Timeline of the Syrian Civil War (January–April 2011)

This article is about the Syrian Civil War from January–April 2011. For other time periods, see Timeline of the Syrian Civil War.

Protests began in Syria as early as 26 January 2011, and erupted on 15 March 2011 with a "Day of Rage" protest generally considered to mark the start of a nationwide uprising.[1] The Syrian government’s reaction to the protests became violent on 16 March, and deadly on 18 March, when four unarmed protesters were killed in Daraa

For the background of those protests, see: Background of the Syrian protests (2011).


January–February 2011

26 or 28 January, in the large northern Kurdish city of Al-Hasakah, a man, Hasan Ali Akleh, soaked himself with gasoline and set himself afire.[2][3]

3 February, Syrian opposition groups called on Facebook and Twitter for a "day of rage" on Friday 4 February.[4] This did not lead to protests in Syria on 4 February.

5 February, in the Al-Hasakah, hundreds demonstrated for political reform and an end to emergency law.[2]

17 February, a demonstration was held, in the al-Hamidiya market in Damascus, in protest of a police beating of a shop keeper. Protesters chanted: "the Syrian people will not be humiliated".[2][3]

23 February, Syria's justice minister defended the state of emergency by pointing at the state of war with Israel. A proposal of one parliament member to evaluate the harsh emergency laws was voted down with 249 against one MP.[5]

1–17 March

In Daraa, protests started in the al-Balad neighborhood, in reaction to the imprisonment 15 local teenagers by military police (see 6 March).[7]
Also in Aleppo, Al-Hasakah, Deir ez-Zor and Hama protestors gathered, sources in Syria said; reportedly there were some clashes with security forces.[21] The state news service SANA called the protests the work of outside agitators.[17]
  • 17 March, protests that had begun the previous day in Daraa continued.[22]

18–25 March

In Daraa, possibly thousands[24] of locals gathered - peacefully, according to the BBC;[8] armed, according to Arutz Sheva[22] - and marched through the city, chanting: "God, Syria, Freedom",[24] and demanding release of the teenagers detained since 6 March and calling for democracy, greater freedom,[8] political freedom and an end to corruption.[24] An amateur video purportedly shows watercannons being used in Daraa to disperse demonstrators.[23] Security forces opened fire on the crowd killing four.[8] The Syrian government reacted by saying that "infiltrators had caused chaos and riots" in Daraa.[23]
In Damascus, a crowd, 200-strong,[25] at the Ummayad Mosque[17] tried to march, chanting: "God, Syria and freedom only", they were attacked by a pro-government group,[17] or forcefully dispersed by plainclothes police[23][25] wielding batons[25] witnesses said, and 30 were arrested.[17]
In Homs, 2,000 gathered by the Khaled bin al Waleed mosque, they were assaulted and some were arrested.[17] In Baniyas hundreds of protesters gathered,[17] they were repressed violently.[16]
Protests were also in three other cities.[27] A human rights group reported that women jailed on 16 March in Damascus had begun a hunger strike.[28]
Protesters then burned the local Ba'ath Party headquarters, the town’s main courthouse and a branch of the SyriaTel phone company owned by Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of President Assad, a symbol of corruption for the anti-government protesters and considered Syria’s richest businessman.[22][29][31][32][33] On the same day, seven police officers and four demonstrators were killed in Daraa.[22]
Loay Hussein, a political prisoner from 1984 to 1991 and now a prominent rights leader, who had been supporting protesters in Daraa, was arrested at his home in the Sehnaya district near Damascus by Syrian authorities.[41] Protesters also gathered today in the southern towns of Inkhil,[40] Nawa,[39] Al-Sanamayn and Jasim[41] and rural areas around Damascus.[40]
One of those killed was a doctor, whose funeral was that same afternoon. Thousands attended that funeral after which security forces again fired on demonstrators, according to the reports.[42] During the entire day, Associated Press reported 15 dead,[42] but a later hospital communication said that at least 37 people had been killed.[46][47] Mobile phone connections to Daraa were cut, and checkpoints in town were manned by uniformed soldiers and plainclothes security agents with rifles.[44]
Syrian state media however reported a police raid on the Omari mosque during which guns, grenades, ammunition and money had been captured, and "an armed gang" attacking an ambulance killing a doctor, a medical worker and a driver, after which security forces faced the aggressors and managed to shoot a few, or four, of them.[42][44]
The Syrian government has blamed the unrest since 15 March on Israeli agents and Palestinian extremists and other ‘saboteurs’ and ‘infiltrators’.[48]
There were also protests in Latakia, Homs, Damascus, Hama, Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa.[50][53] Activists reported one[54] or two[55] demonstrators in Latakia shot dead by security forces[54] or killed by a face off between protesters and pro-government supporters,[55] and one shot dead in Homs.[54]
The Syrian state news agency reported an armed gang in the southern town of Al-Sanamayn attacking security forces which resulted in the death of several attackers.[50] A YouTube video showed seven bloody bodies in Al-Sanamayn lying on stretchers, three clearly with gunshot wounds; the claims that 10 to 20 were killed there by security forces were not independently confirmed.[55]
In Damascus there were pro-Assad rallies: hundreds of cars plastered with pictures of President Assad and crammed full of youths descended on the central Umayya Square; huge pro-Assad rallies drove around Damascus waving Syrian flags and photos of Assad;[56] thousands chanted their loyalty in support of Assad.[52] But also hundreds of protesters in Damascus expressed their solidarity with the demonstrators killed in Daraa on 23 March, crying out: "We sacrifice our blood, our souls for you in Daraa".[46]

