Arab uprising: Country by country - Syria

  • Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
    Aged 75
    Deposed after 23 years

  • Hosni Mubarak
    Aged 84
    Deposed after 29 years

  • Muammar Gaddafi
    Aged 68
    Killed after 42 years

  • Ali Abdullah Saleh
    Aged 70
    Deposed after 33 years

  • Bashar al-Assad
    Aged 48
    In power since 2000

  • King Hamad al-Khalifa
    Aged 63
    In power since 1999

  • King Abdullah Al Saud
    Aged 89
    In power since 2005

  • King Mohammed VI
    Aged 50
    In power since 1999

  • Abdelaziz Bouteflika
    Aged 76
    In power since 1999

  • King Abdullah II
    Aged 51
    In power since 1999

  • Sultan Qaboos bin Said
    Aged 73
    In power since 1970

  • Sheikh Sabah Al Sabah
    Aged 84
    In power since 2006

  • "We had a clean revolution. The former president turned out to be a coward. He just ran away. Not like the others - like the poor Libyans, or in Syria - but it lit the fuse to all the other revolutions"
    Wassim Herissi, radio DJ
  • "Our country's condition was getting worse and worse. There was corruption, torture, injustice, inequality and no freedom. Someone had to stand up and say 'enough is enough'"
    Ahmed Raafat Amin, protester
  • "It's freedom. There's no Gaddafi, unbelievable. I feel the freedom. I smell the freedom."
    Lamin el-Bijou, Banghazi resident
  • "If they are trying to scare us, they are wrong. We will continue. Let them come and burn the whole square, we will not leave."
    Protester in Change Square, Sanaa
  • "The Tunisians had already been freed. The Egyptians were on their way to be free. We thought it was our turn to be free too"
    Amer Matar, organiser of the first major protest in Syria
  • "We don't fear death any more, let the army come and kill us to show the world what kind of savages they are"
    Protester, Pearl Square, Manama
  • "I don't believe that liberal democracy will be put in place tomorrow but we have to start somewhere. Equality, the rule of law - the country is ready for this. We have to start the process"
    Dr Tawfik Alsaif, dissident campaigner
  • "They dare to voice criticism that they haven't dared to before; they dare say we want a king who does not rule, but who is a symbol. They dare to say and discuss this. Before it was not permitted"
    Mohamed El-Boukili, Moroccan Association for Human Rights
  • "One day this will be bigger than Tahrir Square - but not today. We will keep returning every week though until things begin to change and Algeria has democracy"
    Young protester at a rally
  • "We have to keep the pressure on this government. We are in the streets and we'll stay in the streets until we see all these demands working on the ground"
    Muhannad Sahafiin, protester
  • "Oman's stability was always just a cover... Oman is still a bomb waiting to explode"
    Basma al-Kiyumi, activist
  • "We have a government that doesn't listen, doesn't see and all it does is deceiving the people."
    Obeid al-Wasmi, opposition politician

What happened?

Map of Syria

The wave of popular unrest that swept the Arab world came late to Syria, but its once peaceful uprising has evolved into a brutal and increasingly sectarian armed conflict.

Protests demanding greater freedom and an end to corruption began in the southern city of Deraa in March 2011. After security forces opened fire on demonstrators, more took to the streets. By July 2011, hundreds of thousands of people across the country were attending protests demanding President Bashar al-Assad's resignation.

Despite the security forces' concerted and ruthless efforts to crush the "terrorists" and "armed criminal gangs", the uprising continued unabated. Opposition supporters began to take up arms, first to defend themselves and then to oust loyalist forces from their areas.

In February 2012, President Assad pressed ahead with a referendum that approved a new constitution that dropped an article giving the ruling Baath Party unique status as the "leader of the state and society". The opposition denounced it as sham.

Pressure steadily built on Mr Assad as rebels seized control of large parts of the north and east of the country and launched offensives on Damascus and Aleppo, while the opposition National Coalition was recognised around the world as the Syrian people's "legitimate representative".

In 2013, the momentum in the conflict gradually began shifting in Mr Assad's favour, as government forces launched major offensives to recover territory and consolidate their grip on population centres in the south and west. The rebels' appeals for heavy weapons were meanwhile rejected by Western and Gulf allies concerned by the prominence of jihadists affiliated to al-Qaeda.

However, Mr Assad was forced onto the defensive in August 2013 after a chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus that left hundreds dead. Although the US pulled back from launching punitive military strikes, the president was forced to agree to destroy Syria's chemical weapons.

Where are we now?

Neither side has managed to achieve a breakthrough on the battlefield and the government and National Coalition have reluctantly agreed to a peace conference in Geneva in January 2014.

President Assad is refusing to step aside - a step the National Coalition is insisting on. Meanwhile, the war has produced a humanitarian disaster, leaving more than 100,000 people dead and forcing millions from their homes.

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