The peaceful protest against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seven years ago soon took the form of an open civil war that has killed more than three and a half million people so far and destroyed several cities and towns.
How did the war begin?
Even before the fighting began, many Syrians had complained of unemployment, corruption and political sanctions from President Assad’s government. Bashar al-Assad came to power in 2000, replacing his father Hafiz al-Assad.
In March 2011, a protest in favor of democracy broke out in the southern city of Deira, affecting the ‘Arab Spring’ of neighboring Arab countries.
The government used deadly force to crush it, leading to protests across the country, demanding President Assad’s resignation.
Demonstrations and the power to suppress them intensified. Opposition supporters also took up arms and used them first to defend themselves and later to fight against security forces.
Bashar al-Assad said the demonstration was ‘terrorism from outside backing’, and vowed to crush them.
Violence escalated and the country became a civil war.
How many people have died?
Sources in the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organization, confirmed 353,900 deaths in Syria by March 2018, of which 106,000 are civilians.
That number does not include the 56,900 people who either disappeared or are thought to have died.
Meanwhile, the VDC, a record-breaking organization, has reported numerous violations of international humanitarian law with the help of its sources in Syria.
It confirmed 185,980 casualties in the war, including 119,200 civilians, by February 2018.
Why is the war being fought?
Soon the war was not limited only to Bashar al-Assad and his opponents. It involved several organizations and several countries, each with its own agenda.
On the one hand, there is a religious war, in which the Sunni majority is dealing with President Assad’s al-Shi’a minority.
On the other hand, unrest within the country has allowed extremist organizations such as the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda to step in.
Kurds living in Syria are separate who are not fighting the government forces but want a separate country for themselves.
The Syrian government has the support of Iran and Russia, while the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are backing the rebels.
Russia has set up military bases in Syria and since 2015 has launched air strikes in support of Bashar al-Assad. The attacks have turned the tide in support of Assad.
The Russian military says it targets only ‘terrorists’, but according to aid workers, they also attack anti-government organizations and civilians.
Iran, on the other hand, is thought to have hundreds of its troops operating in Syria and is spending billions of dollars in support of President Assad.
Iran is training thousands of Shiite fighters. Most of the fighters are from Hezbollah in Lebanon, but they include Shiites from Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. All of them are fighting side by side with the Syrian Army.
The United States, France, Britain and other Western countries have provided a variety of assistance to the rebels. An international coalition force has been bombing the Islamic State’s bases in Syria since 2014. These have helped the rebel faction, the Syrian Democratic Forces, to establish control over certain areas.
Turkey has been helping rebels for a while, but its focus is on Kurdish militias. He is accused of belonging to PKK, a Turkish rebel organization.
Saudi Arabia is concerned that Iran is increasing its influence in Syria, so it is giving arms and money to the rebels.
Israel is worried that the weapon that Hezbollah receives may be used against him, so he is also attacking Syria.
The suffering of the Syrian people
In addition to millions of deaths due to the war, at least 1.5 million Syrians have suffered permanent disability, while 86,000 people have lost their limbs.
The total number of displaced people is 61 million, while 56 million other countries have been forced to seek asylum.
Current ground situation
The government has recaptured most of the country’s major cities, but the countryside is still largely controlled by SDF rebels.
The largest province in the rebel-held province is Idlib, with a population of 26 million.
Idlib has been described as a ‘non-combat zone’, but government forces continue to attack him saying that al-Qaeda fighters are hiding here.
The SDF is now in control of the dance, which was the so-called capital of Islamist Islam until 2017.
In addition, there is an attack on the eastern diver, where close to four million people have been living in government siege since 2013.
How will the war end?
Experts say the settlement of the dispute is possible through war, not political negotiation.
The United Nations has called for the implementation of the 2012 Geneva post, which said that an ‘interim government’ was to be formed in consultation with Syria.
But since 2014, nine of the UN-led talks called Geneva 2 have proved fruitless.
President Assad is reluctant to talk to the opposition, while insurgents insist that Assad resign first.
Meanwhile, Western countries allege that Russia has initiated a parallel political process and put peace negotiations on hold.
In January 2018, Russia launched the ‘Astana process’, but was not attended by most opposition parties.