Civil uprising phase of the Syrian Civil War
|Civil Uprising phase of the Syrian Civil War|
|Part of Syrian Civil War and the Arab Spring|
Demonstration in Homs against Syrian Government (18 April 2011).
|Date||15 March 2011– 28 July 2011|
|Status||Peaceful protests ended and deteriorated into an armed rebellion and later full-scale civil war|
|Death(s)||1,800-2,154 civilians and 406-500 security forces killed (by 17 August)
|Injuries||Thousands of protesters
1,300-1,857 security forces
|Arrested||12,617 (by 28 July)|
The Civil Uprising phase of the Syrian Civil War was an early stage of protests and violence in the ongoing Syrian conflict, lasting from March to 28 July 2011. The uprising evolved from initially minor protests, beginning as early as January 2011, as a response to the regional Arab Spring, government corruption and human rights abuses. The uprising phase was marked by massive anti-government opposition demonstrations against the Ba'athist government of Bashar al-Assad, meeting with police and military violence, massive arrests and brutal crackdown, resulting in hundreds of casualties and thousands of wounded.
Despite Bashar al-Assad's attempts to pacify the protests with massive crackdown and use of censorship on one hand and concessions on the other, by the end of April, it became clear the situation was getting out of his control and the Syrian government deployed numerous troops on the ground.
The civil uprising phase created the platform for emergence of militant opposition movements and massive defections from the Syrian Army, which gradually transformed the conflict from a civil uprising to an armed rebellion, and later a civil war. The rebel Free Syrian Army was created on July 29, 2011, and marked the establishment of formal military resistance to the Assad government. From then on, the struggle took shape of armed insurgency with civil resistance disbanded and opposition members turning to arms.
Before the uprising in Syria began in mid-March 2011, protests were relatively modest, considering the wave of unrest that was spreading across the Arab world. Syria until March 2011 for decades had remained superficially tranquil, largely due to fear under the people for the secret police arresting critical citizens.
Minor protests calling for government reforms began in January, and continued into March. A "Day of Rage" was called for on 3 February by activists in Syria to occur on Friday 4 February via websites Facebook and Twitter. This did not result in protests in Syria.
Civil uprising (March–July 2011)
March 2011 unrest
The unrest began on 15 March in Damascus, in Aleppo, and in the southern city of Daraa, sometimes called the "Cradle of the Revolution". The protests were triggered by the incarceration and torture of several young students, who were arrested for writing anti-government graffiti in the city,"The people want the fall of the regime". Demonstrators clashed with local police, and confrontations escalated on 18 March after Friday prayers. With thousands protesting, the clashes resulted in several civilian deaths. On 20 March, a mob burned down the Ba'ath Party headquarters and other public buildings. Security forces quickly responded, firing live ammunition at crowds, and attacking the focal points of the demonstrations. The two-day assault resulted in the deaths of fifteen protestors.
Meanwhile, minor protests occurred elsewhere in the country. Protesters demanded the release of political prisoners, the abolition of Syria's 48-year emergency law, more freedoms, and an end to pervasive government corruption. The events lead to a "Friday of Dignity" on 18 March, when large-scale protests broke out in several cities, including Banias, Damascus, al-Hasakah, Daraa, Deir az-Zor and Hama. Police responded to the protests with tear gas, water cannons, beatings. At least 6 people were killed and many others injured.
On 25 March, mass protests spread nation-wide, as demonstrators emerged after Friday prayers. Over 100,000 people reportedly marched in Daraa, but at least 20 protesters were reportedly killed. Protests also spread to other Syrian cities, including Homs, Hama, Baniyas, Jasim, Aleppo, Damascus and Latakia. Over 70 protesters in total were reported dead.
Even before the uprising began, the Syrian government conducted numerous arrests of protesters, political activists and human rights campaigners, many of whom were labeled "terrorists" by Assad government. In early February, authorities arrested several activists, including political leaders Ghassan al-Najar, Abbas Abbas, and Adnan Mustafa.
