Syria Revolution - 2011
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On 15 March 2011, Syrian security forces reportedly dispersed a group of protestors in Damascus who were calling for the release of political prisoners. Police wielding batons broke up the protest and made numerous arrests. On 18 March 2011, Syrian security forces fired on protestors in the city of Deraa (also written Daraa, Dara'a, Der'a or Dar'a), reportedly killing at least 3 people. Later reports put the figure at 9 people.
On 24 March 2011, the Syrian government announced that it would be considering numerous reforms, including most notably the end of emergency rule and legalization of political parties. Protests continued despite the announcement in numerous locations across the country. On 25 March 2011, witnesses again reported that Syrian security forces had fired on protesters in Deraa. 20,000 people had reportedly protested during a "Day of Dignity" after funerals were held on 24 March 2011 for those previously killed by Syrian security forces. The main hospital in Deraa said it had received 37 protestors after security forces opened fire on the protestors. More protestors were killed as they took to the streets again on 26 March 2011 for funerals of those killed.
Both the protestors and the government accused the other for inciting the violence. Protestors unequivocally blamed the government for firing on peaceful protestors. The government responded by saying that the protests had been violent. Authority figures, including President Bashar al-Assad, also suggested that the protests were being agitated by forces outside the country, including multi-national terrorist organizations.
On 29 March 2011, the Syrian cabinet resigned as protests continued. A march in Damascus was also staged in support of Syrian President al-Assad. Al-Assad vowed to defeat the "conspiracy" against his country, alluding to foreign influences. On 31 March 2011, al-Assad again announced that there would be a review of the country's emergency law, as well as other reforms. No time table was given for implementing the reforms. Opposition leaders subsequently called for additional protests. Protests on 1 April 2011 in Damascus and in the south of the country were met again by security forces, who killed a number of protestors.
On 7 April 2011, the Syrian government offered citizenship to some of the country's Kurdish ethnic minorities, in an apparent bid to increase their base of support. On 8 April 2011, 17 people were reported killed in Deraa during protests against the government of President al-Assad. Syrian security forces again fired on protests centered on the funerals for those killed. Violence and more protests followed.
On 11 April 2011, 9 Syrian military personnel were killed in an ambush in the north of the country. Though reports did not clearly link the ambush to opposition protests, pro-government gunmen reportedly launched a reprisal on the city of Banias and village of Baida on 12 April 2011. Members of the Syrian security forces were also reported to have been killed while dispersing protestors in Deraa and other locations. On 14 April 2011, a sniper reportedly killed a soldier in Banias. Also on 14 April 2011, President Bashar al-Assad reportedly met with a delegation from Deraa, which had become the epicenter of anti-government unrest. A column of tanks, reminiscent of the response to unrest in Hamah in 1982, were reported to have been heading toward Deraa.
On 16 April 2011, President al-Assad said that the emergency law could conceivably be lifted in the coming week. On 18 April 2011, the Washington Post reported that the United States had been funding the Syrian opposition. The United States government denied that the support for civil society groups was directed at an overthrow of the government there. On 19 April 2011, the Syrian government approved a bill lifting the emergency law, but authorities warned against further demonstrations and threatened reprisals.
As protests continued, it was reported that the Syrian government had deployed security forces on 21 April 2011 to the city of Homs. Several protestors were killed. On 22 April 2011, in the face of the largest protests against the government yet, Syrian security forces killed a reported 75 protestors across the country. Violence again occurred at the subsequent funeral processions, with reports that snipers were actively targeting the participants. Dozens were subsequently arrested as well.
On 25 April 2011, tanks and other armored vehicles, backed by special forces troops, moved into the city of Deraa in order to disperse the protestors there. In spite of an international outcry, the Syrian government expanded the scope of the operation in the following days. No official condemnation from the UN Security Council followed the crackdown. On 27 April 2011, 228 Ba'ath party members reportedly resigned in protest to the actions of President al-Assad. By 28 April 2011, 500 protestors were reported to have been killed in the latest crackdown in Deraa.
