Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria
Syrian Uprising Timeline
Syria has been a dictatorship run by the Assad family since 1970. In that year, Hafez al-Assad, the Defense Minister, launched a coup that put him in power. Upon the death of Hafez al-Assad in 2000, his son, Bashar al-Assad, became President of Syria. Both Assads used terror and force to remain in power. The elder Assad suppressed a rebellion in 1982 in the city of Hama by unleashing the Syrian military on that city. At least 10,000 people, mostly innocent civilians, died in that uprising.In March, 2011, as part of the “Arab Spring” rebellions throughout the Middle East, protests began in Syria, and rose to the level of an anti-government uprising resulting in at least hundreds of deaths.
As the conflict continued, members of the Syrian military defected and formed the “Free Syrian Army,” which presented itself as the armed wing of the uprising. The Syrian government forces typically respond to attacks and protests with massive force, bombarding civilian areas indiscriminatly, and causing heavy casualties. As of March, 2012, the United Nations estimated that at least 8,000 perished in this conflict, while at least 250,000 had fled their homes.
Syrian refugees have sought safety across the borders into Lebanon and Turkey, but their presence, and armed incursions by Assad loyalists, have brought the violence in Lebanon as well. Western sources also note that Iran is aiding the Assad regime, possibly with military advisors.
As the violence in Syria has grown, the Assad regime has called in reinforcements from the Shia Muslim world. Troops from Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guards from Iran have fought alongside the Syrian Army in the ongoing attempt to quell the rebellion. The rebels have received aid, weapons, and training from the United States and other Western nations. The rebel groups also include Sunni Jihadists, in particular al-Qaida and other related Sunni militant groups.