26–31 March

Some activists and/or Al Jazeera considered this an attempt to appease the increasingly angry demonstrators;[52] Rihawi, head of the Syrian Human Rights League, said that releasing those prisoners was "a good start".[58] Website Spiegel Online International suggests however – without revealing its sources – that Assad released jihadists from the country's prisons in March 2011 with the purpose of quickly radicalizing, and thus discrediting, the Syrian opposition.[59] The Syrian government has not yet commented on these releases.[57]
In both Latakia 26 March and Tafas (south of Damascus) 26 or 27 March, residents attending funerals (of demonstrators shot dead Friday) set fire to the local Baath Party building and a police station.[52] This resulted in Latakia in three people reportedly killed after a clash with security forces.[52] Government forces were deployed in Latakia.[60]
In Daraa, hundreds staged a silent sit-in near a mosque, security forces fired tear gas on them, witnesses reported.[52]
Also on 29 March, President Assad accepted the resignation of the 32-member cabinet under prime minister Naji al-Otari[64] who resigned in reaction to the protests.[65] However, any Syrian government has little power in Syria where power is concentrated in Assad and his family and in the security apparatus.[64]

1–15 April

By the end of March, the old neighbourhood al-Balad in Daraa with 15,000 residents (see 16 March) was locked and surrounded by the Syrian Army.[7] When their supplies ran out in April–May the residents of al-Balad were facing famine.[7] By early April, whole Daraa was surrounded by automatic weapons, surface-to-air missiles and tanks,[7] and largely sealed off by the military.[70]

