The Syrian revolution started from spontaneous peaceful popular protests in marginalized Syrian areas in 2011 demanding freedom, dignity, emancipation, and an end to repression, corruption and dictatorship, but it quickly spread to most areas of Syria. The regime of President Bashar al-Assad suppressed peaceful demonstrations with weapons, causing hundreds of thousands of victims, displacement of millions inside Syria and refuge in various parts of the world, and turning Syria into an international crisis and an arena for conflict between regional and international powers.
The Syrian revolution cannot be viewed in isolation from the Arab Spring, which began with the Tunisian revolution on December 17, 2010, followed by the fall of the Egyptian and Libyan regimes, which extended the horizon to Syrians about the possibility of real political change, on February 17, 2011, a Syrian policeman insulted a citizen and beat him, so people gathered in the freedom zone in the heart of Damascus and slogans were launched in support of the young man, such as "the Syrian people are not humiliated" and "its protector is its thief", but these chants later turned into "in spirit" With blood, we redeem you, Bashar," after the Syrian interior minister resolved the matter in favor of the young man.
However, this incident was followed by a sit-in organized by civil society activists in front of the Libyan embassy in support of the Libyan revolution on February 22, 2011, in which they chanted slogans demanding freedom such as "Ya Hurriya, Wenk, Wenk, the rule of Muammar between us and you," and "Khayen follows kills Shaabo."
In the southern city of Daraa, Syrian security forces arrested a group of children from al-Arbaeen school at the end of February 2011, for writing phrases on their school fence such as "The people want the fall of the regime" and "Jack the turn, doctor," mimicking the phrases raised by demonstrators in the Arab Spring countries.
The children were taken to the Political Security branch in Daraa and tortured, and when the people of Daraa came out to demand to know the fate of their children, they received a response from the head of the Political Security branch, Atef Najib, a relative of Bashar al-Assad, asking them to return and forget their children and have other children. This paved the way for later popular demonstrations in Daraa.
The spark of the start of the Syrian revolution
March 15 saw the start of the Syrian revolution with the first demonstration organized by civil society activists in the Hamidiya market in central Damascus, where demonstrators chanted slogans calling for freedom, including "God is Syria, freedom and only," and security forces quickly attacked and dispersed the demonstration and arrested a number of activists who participated in it.
Pro-revolutionary pages called for mass demonstrations in Syrian cities on Friday, March 18, 2011 under the name "Friday of Dignity", so several Syrian cities moved, including Damascus, Homs, Banias, Deir ez-Zor and Daraa, and the Daraa demonstration was mass against the backdrop of the expulsion of Assad regime officials parents who demanded the release of their detained children, and the Syrian regime forces responded with live bullets to disperse the demonstration, which led to the fall of the first martyrs of the Syrian revolution, including Hossam Ayyash and Mahmoud Jawabreh.
After that, the demonstrations followed, and Syrian cities and villages joined the demonstrations successively, and the funeral of the martyrs turned into mass demonstrations that carried a peaceful nature, and demanded freedom and change.
The Syrian regime confronted all demonstrations with repression, live bullets, arrests, violations and attacks on those who went out in the demonstrations and on the people of the area where they took place, as well as carrying out raids and arrests of Syrian activists and peaceful demonstrators, and erecting checkpoints in cities, their outskirts and the countryside.
The Syrian regime's repression in the face of peaceful demonstrations has shifted its slogans from freedom and demands for change to calls for the overthrow of the regime and rejection of the rule of Bashar al-Assad.
Local Coordination Committees
Local coordination and councils emerged in Syrian governorates, cities and countryside with the start of the Syrian revolution, and aimed to unify efforts, follow up and plan the field movement, organize the general situation on the ground, and their role expanded over time, so media, human rights, relief and political committees emerged from them.
The local coordination and councils worked to document violations and communicate with official authorities to provide them with the names of detainees, martyrs and violations occurring in the area.