The police often responded to the protests violently, not only using water cannons and tear gas, but also beating protesters and firing live ammunition.
As the uprising began, the Syrian government waged a campaign of arrests that captured tens of thousands of people, according to lawyers and activists in Syria and human rights groups. In response to the uprising, Syrian law had been changed to allow the police and any of the nation's 18 security forces to detain a suspect for eight days without a warrant. Arrests focused on two groups: political activists, and men and boys from the towns that the Syrian Army would start to besiege in April. Many of those detained experienced ill-treatment. Many detainees were cramped in tight rooms and were given limited resources, and some were beaten, electrically jolted, or debilitated. At least 27 torture centers, run by Syrian intelligence agencies, were revealed by Human Rights Watch on 3 July 2012.
President Assad has characterized the opposition as armed terrorist groups with Islamist "takfiri" extremist motives, portraying himself as the last guarantee for a secular government form. Early in the month of April, a large deployment of security forces prevented tent encampments in Latakia. Blockades were set up in several cities, to prevent the movement of protests. Despite the crackdown, widespread protests remained throughout the month in Daraa, Baniyas, Al-Qamishli, Homs, Douma and Harasta.
During March and April, the Syrian government, hoping to alleviate the unrest, offered political reforms and policy changes. Authorities shortened mandatory army conscription, and in an apparent attempt to reduce corruption, fired the governor of Daraa. The government announced it would release political prisoners, cut taxes, raise the salaries of public sector workers, provide more press freedoms, and increase job opportunities. Many of these announced reforms were never implemented.
The government, dominated by the Alawite sect, made some concessions to the majority Sunni and some minority populations. Authorities reversed a ban that restricted teachers from wearing the niqab, and closed the country's only casino. The government also granted citizenship to thousands of Syrian Kurds previously labeled "foreigners".
A popular demand from protesters was an end of the nation's state of emergency, which had been in effect for nearly 50 years. The emergency law had been used to justify arbitrary arrests and detention, and to ban political opposition. After weeks of debate, Assad signed the decree on 21 April, lifting Syria's state of emergency. However, anti-government protests continued into April, with activists unsatisfied with what they considered vague promises of reform from Assad.
As the unrest continued, the Syrian government began launching major military operations to suppress resistance, signaling a new phase in the uprising. On 25 April, Daraa, which had become a focal point of the uprising, was one of the first cities to be besieged by the Syrian Army. An estimated hundreds to 6,000 soldiers were deployed, firing live ammunition at demonstrators and searching house to house for protestors, arresting hundreds. Tanks were used for the first time against demonstrators, and snipers took positions on rooftops. Mosques used as headquarters for demonstrators and organizers were especially targeted. Security forces began shutting off water, power and phone lines, and confiscating flour and food. Clashes between the army and opposition forces, which included armed protestors and defected soldiers, led to the death of hundreds. By 5 May, most of the protests had been suppressed, and the military began pulling out of Daraa, with some troops remaining to keep the situation under control.
During the crackdown in Daraa, the Syrian Army also besieged and blockaded several towns around Damascus. Throughout May, situations similar to those that occurred in Daraa were reported in other besieged towns and cities, such as Baniyas, Homs, Talkalakh, Latakia, and several other towns. After the end of each siege, violent suppression of sporadic protests continued throughout the following months. By 24 May, more than 1,000 people have been killed in the uprising according to the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria.
As the uprising progressed, opposition fighters became more well-equipped and organized. Until September 2011, about two senior military or security officers defected to the opposition. Some analysts stated that these defections were signs of Assad's weakening inner circle.