On 29 April 2011, after calling on the Syrian government to end the violence, the United States adopted a number of sanctions against Syria and select members of the Syrian government. The assets of President al-Assad and numerous other figures were subsequently frozen. Protests continued on 30 April 2011 in a "Day of Rage." The Syrian government responded by sending reinforcements to Deraa. Hundreds of protestors were arrested as Syrian forces continued their crackdown. On 5 May 2011, Syrian government forces began departing from Deraa.
Despite "ending" their operation in Deraa, Syrian government forces continued their crackdown in other parts of the country. On 6 May 2011, protestors held a "Day of Defiance" in the capital of Damascus. Security forces dispersed the protest, killing a number of protestors. On 7 May 2011, tanks entered the city of Banias. Operations also continued in the city of Homs. On 12 May 2011, tanks were deployed around the city of Hamah, where a similar crackdown had been focused in 1982. Protests continued in the face of the expanded presence of security forces throughout the country. On 14 May 2011, Syrian forces began operations to suppress what it called "Islamic fundamentalists" and "terrorists" in the town of Talkalakh near the Lebanese border.
On 18 May 2011, President Bashar al-Assad admitted that mistakes had been made in the handling of protests, while the United States proceeded to place additional sanctions on Syria. US President Obama told President al-Assad to lead a political transformation in Syria or leave power. On the same day, Syrian security forces began to depart the town of Talkalakh.
In Homs, protests on 19 May 2011 led to more deaths as Syrian forces attempted to disperse them. On 29 May 2011, Syrian security forces, backed by tanks were reported to have launched operations in the towns of Rastan, Talbiseh and Teir Maaleh to quash anti-government unrest. Security forces also were reported to have opened fire on protestors in the town of Deir el-Zour. Since the unrest began in March, Human rights groups said that more than 1,000 people had been killed in Syria.
On 19 May 2011, US President Obama reiterated his call for President Assad to initiate a political transition himself or leave power. On 24 May 2011, President Assad assured Russian President Medvedev that reforms were underway. On 29 May 2011, it was reported that Syrian security forces supported by armored vehicles had the towns of Rastan, Talbiseh and Teir Maaleh. President Assad made an amnesty offer at the end of the month, which was summarily rejected by a meeting of Syrian dissidents in Turkey on 1 June 2011.
Protests and retaliation by Syrian security forces continued in the first week of June 2011. On 6 June 2011, the Syrian government reported that as many as 120 troops and policeman had been massacred in the northwestern town of Jisr Al-Shughour. The opposition denied the claims, suggesting that the government was manufacturing a pretext for which to attack the town. Other reports suggested that the Syrian government itself was responsible and that the soldiers and policemen had been shot after refusing to attack protestors. Residents of Jisr Al-Shughour began to flee the town into neighboring Turkey fearing a retaliatory strike. By 9 June 2011, more than 1,600 Syrians had fled to Turkey, with Turkish authorities pledging to keep the border open to refugees from the crackdown. Demonstrators near the Turkish border were reportedly attacked by Syrian security forces, who had been conducting operations in and around Jisr Al-Shughour.
As of June 14, 2011, at least 1,300 Syrians had been killed by pro-government forces, more than 10,000 had been detained, and over 8,500 had fled into neighboring Turkey. On the same day, several refugees told of a scorched-earth campaign (the burning of farmlands) being waged by the Syrian government. In light of these and other reports, several members of the Arab League considered suspending Syria's membership in protest against Syria's violent crackdowns on protestors. Official Syrian reports maintain the army had been fighting armed terrorists groups, orchestraded from overseas, that had taken control of several towns and villages. Syrian security forces expanded their crackdown into the northwest region of the country on 16 June 2011, using tanks, APC's, and armored cars to sweep through the Idlib province, beginning with Khan Sheikhun.