The local coordination and councils have become the ones that manage the community in light of the siege and shelling of some areas, and are responsible for relief and issuing reports on violations practiced by the regime.
To unify the efforts of the coordinations, the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution, a coalition of 40 opposition groups from the coordination and coordination unions, was announced on August 18, 2011, through a statement explaining that the goal of the commission is to build a "free and democratic state" by uniting efforts on the ground and at all levels, and committing to achieving the goals and basic principles of the revolution.
Schisms and the Militarization of the Revolution
The defections in the ranks of the regular Syrian army began since the second month of the revolution, as the recruit Walid al-Qashami of the Republican Guard in the Qasioun command was one of the first to defect from the regular army through a video posted on the Internet on April 23, 2011, in which he announced his defection from the regular army.
The reason was that the officers ordered them to confront a peaceful demonstration and shoot unarmed protesters – women, children and men – using live ammunition, he said, but Walid and some of his colleagues refused and joined the demonstration, brandishing their weapons and taking cover with the protesters until they fled to another place.
On June 7, 2011, a lieutenant general, Abd al-Razzaq Tlass, defected, explaining in a video that the reason for his defection was inhumane and immoral practices against citizens.
Two days after the same month, Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Harmoush announced his defection from the regular army, and explained that the reason was the killing of unarmed civilians, and fled to the city of Idlib and began to establish the "Free Officers Movement", through which he called on officers and soldiers to defect and join him.
Establishment of the Free Syrian Army
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) was established at the initiative of Colonel Riad al-Asaad, the highest-ranking defector officer, in a statement issued on August 3, 2011, calling on defecting soldiers to organize themselves. The number of defectors and those enrolled in the Free Army increased over time, and its presence was distributed in various rebellious areas.
The Free Syrian Army aimed to protect the people and civilians from the influence of the regime, its raids and attacks on demonstrators, and then later developed to carry out operations against the Syrian regime's army and target its headquarters, the first of which was the attack that targeted the headquarters of the Air Force Intelligence in Harasta on the outskirts of Damascus on November 16, 2011.
The fighters of the Free Syrian Army carried at the beginning of their defection their weapons that were with them, and they sang some weapons from the military operations they carried out, and they also bought other weapons from the "shabiha" (pro-regime militias), and the sources of funding for the Free Syrian Army differed according to its battalions, so some battalions were funded from internal parties from wealthy merchants and supporters of the army, and others were funded by external parties, including political organizations or different countries indirectly. However, funding played an important role in the ideological orientation and fundamental decisions in the battles on the ground, resulting in casualties and territorial losses.
By the end of 2011, the Free Syrian Army was distributed and controlled in different areas, in Idlib, rural Aleppo, rural Hama, Homs, Qusayr, Ghouta and some areas of Daraa.
The appearance of other sides in the fighting
In October 2015, he announced the formation of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), or SDF, which defined itself as "a unified national military force for all Syrians that brings together Arabs, Kurds, Syriacs, and all other components," composed of a group of mostly Kurdish armed factions. Its control is concentrated in northeastern Syria.
During the past 12 years, other fighting actors such as ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and others have emerged, but these actors have dissolved, some have ended and others have joined other fighting parties.
Siege of cities and bombardment
When the regime was unable to stop the demonstrations and lost its ability to control the rebellious cities and towns, it besieged the cities and adopted a scorched earth policy, cutting off food and medical supplies to the population, and deliberately causing famines, and this coincided with continuous shelling with artillery, heavy machine guns and aviation on the besieged cities, targeting residential buildings and homes, which led to massacres and the fall of many martyrs, wounded and injuries, and field hospitals were unable to remedy the situation, especially with the blocking of roads and medical aid.
With the continuation of the siege, the regime resorted to attempts to storm cities and control neighborhoods in them, and whenever he stormed a neighborhood, he caused a massacre, and the Free Army defended in defending the cities that were besieged and fought on their fronts until it was forced to withdraw or surrender and make a truce with the regime, as a result of the brutality of the bombardment and often things ended up deporting everyone in the city or village to Idlib, or allowing them to stay within the conditions of the regime, with the condition that the fighters exit and hand over their weapons.
