But whereas 2011 saw protesters shot in the streets by security forces, a new crackdown is being launched against demonstrators by Islamist rebel groups.
One such attack came on Friday in the town of Maarrat al-Numan, a Free Syria Army (FSA) stronghold in Idlib province.
Footage showed jubilant protesters waving the three-starred opposition flag, performing folk dances and singing anti-Assad songs.
But the mood quickly changed as a squad of Jabhat al-Nusra militants and supporters swept into to square, riding motorbikes and waving the black flag of jihad.
Masked extremists could be seen forcing their way into the crowd and seizing control of the sound system to drown out the pro-democracy chants with shouts of “Allahu Akbar”.
Scuffles broke out after they took the stage from the prominent opposition activist, Abu Elias al-Mairi, who had been leading the singing.
Charles Lister, a fellow at the Middle East Institute, said Maarrat al-Numan has been under the control of the FSA’s 13th Division and Fursan al-Haq (Knights of Justice) rebel group.
Jabhat al-Nusra and the FSA have co-operated sporadically during the five-year civil war but the groups remain rivals and have fought for control of strategic areas.
Jenan Moussa, a reporter for Al Aan TV, wrote on Twitter that the Islamists see the FSA flag as a symbol of democracy and secularism – both of which they want to destroy.
She said Jabhat al-Nusra had attempted to ban the symbol in Idlib and stipulated that only jihadist banners could be carried, but was having difficulty enforcing the prohibition.
Several other Syrian towns and cities saw protests on Friday, including Azaz in Aleppo province, where Islamist leaders from the Ahrar ash-Sham group reportedly joined demonstrators.
They came days after militants were filmed detaining activists, smashing cameras and ripping revolutionary flags at a pro-democracy protest in the northern city of Idlib.
Witnesses told the AFP news agency Jabhat al-Nusra militants threatened to kill them while waving al-Qaeda’s black flag, but activists have vowed to continue fighting oppression.
“The Nusra fighters came out and began to fight the protesters, to threaten them with their guns saying, 'If you don't leave the streets, we'll start to fire,'” a man calling himself Ibrahim al-Idlibi said.
Mohammed Alaa Ghanem, from the Syrian American Council in Washington, said the temporary “cessation of hostilities” that started last month has sparked a resurgence in political rallies.
Without the fear of being caught in fighting or bombed, civilians have been taking to the streets once more in scenes reminiscent of the more optimistic days of 2011.
But Jabhat al-Nusra is “not happy with the development”, Mr Ghanem wrote on the Huffington Post website.
“Many analysts have wrongly interpreted Nusra's growth as a sign that Syrians have abandoned their demands for democracy and that the Syrian conflict is now a sectarian war,” he added.
“The recent protests in Syria have corrected this notion as well, reaffirming that even after five long years of war, Syrians still desire democracy and do not embrace Nusra's vision for Syria."
In pictures: Syria conflict
In pictures: Syria conflict
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Syrians carry children amid debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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A Syrian man carries a girl on a street covered with dust following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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Syrians react as they stand amid debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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A Syrian man carries a girl amid debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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An injured Syrian man walks out from the rubble of a destroyed building following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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A Syrian woman makes her way through debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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People stand on the rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in the Al-Fardous neighbourhood of Aleppo
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Syrian residents stand amid the rubble of destroyed buildings
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A Syrian resident grasps a mattress amid rubble in the al-Firdous neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo
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A bullet-riddled parking sign stands amid debris in a deserted street leading into the old city of Homs
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A general view shows abandoned buildings on a deserted square in the old city of Homs after Syrian government forces regained control of rebel-controlled areas
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A mosque is pictured through shattered glass in the old city of Homs, as rebel fighters withdrew from the city centre in line with a negotiated withdrawal deal with the government after having held out under tight siege for nearly two years
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Buses carrying Free Syrian Army fighters leaving Homs. Exhausted and worn out from a year-long siege, hundreds of Syrian rebels left their last remaining bastions in the heart of the central city of Homs under a cease-fire deal with government forces. The exit of some 1,200 fighters and civilians will mark a de facto end of the rebellion in the battered city, which was one of the first places to rise up against President Bashar Assad's rule, earning it the nickname of "capital of the revolution"
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Syrian government forces hold up a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad (L) while others raise the national flag on top of a pole in the old city of Homs
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Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad run through Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr crossing after their release by rebels. They were freed as part of a larger deal which saw the last remaining Syrian rebels in central Homs city evacuate their positions and free captives in several locations in northern Syria
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A Syrian woman and two children walk past heavily damaged buildings in the northern city of Aleppo
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A man carries a wounded girl following a reported bombardment with explosive-packed "barrel bombs" by Syrian government forces in the al-Mowasalat neighborhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
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A wounded man sits as he is treated at a makeshift hospital following a reported bombardment with explosive-packed "barrel bombs" by Syrian government forces in the al-Sakhour district of the northern city of Aleppo
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Debris rises in what Free Syrian Army fighters and Islamic rebels said was an operation to strike Al-Sahaba checkpoint, which is considered a gateway to Al-Dayf valley, and remove forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Maarat Al-Nouman, Idlib province
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Men try to put out fire at a site hit by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, near the border with Turkey
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Civil Defence members try to put out fire
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Survivors react at a site hit by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, near the border with Turkey
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Residents queue as they wait to receive food aid distributed by the UNRWA at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, south of Damascus
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Belongings of Syrian rebels inside a chapel at Crac des Chevaliers, the world's best preserved medieval Crusader castle in Syria. The village was destroyed in fighting between the government and rebel forces while the castle, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, also has been damaged over the past two years
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Hosen Sabah, a 16-year-old student is comforted by his mother at a hospital in Damascus. Nosen was wounded by a mortar outside his school, while 14 other students were killed and over 80 wounded
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A Free Syrian Army fighter works on a locally made launcher before firing it towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Mork town
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Syrian policemen and citizens inspecting the site of a car bomb at the entrance of Moadhamiyet al-Sham neighborhood in rural Damascus. According to Syria's Arab News Agency (SANA), a car bomb explosion has gone off in the countryside of Damascus and initial information say there are casualties, where a car rigged with explosions was remotely detonated at the entrance of Moadhamiyet al-Sham neighborhood in rural Damascus during engineering units it was trying to dismantled it
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Opposition fighters carrying a rocket launcher during clashes against government forces in the Sheikh Lutfi area, west of the airport in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
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A Syrian man helps a woman to make her way through debris following reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo
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A Syrian man reacts as he carries the body of injured boy following reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 33 civilians were killed in the attack
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Syrian rescue workers carry the body of a woman following reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo
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Syrians gather at the site of reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo
UN-brokered talks between the Syrian regime and rebels, excluding Isis, al-Nusra and other designated terrorist groups, are due to start in Geneva on Monday.Reuse content