The first instance of armed insurrection occurred on 4 June 2011 in Jisr ash-Shugur, a city near the Turkish border in Idlib province. Angry protesters set fire to a building where security forces had fired on a funeral demonstration. Eight security officers died in the fire as demonstrators took control of a police station, seizing weapons. Clashes between protesters and security forces continued in the following days. Some security officers defected after secret police and intelligence agents executed soldiers who refused to shoot civilians. On 6 June, Sunni militiamen and army defectors ambushed a group of security forces heading to the city which was met by a large government counterattack. Fearing a massacre, insurgents and defectors, along with 10,000 residents, fled across the Turkish border.
In June and July 2011, protests continued as government forces expanded operations, repeatedly firing at protesters, employing tanks against demonstrations, and conducting arrests. The towns of Rastan and Talbiseh, and Maarat al-Numaan were besieged in early June. On 30 June, large protests erupted against the Assad government in Aleppo, Syria's largest city. On 3 July, Syrian tanks were deployed to Hama, two days after the city witnessed the largest demonstration against Bashar al-Assad. On 29 July, a group of defected officers announced the formation of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which would become the main opposition army. Composed of defected Syrian Armed Forces personnel and civilian volunteers, the rebel army seeks to remove Bashar al-Assad and his government from power. This began a new phase in the conflict, with more armed resistance against the government crackdown. The FSA would grow in size, to about 20,000 by December, and to an estimated 40,000 by June 2012.
During the first six months of the uprising, the inhabitants of Syria's two largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, remained largely uninvolved in the anti-government protests. The two cities' central squares have seen organized rallies of hundreds of thousands in support of president Assad and his government.
Reporting, censoring, propaganda
Reporting on this conflict was difficult and dangerous from the start: journalists were being attacked, detained, reportedly tortured, reportedly killed. Technical facilities (internet, telephone etc.) were being sabotaged by the Syrian government. Both sides in this conflict tried to disqualify their opponent by framing or referring to them with negative labels and terms, or by presenting false evidence.
- Consecutive events from 29 July 2011 are to be found in: Syrian civil war#Protests and armed insurgency (July–October 2011)
- "Observations on the Air War in Syria". Air & Space Power Journal. March–April 2013.
- Oliver, Christin (26 October 2010). "Corruption Index 2010: The Most Corrupt Countries in the World – Global Development". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 10 April 2011.
- "The Assad Poison, from". allvoices.com. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
- "Bashar Assad Resignation Called For By Syria Sit-In Activists". The Huffington Post. 18 April 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
- "Pro-democracy protests sweep Syria, 22 killed". Reuters. 8 April 2011. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
- "Syrian Protestors Want a Regime Change". ABC News. 25 March 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2011.
- "Violence Erupts in Syria; Troops Open Fire on Anti-Protestors". Daily News. 25 March 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2011.
- "Syria To Lift Decades-Old Emergency Law". Al Jazeera English. 19 April 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
- "Defecting troops form 'Free Syrian Army', target Assad security forces". World Tribune. 3 August 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
- "Syria: 'Armed gangs' killed 120". The Seattle Times. 6 June 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
- Oweis, Khaled Yacoub (29 April 2011). "Muslim Brotherhood endorses Syria protests". Reuters. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
- "Syria: 'Four Dead' in Rare Demonstrations". The Daily Telegraph (London). 18 March 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
- "Syrian general: Hundreds of soldiers, police killed by armed gangs". CNN. 27 June 2011. Retrieved 26 June 2011.
- "Syria opposition reaches out to army". 27 May 2011. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
- Syrian troops detain dozens, 3 killed in north
- "As Syria flares, some U.N.'ers take flight". CNN. 18 August 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
- "Syria army kills at least 27 in overnight attacks on three main cities". Retrieved 11 August 2011.
- "Syria: 24 Civilians Killed In Tank Attack". Retrieved 31 July 2011.
- Almost 3,000 missing in Syria crackdown, NGO says
- Fear barrier crumbles in Syrian "kingdom of silence". Reuters, 22 March 2011.
