Syria: The story of the conflictContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
Almost 200,000 Syrians have lost their lives in the escalating conflict between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule. Syria's bloody internal conflict has destroyed entire neighbourhoods and forced more than nine million people from their homes. This is the story of the civil war so far, in eight short chapters.Continue reading the main story
Pro-democracy protests erupted in March 2011 in the southern city of Deraa after the arrest and torture of some teenagers who painted revolutionary slogans on a school wall. After security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing several, more took to the streets.
The unrest triggered nationwide protests demanding President Assad's resignation. The government's use of force to crush the dissent merely hardened the protesters' resolve. By July 2011, hundreds of thousands were taking to the streets across the country.
Opposition supporters eventually began to take up arms, first to defend themselves and later to expel security forces from their local areas.2. Descent into civil war Continue reading the main story
A UN commission of inquiry, investigating alleged human rights violations since March 2011, has evidence that those on both sides of the conflict have committed war crimes - including murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearances. Government and rebel forces have also been accused by investigators of using civilian suffering, such as blocking access to food, water and health services, as a method war.
In the city of Aleppo, an estimated 3,000 people have been killed by barrel bombs dropped by the regime on rebel-held areas since December last year. The UN says that in some instances, civilian gatherings have been deliberately targeted, constituting massacres.
The jihadist group, Islamic State, has also been accused by the UN of waging a campaign of fear in northern and eastern Syria. Its fighters have beheaded hostages and carried out mass killings of members of the security forces and religious minorities.Continue reading the main story
More than 3 million people have fled Syria since the start of the conflict, most of them women and children. It is one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history. Neighbouring countries have borne the brunt of the refugee crisis, with Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey struggling to accommodate the flood of new arrivals. The exodus accelerated dramatically in 2013, as conditions in Syria deteriorated.
A further 6.5 million people, 50% of them children, are believed to be internally displaced within Syria, bringing the total number forced to flee their homes to more than 9.5 million - half the country's population. An estimated 10.8 million are in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, with 4.6 million living in areas under siege or hard to access.
The UN launched its largest ever appeal for a single crisis in December 2013, seeking $6.5bn (£4bn) to provide medical care, food, water, shelter, education and health services.6. Rebels and the rise of the Islamists Continue reading the main story
With neither side able to inflict a decisive defeat on the other, the international community long ago concluded that only a political solution could end to the conflict in Syria. However, a number of attempts by the Arab League and the UN to broker ceasefires and start dialogue have failed.
In January 2014, the US, Russia and UN convened a conference in Switzerland to implement the 2012 Geneva Communique, an internationally-backed agreement that called for the establishment of a transitional governing body in Syria formed on the basis of mutual consent.
The talks, which became known as Geneva II, broke down in February after only two rounds. The then UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi blamed the Syrian government's refusal to discuss opposition demands and its insistence on a focus on fighting "terrorists" - a term Damascus uses to describe rebel groups.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the organisation's long-term strategic objective remains a political solution based on the Geneva Communique. The new UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura has also proposed establishing a series of "freeze zones", where local ceasefires would be negotiated to allow aid deliveries in besieged areas.8. Proxy war Continue reading the main story
The disappointment caused by the West's inaction created a fertile recruiting ground for extremists, who told those who had lost their loved ones that they were their only hope
Produced by Lucy Rodgers, David Gritten, James Offer and Patrick Asare