This scene was repeated in many Syrian cities, including neighborhoods in Homs, such as Baba Amr, Khalidiya, Qusayr, Aleppo, Ghouta, and many cities and towns that the regime was able to retake and control through a scorched-earth policy.
Aerial bombardment and chemical weapons
The regime used heavy weapons of all kinds, including incendiary weapons, cluster munitions, Scud missiles and mortars, and a year after the revolution, it began aerial bombardment through barrel bombs that are stuffed with metal materials and explosive materials thrown from helicopters, and the first bombing operation was recorded in March 2012, then warplanes were used in July 2012, and all civilian facilities were targeted, including homes, homes, schools, civil society institutions, hospitals, medical points, field hospitals, popular markets, civilian gatherings, and others, and caused Great massacres.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights documented the Syrian regime's implementation of 222 chemical attacks across Syria, killing 1510,11 people and injuring more than <>,<> others.
The Ghouta massacre is the most famous chemical massacre carried out by the regime, which occurred on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 and targeted areas of Ghouta in the Damascus countryside, as the Syrian regime bombed it with rocket launchers loaded with chemical warheads, which led to the death of hundreds of martyrs and the injury of thousands.
Political representation of the Syrian revolution
At the end of 2011, the Syrian National Council was formed to be the political representative of the revolution and bring together all Syrian political spectrums, and was chaired by Burhan Ghalioun and consisted of 310 members chosen by consensus among the participating opposition groups: the "Revolutionary Movement", the "Liberal Independents Bloc", the "Damascus Declaration", the "Assyrian Organization", the "Muslim Brotherhood and their allies", the "Damascus Spring", the "Kurdish National Bloc" and the "National Bloc", in addition to a number of independent national figures.
The council aimed to serve the national movement, achieve the goals of the revolution, and form a transitional government, but it faced a set of criticisms and clashes due to its inability to represent all opposition spectrums, so it sought to expand its membership by including new political and revolutionary blocs in a meeting held in Doha in November 2012, which resulted in the formation of the "National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces", under which the National Council joined to form 60% of the size of the coalition, and the coalition consisted of representatives of most members of the revolutionary and opposition forces.
Foreign Interference in the Syrian Revolution
The Syrian revolution witnessed the intervention of external parties to support the regime in the fight against the rebels, and contributed to the survival of the regime and the referral to its fall, including:
Several human rights and press reports have documented the participation of sectarian militias in supporting the regime and supporting it militarily since the start of the Syrian revolution, and reports talked about the presence of at least 35,<> fighters, most of whom belong to Iraq, Lebanon, Iran and Afghanistan, fighting alongside the Syrian regime, and their presence contributed to the regime's restoration of large areas of the hands of the rebels, especially in the countryside of Damascus, the countryside of Homs and the countryside of Aleppo.
It also recorded numerous massacres by these militias and major human rights violations through their brutal methods of raiding, arresting, killing, slaughtering and demonizing civilians.
Some of these movements have clearly announced their participation with the regime, such as the announcement by the secretary-general of Hezbollah that his soldiers participated in the battle of al-Qusayr in April 2013, fighting alongside regime soldiers and defending it.
Iran was a political and military ally of the Syrian regime before the revolution, but it contributed to prolonging the life of the regime and preventing its fall by supporting it on several levels. On the economic front, Iran's debt to the Syrian regime has reached more than $35 billion. Iran has also worked to supply the Syrian regime with weapons and fighters, and the Iranian intervention in Syria has appeared openly and clearly in various fields, especially militarily, as the battle of Al-Qusayr 2013 constituted a major turning point in Iran's military role, as its role is no longer limited to support and supply, but has turned into the assumption of some Revolutionary Guard officers leading battles and operations.
