Under the banner “people want to topple the regime”, a popular anti-Assad Syrian uprising started in March 2011. The phrase was first raised by Syrian children being written on the walls of a primary school in the southern city of Daraa. The arrest of those school children is considered the spark of the protests erupted on March 15, 2011.
The Syrian opposition, as well as some regional and international powers, accused the Syrian regime of repressing the protests which demanded political reforms.
The protests started “peacefully” by the Syrian people in the first few months. Meanwhile, the regime accused these parties of instigating and supporting “terrorist” groups in Syria, which (according to the regime) intended to “exploit” the legitimate demands of the protesters.
According to human rights NGOs, more than 140 thousand people have been killed in Syria throughout the three-year-old crisis, including nearly 8.000 children and more than 5.000 women, along with thousands of detainees and millions of displaced civilians.
Escalation of violence
The repression practised by the regime forces through firing live ammunition at demonstrators across Syria, led thousands of soldiers who serve their mandatory military service to defect the Syrian army and form battalions of armed opposition under the name of “the Free Syrian Army (FSA)”.
Five months after the outbreak of the protests, the FSA carried out attacks on the headquarters and centers of the Syrian government, thus the crisis began taking first steps towards militarization.
In December 2011, the Arab League dispatched hundreds of observers to Syria to assess the implementation of the Arab plan to stop violence in Syria. It was the first direct intervention in the crisis after the fall of more than 5.000 victims. Four months later, a panel of the United Nations arrived in Damascus after announcing the failure of the Arab observers’ mission.
In the beginning of 2012, al Qaeda-linked “jihadist” Islamic forces emerged in Syria, as Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) joined the conflict −which were after months included in the list of terrorist groups by the Western countries.
These groups reportedly captured large areas in northern Syria and they are now fighting on several fronts, including the Kurdish front in the areas controlled by the Popular Protection Units (YPG).
In August 2013, the Syrian regime was accused of bombing areas in Damascus with chemical rockets, killing hundreds of civilians through inhaling toxic gas. Later, the major powers held a deal to destroy the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile. The process of destroying Syria’s chemical arsenal is still in progress, as the regime repeatedly delayed the internationally-determined deadline.
Turkey, which supported the Syrian opposition since the beginning of the crisis, hosted most of the opposition activities. The “Syrian National Council (SNC)” (known as the abroad Syria Opposition formed by opposition figures in exile) was established in October 2011 in Istanbul. The SNC has openly called for overthrowing the Syrian regime.
A few days later, the “National Coordinating Council” or what is known as “Internal Opposition” was established in Damascus, which includes parties and opposition figures inside Syria.
One year later, the “Syrian National Coalition for the Revolutionary Forces and the Opposition (SNC)” was founded in the Qatari capital of Doha, to be the broadest coalition of Syrian opposition blocks gaining a large international and Arab recognition and support. The Coalition recently held −for the first time since the beginning of the crisis− “difficult” negotiations sponsored by the UN with representatives of the Syrian regime in the Swiss capital, Geneva −in order to end the conflict in Syria− in the framework of Geneva peace talks. However, the negotiations didn’t score any success, according to the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.
In the Kurdish populated areas, there are two competing sides of the Kurdish opposition, “the Kurdish National Council (KNC)” −which recently joined the ranks of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC)− and the “Democratic Union Party (PYD)” −affiliated with the PKK, and formed its People’s Council of Western Kurdistan. The PYD formed two armed militias, the Popular Protection Units (YPD) and the Assayish security forces, to be the first of their kind in Syria’s Kurdish areas.
Since more than one year, Syrian northeastern areas −where Kurds constitute a majority− saw clashes between Islamist groups and Kurdish YPG forces for control over these areas. Thousands of fighters were killed during the conflict −which resulted in the displacement of thousands of families, most of them crossed the borders into Iraqi Kurdistan.
According to official records, Syrian refugees in Lebanon are estimated with 920.000, while 598.000 are registered in Jordan. On the other hand, more than 594.000 Syrians resorted to Turkey, and 230.000 Syrian refugees received shelter in Iraqi Kurdistan Region. The Egyptian government also reported that more than 250.000 Syrians are hosted by Egypt.
Meanwhile, media sources reported that at least 8.000.000 Syrians have been displaced from their war-torn areas and resorted to other relatively safe Syrian cities and villages over three years of crisis.
Reporting by: Ehmed Herbi
Source: ARA News
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