In Douma, a working-class[70] northern suburb[72] of Damascus, citizens gathered on the Municipality Square, hundreds according to Syrian officials, 2,000 according to witnesses who said they were chanting: "Freedom, freedom" when police opened fire on them.[72] At least eleven people were killed.[72][73] Officials however said, an armed group had taken to the rooftops and fired on both citizens and security forces.[72]
In Daraa, according to an eyewitness 5,000 people demonstrated, shouting: "We want freedom!"[74] Hundreds tried to march from Daraa to the nearby city of Al-Sanamayn when police fired on them, killing five marchers, reports say.[70]
In Homs, according to the state news agency, an armed group fired on citizens, killing one girl.[72]
In Damascus, at the main Umayyad Mosque, government supporters let worshippers out the gates only in small groups, so no crowd could gather, witnesses said.[70] The state-run News Agency denied that any clashes between protesters and security forces had occurred today in Syria.[70]
External video
Unknown Gunmen Filmed at Syria Demo
(YouTube: Associated Press.)
8 April 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
Protests in Douma, a Damascus suburb, 8 April 2011
In Harasta, a suburb of Damascus, 2,000 people protested, and on reaching a security forces roadblock mutual throwing of rocks escalated into 'plain clothes men' opening fire with guns. People who were shot and injured could not be reached by others because the forces continued firing, and doctors could not get wounded into the hospital because security forces didn't allow them, according to Human Rights Watch.[82] Unconfirmed reports were that in three people were killed in Harasta.[78]
In Homs two protesters were killed.[78]
Amnesty International today had recorded 171 names of people killed since 18 March.[78]
Mazen Darwish, an activist in Damascus, said about Assad’s 31 March’ pledges of investigations: "It is not about this problem or that problem; it’s about transforming Syria from dictatorship to democracy; (…) to open up political life, have free press and political parties and lift the emergency rule".[78]
Protests were today also in Latakia, Tartus, Baniyas, Idlib and in other cities.[78] In eastern Syria, thousands of ethnic Kurds demonstrated. In the northeastern city of Qamishli, Kurdish youth apparently rejected Assad’s attempt of overture to Kurds by releasing 48 Kurdish prisoners, when they chanted: "No Kurd, no Arab, Syrian people are one. We salute the martyrs of Daraa".[78]
Also on 10 April, president Assad met with Douma residents and gave his personal condolences to the neighbourhood over the deaths on 1 April.[73]
In Baniyas, according to state media, snipers fatally shot a patrolling soldier.[65]
State media announced a new government under Prime Minister Adel Safar.[65] In the evening, state television announced that president Assad had "decided to release all those detained after recent events who did not commit crimes against the nation and the citizens".[73]
In the Barzeh district in Damascus, 250 protesters rallying in front of the Salam mosque were surrounded by dozens of armed men in plainclothes, after which violence reportedly erupted.[75][85]
In Daraa, thousands demonstrated with government permission; security forces were not on the streets. Protests were also reported in Baniyas, Latakia, Baida, Homs, Deir ez-Zor and Qamishli. In these cities as in Daraa, some protesters just demanded political reforms, others called for complete regime change or the toppling of the government.[75][86]

16–24 April

In Daraa, thousands marched, chanting: "The people want the overthrow of the regime", witnesses said.[88]
In Douma, 1500 staged a sit-in to demand the release of 140 locals who were arrested in a march on 15 April, activists said.[88]
In Latakia, a rally following a funeral was attacked by security forces firing in the air, a rights campaigner said.[88]
In Baniyas, 1000 women marched in an all female pro-democracy protest: "Not Sunni, not Alawite. Freedom is what we all want", they reportedly chanted.[89]
Also that Monday, Syria’s interior ministry stated that the country was facing an "armed insurrection under the motto of Jihad to set up a Salafist state".[91]
Late that Monday night, according to a prominent activist, 10,000 people held a sit-in protest at the main central square in Homs.[91] Security forces then opened fire and used tear gas to disperse this sit-in on this Clock Square.[92] According to witnesses, security agents then took up positions to seal off the area and blocked the roads to the square with fire trucks, making it look like a war zone.[92] Around midnight, leftist opposition figure Mahmoud Issa was arrested from his house in Homs.[92]
The government passed a bill today, lifting the emergency law after 48 years. President Assad still had to sign the legislation.[92]
The events of the previous, very bloody, day incited Al Jazeera to entitle the Syrian 2011 protests no longer as merely ‘protests’ but henceforward as an "uprising".[96]

25–30 April

Attack on Daraa

See also: Siege of Daraa

Between 25 April and 16 May 2011, the Syrian army attacked and occupied Daraa, since 18 March the most ardent centre of the Syrian protests. The army reportedly deployed 20 or 30 tanks, between hundreds and 6,000 troops, snipers on roofs, and helicopters with paratroopers for the final conquest of the focal Omari Mosque on Saturday 30 April. Presumably 244 civilians and 81 soldiers were killed; houses were reportedly searched to arrest protesters, houses were shelled; almost 1,000 men have reportedly been rounded up. "They want to teach Syria a lesson by teaching Daraa a lesson", a resident commented. There were rumours of soldiers, or an entire army division, having defected, and joined the protesters; these reports have not been independently verified. The government claimed it was battling "terrorist groups" in Daraa. After withdrawal of part of the troops from Daraa on 5 May, army units remained deployed at the city’s entrances.

