Let’s take a step back to see what’s going on in Syria. It all started in March 2011 in the town of Deraa, located in southern Syria. Some teenagers were arrested because they wrote graffiti asking for changes in the country. They were inspired by protests in countries close to Syria where people were able to bring about changes to their governments. The kids were mistreated, and the people of Deraa were upset. People started protesting in Deraa and the protests spread to other cities in Syria. The protesters demanded more freedom and changes to some laws. Initially, the protests were peaceful.
However, the government started using force to stop the protests, and thousands of people were killed or put in jail. Protesters then started demanding that the Syrian president step down. Rebel groups formed and started fighting back.
Bashar al-Assad has been the president of Syria for over 10 years, and his father was the leader for 30 years before him. The Assad family has ruled the country very sternly. Syrian citizens have had less rights, and the government has had more power. For example, the government could stop people from holding meetings or from traveling. People could be arrested at any time if the government thought they could cause a problem.
Assad refused to step down but promised some changes in the country. In April 2011, he removed an emergency law that was placed nearly 50 years ago. This emergency law had taken away some rights from Syrian citizens, and placed more power with the government. In May this year, parliamentary elections were held in the country where multiple political parties were allowed to participate. However, many complained that the elections were just a put-on show by Assad’s government.
Many countries have urged the Syrian government to stop the killing. In April this year, the Syrian government even signed a peace plan, which was presented by the United Nations. However, fighting has continued in the country. Rebel groups are fighting the Syrian troops in Damascus, the capital of Syria, and in other cities as well.
Some of Syria’s cities are considered to be very old. Damascus and Aleppo are some of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the world. The Citadel of Aleppo (in the city Aleppo) is one of the oldest castles in the world. It is estimated to be 5000 years old. Clay tablets have been found in the country with writing in cuneiform, one of the earliest known writing scripts. Syria was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for 400 hundred years till the breakup of the Empire during World War I. After the war, the French ruled Syria. Syria got its independence in 1946. In 1958, Syria joined Egypt to create a country called the United Arab Republic. In 1961, Egypt and Syria split up.
Did you know?
Glassblowing was invented over 2000 years ago in the area known as Syria today.
Did you know?
2011 was a year that saw many rulers and governments change. Protests in Tunisia led to the country’s president to step down after ruling for 23 years. Egyptian protesters forced their president, who had been in power for nearly 30 years, to resign. Protests in Libya led to a war in the country and eventually Libya’s leader for 42 years was overthrown. Jordanian protests led to changes in the government, where the country’s prime minister has been replaced twice. Protests in Yemen forced the president to step down after having been in power for 33 years. These protests have been given the name “Arab Spring”.
Image Credits: Memorino for Aleppo Citadel; Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom / ABr for Assad’s image