1970-2000: totalitarian dictatorship of Hafez al-Assad
2000-present: the even more brutal dictatorship of his son Bashar
December 2010: beginning of the Arab Spring
February 17, 2012: beginning of the nonviolent Syrian revolution in Damascus, following the unprovoked beating of a trader’s son.
March 18, 2012: A nonviolent demonstration in Daraa protesting the imprisonment and torture of 13 children receives a violent response from the regime, resulting in four deaths and sparking widespread protests calling for reform.
April 8, 2012: Syrian demonstrators first call for the overthrow the Assad government.
April 19, 2012: the Clock Square Massacre in Homs: government forces attack an overnight encampment of protestors, killing and wounding an unknown number of people.
July 29, 2012: The formation of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) by a group of defected officers marks beginning of the armed insurgency.
August 21, 2013: The regime kills 1,729 civilians with sarin gas in the Damascus suburbs, with no response from the US or other countries.
June 2014: After taking over a third of Iraqi territory (north and west), ISIS stages a comeback in Syria, eventually controlling one third of its territory. It also declared itself a – or the – caliphate.
September 22, 2014: The US intervenes militarily for the first time in Syria, claiming to be fighting ISIS, but instead bombing Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, both of which are fighting ISIS and the regime.
September 2015: Russia launches a bombing campaign against what it refers to as “terrorist groups” in Syria, including ISIS as well as rebels backed by western states. Russia later deploys military advisers to shore up Assad’s defenses.
December 2016: The Syrian army fully recaptures Aleppo from rebel fighters, the government’s biggest victory in the nearly six-year civil war. Syrian government forces use chemical weapons in rebel-held areas of Aleppo during the final weeks of the battle, killing at least nine people and wounding hundreds more, according to Human Rights Watch. After this, a new military alliance of rebel groups in northern Syria forms with the aim of consolidating military control over Idlib province, the western part of Aleppo province and parts of Latakia province. Even later, the Syrian government and opposition groups agree to 13 evacuations of opposition fighters from government-besieged cities and towns to areas under opposition control in northern Syria. In addition to Aleppo, the Syrian government currently controls the capital, Damascus, parts of southern Syria and Deir Az Zor, much of the area near the Syrian-Lebanese border, and the northwestern coastal region. Rebel groups, ISIS, and Kurdish forces control the rest of the country.
April 4, 2017: One hundred people, including women and children, die after being poisoned by a sarin gas attack in the rebel-held village of Khan Sheikhoun, a town in the Maarrat al-Nu’man district in the southern Idlib governorate of northwestern Syria. Blaming President Bashar al-Assad of Syria for the attack, President Trump orders a missile strike two days later against a Syrian air base that the United States believes to be the staging place. It’s the first (and so far the last) American missile strike aimed at punishing Assad, who, supported by Russia and Iran, denies responsibility for the Khan Sheikhoun carnage.
May 4, 2017: Russia, Iran and Turkey call for setting up four “de-escalation zones” in Syria, which Syrian and Russian fighter jets agree not to fly over for six months. The plan isn’t yet implemented, as the three countries have not yet agreed on the details of the ceasefire agreement, such as the policing of the four safe zones and their boundaries.
June 6, 2017: An alliance of US-backed forces begins an assault on ISIS in Raqqa, leading to many civilian deaths.