Thousands of Syrians in over a dozen towns staged protests against the ongoing crackdowns on 17 June 2011. Security forces reportedly fired on the crowds in Homs, Syrian's third largest city, as well as in Banias, Deir al-Zor, and Daraa. On June 20, 2011, President Assad announced a plan for the future of Syria. He mentioned steps towards revising or rewriting the Syrian constitution and announced the formation of a "national dialogue" committee that would head the drafting of new election laws. Assad said the national dialogue committee would hold a consultive meeting within the next fews days, then begin reform talks immmediatly afterward. Proposed resolutions for reform would be passed directly from Assad, on the basis of the dialogue committee, to Parliament, which would ratify said reforms within two months. The following day, Assad issued a general presidential pardon for "all crimes committed before June 20, 2011". Reportedly, tens of thousands of people across Syria took to the streets, both in support of and against President Assad. He previously issued a pardon on May 31, 2011, for all political prisoners detained during the unrest.
On June 22, 2011, the EU agreed to expand sanctions against Syrian, adding seven individuals to the list of 23 people and entities already under an EU assest freeze and travel ban. Protests and gunfights erupted in several towns following prayer on 24 June 2011. Policemen were shot at and wouned by armed people in Al-Kiswa and Qadam. On June 27, 2011, more than 150 Syrian intellectuals, activists, and opposition figures met in Damascus to discuss how to end months of violent upheaval and initiate a peaceful transition to democratic rule. As of June 24, 2011, more than 1,400 Syrians had been killed, over 10,000 detained, 17,000 displaced along the Syria-Turkey border, and another 12,000 had fled into Turkey. Many of those who were prevented from entering Turkey by Syrian security forces instead fled to Lebanon -- nearly 3,000 on 29 June 2011 alone. On June 29, 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department announced it was imposing sanctions against Syria's security forces for human rights abuses and against Iran for supporting them in addition to sanctions already in place against Syria itself.
11 protestors in various were killed by security forces on 1 July 2011 when tens of thousands of Syrians flooded the streets in a nationwide protest against the continuing crackdown by Assad's regime. An estimated 500,000 people joined in the protest, with roughly 200,000 people in the central city of Hama. The protest occured soon after afternoon prayers in what was dubbed "The Friday of Departure". On July 4, 2011, soldiers raided homes in Hama and arrested at least 20 people. Pro-government forces opened fire in the city of Hama, killing at least six people on July 5, 2011. Activists and residents said the shootings took place after security forces moved tanks to the city's outskirts in apparent preparation for an assault; residents had set fires and blocked the streets with debris earlier in the morning in an attempt to prevent troops from entering the city.
A special committee set up in late May to redraft Syria's media law finished its work on July 6, 2011. The law would be considered by members of the national dialog, and be up for public discussion afterwards. If adopted, the law would scrap the information ministry, guarantee media freedom, and allow the media to enjoy "independence and freedom" limited only by the constitution. It would also set up a special court to deal with cases related to the media's freedom and responsibilities. Meanwhile, 22 were killed in Hama when Syrian security forces opened fire on a crowd of protesters. On 7 July 2011, U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford visited the city of Hama in an effort to show American support for the democratization of Syria. The Syrian Foreign Ministry stated that Ford's visit was a clear example of America's involvement in the destablization of Syria, though U.S. officials had alerted the Syrian government of their intention to visit Hama.
On 4 October 2011, China and Russia vetoed a draft resolution in the UN Security Council that had strongly condemned Syrian authorities for their violent crackdown against pro-democracy protesters in 2011 and called for an immediate end to human rights abuses. Nine of the Council's 15 remaining members voted in favor of the draft text and 4 countries abstained. The Russian and Chinese vetoes were criticized by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, especially in light of the 3 changes to the draft resolution's text in order to address the concerns of those nations. The Chinese vetoed the resolution, saying that it was not in favor of interference in the affairs of other countries. The Russians vetoed the resolution saying that it was biased against the Syrian government and did not include a provision to prevent a foreign intervention in the country. Both Russia and China had been critical of the NATO-led intervention in Libya following a UN Security Council resolution in March.
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