- "'Day of Rage' Protest Urged in Syria". MSNBC. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
- "Mid-East unrest: Syrian protests in Damascus and Aleppo". BBC. 15 March 2011. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- Fahim, Kareem; Saad, Hwaida (9 February 2013). "A Faceless Teenage Refugee Who Helped Ignite Syria's War". The New York Times.
- Middle East unrest: Silence broken in Syria By Lina Sinjab BBC News 19 March 2011 | http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-12794882
- Holliday, Joseph (December 2011). "The Struggle for Syria in 2011". Institute for the Study of War.
- "Officers Fire on Crowd as Syrian Protests Grow". The New York Times. 20 March 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
- Iddon, Paul (30 July). "A recap of the Syrian crisis to date". Digital Journal. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
- Palmer, Will. "Now That We Have Tasted Hope (Excerpt)". McSweeney's. "Demonstrations in Daraa that day reportedly swelled to more than 100,000 people."
- Slackman, Michael (25 March 2011). "Syrian Troops Open Fire on Protesters in Several Cities". New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
- "Arrest of leader of the Islamic Democratic movement in Syria". Elaph. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
- "Jailed prominent Syrian opposition for seven and a half years" (in Arabic). free-syria.com. Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
- "Syrian authorities detain national identity Adnan Mustafa Abu Ammar" (in Arabic). free-syria.com. Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
- "In Syria, Crackdown After Protests". The New York Times. 18 March 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
- "Syrian Arrests Are Said to Have Snared Tens of Thousands". The New York Times. 27 June 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- "Syria: Torture Centers Revealed". Human Rights Watch. 3 July 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- "Opposition: 127 dead as Syrian forces target civilians". CNN. 7 April 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
- Oweis, Khaled (22 April 2011). "Almost 90 dead in Syria's bloodiest day of unrest". Reuters. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
- "Syrian mourners call for revolt, forces fire tear gas". Reuters. 19 March 2011. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- "President al-Assad Issues Decree on Discharging Governor of Daraa from His Post". Syrian Arab News Agency. 24 March 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- "In Syrian flashpoint town, more deaths reported". CNN. 25 March 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2011.
- al-Hatem, Fadwa (31 May 2011). "Syrians are tired of Assad's 'reforms'". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- "Syria lifts niqab ban, shuts casino, in nod to Sunnis". Reuters. 6 April 2011.
- "Stateless Kurds in Syria granted citizenship". CNN. 7 April 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- Oweis, Khaled Yacoub; Karouny, Mariam; al-Khalidi, Suleiman; Aboudi, Sami (21 April 2011). "Syria's Assad ends state of emergency". Beirut, Amman, Cairo. Reuters. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
- Stack, Liam (1 April 2011). "Syrian Protesters Clash With Security Forces". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
- Shadid, Anthony (25 April 2011). "Syria Escalates Crackdown as Tanks Go to Restive City". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
- "Five dead in 'Day of Defiance'". Retrieved 6 May 2011.[dead link]
- "Civilian killings in Syrian demonstrations rises to 800". Jerusalemn Post. 5 July 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
- "Syrian army tanks 'moving towards Hama'". BBC News. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
- "Shallow grave yields several bodies in Syrian city marked by unrest". CNN. 16 May 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
- "Syria death toll 'surpasses 1,000'". Al Jazeera. 24 May 2011.
- "Interactive: Tracking Syria's defections". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
- Dagher, Sam (6 July 2012). "In Paris, Diplomats Cheer Syria General's Defection". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
- "Syrian forces take over northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan". Haaretz. 17 June 2011.
- "Syria unrest: Protests in Aleppo as troops comb border". BBC News. 30 June 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
- "Syria: 'Hundreds of thousands' join anti-Assad protests". BBC. 1 July 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- "Why Syrian Army Can't Crush Opposition". CNN. 25 June 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
- "Life in Syria's Capital Remains Barely Touched by Rebellion". The New York Times. 5 September 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- "Syria: What motivates an Assad supporter?". Global Post. 24 June 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2012.