Fact File: Syria


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The Independent Online

As one of Israel’s staunchest opponents in the Middle East, Syria has long held a difficult position internationally. Following the government’s repressive response to 2011’s pro-democracy demonstrations, the nation has become increasingly isolated.

President Bashar-al-Assad’s concession to lift the 48-year state of emergency in April 2011, initially a key demand of the protesters, came too late to restore order, as focus shifted to ousting the President. Amid continued brutality, thousands of Syrians fled to refugee camps across the Turkish border and in November the Arab League voted to suspend Syria.

In contrast to the swift military action taken against the Libyan authorities, the international community has shown reluctance to intervene in Syria. The UN resolution to end the violence was vetoed by Russia and China, and the promise of ceasefire secured by Kofi Annan now rings hollow.

Attention was briefly diverted to the president’s London-born wife when leaked emails revealed she had been shopping while Syria burned. Meanwhile Russia continues to urge peace through occasionally eccentric means.

The Numbers

9000 – Estimated number of people killed in the year following the uprising. Source: Reuters

£2,650 – Price-tag of a vase Asma al-Assad ordered from Harrods in June 2011. Source: The Guardian

24,324 – Number of Syrian refugees in Turkey in April 2012. Source: The Daily Beast

$4.7bn – Value of Russian arms deals with Syria, as of 2010. Source: The New York Times

Further Reading

Freedom, democracy and human rights in Syria, Robert Fisk, The Independent, 2010

Neighbours from hell: how Syria’s war hit an Acton street, Rob Hastings, The Independent, 2012

The Only Remaining Online Copy of Vogue’s Asma al-Assad Profile, Max Fisher, the Atlantic, 2012

Q&A: Nir Rosen’s predictions for Syria, Nir Rosen, Al Jazeera, 2012

Why Don’t We Care About Syria? Emily Parker, Slate, 2012


1946 – Syria gains its independence from France

1963 – Baath party takes control

1982 – Government crushes an uprising of the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama, killing tens of thousands

2000 – Bashar al-Assad is appointed leader of the Ba’ath Party and elected president unopposed

March 2011 – Thousands march in Syria, demanding an end to 48 years of emergency law

Nov 2011 – The Arab League votes to impose economic sanctions on Syria

February 2012 – Russia and China veto a UN security council resolution calling for President Assad to step down

March 2012 - Acting as joint UN-Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan meets with President Assad to propose a cease-fire

May 2012 - 108 people, many of them children, are massacred by the Syrian regime army in Houla. Several nations, including the UK, respond by expelling Syrian diplomats