Syrian uprising

The Syrian uprising is an ongoing, violent internal conflict in Syria. It is part of the wider Arab Spring, a wave of upheaval throughout the Arab World. Public demonstrations across Syria began on 26 January 2011 and developed into a nationwide uprising. Protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, the overthrow of his government, and an end to nearly five decades of Ba’ath Party rule.

Since spring 2011, the Syrian government has deployed the Syrian Army to quell the uprising. Several cities have been besieged, but nevertheless the unrest continues. According to witnesses, soldiers who refused to open fire on civilians were summarily executed by the Syrian Army. The Syrian government denied reports of defections, and blamed "armed gangs" for causing trouble. Since early autumn 2011, civilians and army defectors began forming fighting units, which began an insurgency campaign against the Syrian Army. The insurgents unified under the banner of the Free Syrian Army and fought in an increasingly organized fashion; however, the civilian component of the armed opposition lacks an organized leadership.

The uprising has sectarian undertones, though neither faction in the conflict has described sectarianism as playing a major role. The opposition is dominated by Sunni Muslims, whereas the leading government figures are Alawites, affiliated with Shia Islam. As a result, the opposition is winning support from the Sunni Muslim states, whereas the government is publicly supported by the Shia dominated Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah.

According to various sources, including the United Nations, up to 12,130–17,500 people have been killed, of which about half were civilians, but also including 4,185–6,490 armed combatants from both sides and up to 1,400 opposition protesters. Many more have been injured, and tens of thousands of protesters have been imprisoned. According to the Syrian government, 7,665–9,965 people, including 2,975–3,505 members of the security forces, 1,210–3,000 insurgents and up to 3,500 civilians, have been killed in fighting with what they characterize as "armed terrorist groups". To escape the violence, tens of thousands of Syrian refugees have fled the country to neighboring Jordan and Lebanon, as well to Turkey. The total official UN numbers of Syrian refugees reached 42,000 at the time, while unofficial number stood at as many as 130,000.

UNICEF reported that over 500 children have been killed, Another 400 children have been reportedly arrested and tortured in Syrian prisons. Both claims have been contested by the Syrian government. Additionally, over 600 detainees and political prisoners have died under torture. Human Rights Watch accused the government and Shabiha of using civilians as human shields when they advanced on opposition held-areas. Anti-government rebels have been accused of human rights abuses as well, including torture, kidnapping, unlawful detention and execution of civilians, Shabiha, and soldiers. HRW also expressed concern at the kidnapping of Iranian nationals. The UN Commission of Inquiry has also documented abuses of this nature in its February 2012 report, which also includes documentation that indicates rebel forces have been responsible for displacement of civilians.

The Arab League, US, EU states, GCC states, and other countries have condemned the use of violence against the protesters. China and Russia have avoided condemning the government or applying sanctions, saying that such methods could escalate into foreign intervention. However, military intervention has been ruled out by most countries. The Arab League suspended Syria's membership over the government's response to the crisis, but sent an observer mission in December 2011, as part of its proposal for peaceful resolution of the crisis. The latest attempts to resolve the crisis has been made through the appointment of Kofi Annan, as a special envoy to resolve the Syrian crisis in the Middle East.


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