In addition, there are military bases, weapons depots, IRGC missile factories, an air defense base, and militia headquarters in various areas of Syrian cities and villages. Iran has extended its influence in Syria through cultural, advocacy and charitable institutions, the establishment of universities, institutes, cultural centers, and advocacy gatherings to spread Shiism, such as the Supreme Jaafari Islamic Council in Syria and the Shiite Ulema Council.
Activists of the Syrian revolution accuse Iran of seeking demographic change in the region by changing the demographic composition and consolidating the Iranian presence, especially in the area of Sayyida Zeinab, Qalamoun, Homs and its western countryside, specifically Qusayr, Aleppo, Zahra, Nubl, Deir Ezzor and its eastern countryside and the city of Albu Kamal.
Russia has supported the Syrian regime politically and diplomatically since the beginning of the Syrian revolution for 5 years, and then the matter evolved to participate with it militarily, so military supply ships and giant transport planes began arriving at Syrian ports and airports in June 2015, and the Hmeimim base was established 25 kilometers south of Latakia, and the first Russian air attack was recorded on September 30, 2015 by targeting Free Syrian Army positions around Homs.
Russia claims the legitimacy of its intervention through two things: the first is that the intervention was "at the invitation of a legitimate regime," the Syrian regime, and the second is based on UN Security Council Resolution 2249, which allows members to "take the necessary measures to prevent and suppress terrorist acts" on the territory under the control of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
However, human rights organizations respond to Russia's intervention by saying that the Syrian regime is an "illegitimate regime" for seizing power by force, terrorism, and threats, and that it has violated international law by committing humanitarian crimes and war crimes. Russian forces have caused multiple massacres that have killed more than 7,2000 people, including more than 1243,2022 children, and targeted more than <>,<> vital centers such as schools, medical facilities, markets and others until the end of <>.
The United States of America enacted a sanctions law on the Syrian regime known as the "Caesar Act", and Caesar is a conscript in the Syrian army whose mission was to take pictures in places where civilian crimes took place, and with the beginning of the Syrian revolution, his mission became to take pictures of the bodies of civilians who were killed under torture by the Syrian regime, then he defected in 2013, and in possession of 55 thousand pictures of detainees and killed inside the detention centers of the Syrian regime, and he escaped in cooperation with international human rights organizations.
US lawmakers introduced a bill in 2016 aimed at stopping the wholesale killing of the Syrian people, reaching a settlement with the regime and holding human rights violators accountable.
After discussions, Congress passed the law in December 2019 and former US President Donald Trump signed it as part of the Defense Budget Act of 2020, and it went into effect in June 2020. The legislation was named the "Caesar Act" after the photographer, and aims to stop the killing of the Syrian people.The Caesar Act imposes penalties for:
- Foreigners involved in financial transactions with institutions affiliated with the Syrian government.
- Entities providing military support to the Syrian government.
- A militia fighting with the Syrian regime from any other country.
- Entities providing financial, technical or information support to the Syrian government.
- Entities that help expand local production of gas or oil and its derivatives.
- Entities that provide aviation-related aircraft or services for military purposes.
- Those responsible for war crimes and abuses against civilians, including: the Syrian president, prime minister, vice president, commanders of the armed forces on land, navy, intelligence, security branches, officials in the Ministry of Interior, intelligence, police, commanders of the Fourth Division, the Republican Guard, and prison officials.
The regime has promoted the argument that the law causes the interruption of humanitarian aid, but the Caesar Act has nothing to do with this, as the United Nations and other aid organizations continue to provide support to those affected in regime areas.
Victims of the Syrian Revolution until 2023
The Syrian Network for Human Rights documented the killing of 230224 civilians, including 15272,154816 killed under torture, in addition to the disappearance and arrest of 14 people, and the displacement of nearly <> million Syrians.
It also documented the existence of at least 874 attacks on a medical facility, 1416,1611 attacks on a place of worship, and <>,<> attacks on a school, in addition to the invasion of vital facilities and turning them into detention centers and military points, and the destruction of large areas of Syria in multiple governorates.