Blockading of Douma

Douma, a working-class suburb of capital Damascus that had also assumed a vital role in the Syrian protests (see reports 1, 3, 10, 15, 16, 22 and 23 April) was raided and blockaded by army and security forces for at least several days, end of April 2011.

Remaining Syria

Apart from their actions in Daraa and Douma (see above), security forces also searched houses in Izra, 27 km north-north-east of Daraa, and entered Damascus-suburb Muadhamiya arresting probably handsful of people.[105] Border crossings into Jordan near the southern town of Daraa were reportedly sealed.[105]
Since March, 1,000 Syrians have crossed the border into Lebanon, most of them not via the official border crossings.[111]
Apart from the 33 people killed in Daraa (see above), in Homs 25 people were reported killed, according to activists,[113] and in Rastan 17.[114] The authorities said that today nine members of security forces were killed by "terrorist groups".[113]
In Deir Ez-Zor, 1,000 people emerged from a mosque and were dispersed by security forces, told AFP.[103]
In the small village Jiza near Daraa, 13-year-old boy Hamza al-Khatib was taken by his father to an anti-government rally.[115] The boy disappeared,[116] taken in custody by Syrian officials according to Human Rights Watch.[117] Almost a month later (see 25 or 28 May), according to activists, his tortured, badly injured, murdered body was returned to his parents;[115][117] a video on YouTube purportedly showed gunshot wounds on Hamza’s body.[118] Prominent Syrian activist Razan Zaitouneh considers this story plausible: she believes, the Syrian government wants the people to see this and understand that the most awful thing can happen to their family members in they continue to participate in this revolution.[118] At that same demonstration, the 15-year-old boy Tamer Mohammed al Sharey from Jiza disappeared; a video released on 9 June by activists claimed his dead and tortured body also to be returned to his parents.[118]
138 members of the Syrian Ba'ath Party quit in protest against the deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, according to AFP information.[120] Since mid-March 550 people died in the Syrian clashes according to Arab and Syrian organisations for human rights.[120]

The consecutive Timeline-article on these Syrian protests and uprising (by July 2012 considered to have escalated into civil war) is: Timeline of the Syrian Civil War (May–August 2011)


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  105. 1 2 3 4 Shadid, Anthony (25 April 2011). "Syria Escalates Crackdown as Tanks Go to Restive City". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  106. 1 2 3 Barry Neild and agencies (26 April 2011). "Syrian regime's attacks on protesters escalate". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 26 April 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  107. Al Jazeera’s correspondent Rula Amin, Damascus, in video clip at 12:59 pm, 28Apr2011, in:"Syria Live Blog – 28 April". Al Jazeera English. 28 April 2011. Archived from the original on 28 April 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  108. On 23 April 2011, Al Jazeera had decided, after the bloody events of Friday 22 April, to henceforth indicate the ‘Syrian protests’ as an "uprising". Starting 25 April (the Attack on Daraa), prominent international news channels considered, with hindsight, the Syrian "uprising" to have begun in the week of 15–21 March. Examples: The New York Times, 25 April 2011; Los Angeles Times, 25 April 2011; BBC, 15 July 2012.
  109. The numbers of casualties mentioned in this article until 26 April add up to approximately 400 civilians and 36 soldiers/policemen.
  110. "Robert Fisk: 'We will never cease our struggle until we bring down Assad'". The Independent. London. 2 May 2011. Retrieved 4 February 2014.
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  120. 1 2 "Syrian forces kill 62 as America tightens sanctions". Gulf News. 30 April 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
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