the desire to prevent foreign intervention), while countries like the US, France, and Turkey will throw their support behind the FSA (in varying degrees). (Feb. 4, 2012)

–> A cease-fire deal brokered by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Anna and backed by Syria and China falls through days short of its implementation. (April 8, 2012)

–> Assad remains true to some parts of the ceasefire when it goes into affect (April 12, 2012) and a UN mission is approved to observe the ceasefire (April 14, 2012). However, in the following days and weeks, little progress is made in the conflict.

–> A Turkish reconnaisance plane is shot down by Syrian forces. The government calls it an accident, but tensions rise further between Turkey and Syria. (June 22, 2012)

–> Rebel forces manage to penetrate a high-level crisis meeting in Damascus, killing several leaders with the Assad regime. (June 18, 2012)

–> In the first ever acknowledgment of its stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, the Syrian regime vows to use its chemical weapons in the case of a foreign attack on the country. (July 23, 2012)

–> Syria’s prime minister defects, a move some see as a sign of the weakening of the Assad regime. (Aug. 6, 2012)

–> Turkey’s parliament authorizes cross-border military operations against Syria after shelling from Syria into Turkey kills five Turkish civilians. (Oct. 4, 2012)

–> An opposition coalition forms, but some Islamist factions reject it, saying that they have established an Islamic state in Aleppo and highlighting the role of sectarianism and religion in the conflict. (Nov. 19, 2012)

–> The Obama administration’s labels of one of the Syrian rebel groups as a terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaeda. (Dec. 11. 2012)

–> NATO approves the deployment of Patriot Missiles and 400 troops to Turkey in an effort to protect the country from Syrian missile attacks. (Dec. 14, 2012)

The Other Side of the Opposition

The brutal actions of the Assad regime are well documented (a look at the Global News timeline will reveal the regime’s violence). However, there is evidence that some elements of the Syrian opposition have acted no better. The following news stories are meant to balance out the reporting on the opposition. They are NOT meant to label all opposition groups as brutal and malicious, and they are NOT meant to overshadow the actions of the Assad regime.

  • Jabat Al-Nusra targets a pro-opposition town. Increasing lawlessness–kidnappings, suicide bombings–has reduced the town’s previous enthusiasm for peaceful opposition. 
  • Syrian rebels have been sidetracked by looting, and Aleppo (which was perceived as needing to be “punished” by the rebels for its silence in the conflict) is one of the biggest centers of looting.
  • A bread crisis in Aleppo caused in part by looting from FSA soldiers was then alleviated by…Jabat Al Nusra.
  • Syrian rebels have in the past threatened to storm Christian towns if they did not take sides against Assad. Christians in the city of Homs have also suffered rebel attacks, especially after more radical Islamist groups began to emerge. One Syrian Christian was beheaded by rebels, and many others have been marked for abduction or death. Some Syrians in besieged Damascus neighborhoods feel they are victims of both the regime and the opposition, and Alawites especially have been targeted thanks to the fact that they share their faith with Assad.
  • A rights monitors say that rebels often kill captives, such as soldiers or suspected regime informers. Rebel groups have admitted to committing atrocities in the conflict.

Updates and Year 3 Projections

  • 21 UN peacekeepers being held hostage by rebels were released on Saturday. 
  • Satellite imagery tells the grim story of the Syrian conflict.
  • The continuing death and destruction in Syria has Western countries like France and the US once against debating the consequence of arming the Syrian rebels (who are already receiving arms from Saudi Arabia and Qatar).
  • US troops are training for a possible mission to secure Syria’s chemical weapons, if they should be deemed vulnerable to malicious actors.
  • Two years later, a discussion with Syrians shows that some feel a bitter sectarian divide has come to define their country and its future.


For this blog’s previous coverage of Syria, refer to these posts (in order from most recent):

News Briefs

The Lowdown: The Latest on Syria’s Chemical Weapons

Security Brief: Syria Edition


Securing Syria’s Conventional and Chemical Weapons

The Security Implications of Syria


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Categorised in: Middle East, News Briefs, Regions, Security Issues, Special Editions, Terrorism and Counterterrorism, WMD

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