Understanding the history of Syria's conflict
This timeline outlines some of the key events and facts of the Syrian conflict and the global response between 2011 and 2015.
Click on each year below to see the details.
- Children are arrested for painting opposition forces themed graffiti on a wall in the city of Daraa.
- Protests are held against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Dozens of demonstrators are killed, triggering months of nationwide unrest.
- Demonstrations spread to other Syrian cities and hundreds of protesters are killed.
- The displacement of the population begins within Syria and across borders into neighbouring countries.
- Turkey opens its first camps for refugees.
- The European Union and United States of America impose related sanctions on Syria.
- Dozens of people are killed in protests in Hama, Daraa, Baniyas, Homs and areas of suburban Damascus.
- United States President Barack Obama calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step aside and imposes unprecedented sanctions on Syria.
- Amnesty International releases a report finding scores of people detained for protesting have died in custody.
- The Syrian National Council is formed, the first opposition coalition of diverse groups seeking an end to Bashar al-Assad's rule.
- The Arab League unveils a peace plan in a bid to end violence in Syria, which later fails.
- The Iraqi Government calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
- The Arab League suspends Syria due to failure to implement the Arab peace plan, calling for dialogue towards reform and an end to violence.
- Suicide bombers kill 44 people in twin car bombings in Syria’s capital Damascus.
- The United Nations reports that more than 5,000 people have died in Syria since the conflict began in March, and estimates neighbouring countries are hosting 500,000 displaced Syrians.
- A suicide bomb attack in the Syrian capital Damascus reportedly kills and injures dozens of people.
- Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan is appointed the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations- League of Arab States to Syria.
- Bombardment of cities including Homs escalates.
- The Syrian Government holds a constitutional referendum on a new constitution, which media outlets report is considered not to be genuine by the west.
- The Syrian Government gives a commitment to the United Nations that it will implement a six-point proposal for ending of conflict, which includes stopping movement of troops towards populated areas and use of heavy weapons.
- The United Nations Security Council endorses a six-point peace proposal for Syria put forward by Join Special Envoy Kofi Annan.
- A ceasefire comes into effect on 12 April. There is a brief reduction in violence before the United Nations reports that both sides have violated the ceasefire agreement.
- The United Nations establishes a supervision mission in Syria (UNSMIS) for a 90 day period, sending unarmed observers to monitor the situation.
- A United Nations resolution also calls for full implementation of the United Nations Joint Special Envoy’s six-point proposal to end the conflict in Syria.
- The Syrian Government holds parliamentary elections, which are boycotted by opposition groups. Media outlets report that voter turnout is 51 per cent, according to the Syrian Higher Elections Committee, and that President Bashar al-Assad claims the results demonstrate support for his Government’s reforms.
- A massacre takes place in the village of Taldou, near Houla. United Nations observers report that at least 108 people have been killed during shooting and shelling.
- The United Nations-backed action group meets in Geneva to discuss the situation in Syria and condemn the ongoing violence.
- The United Nations suspends its observers’ monitoring activities in Syria amidst escalating violence.
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees opens the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.
- The National Security headquarters is bombed in the Syrian capital Damascus, killing several officials.
- Kofi Annan resigns as United Nations-Arab League Joint Special Envoy for Syrian crisis.
- According to the United Nations, in August alone, 103,416 Syrians flee their country to seek asylum in neighbouring countries, the highest monthly total to date.
- A United Nations Commission of Inquiry accuses both the Syrian Government and opposition forces of committing war crimes.
- Human Rights Watch finds that “individuals on all sides of the conflict in Syria have committed serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.”
- Leaders of Syrian opposition factions, excluding extremist groups, meet for talks in Qatar’s capital Doha and form the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.
- International donors pledge more than USD 1.5 billion to help Syrian refugees affected by conflict, during the Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, in Kuwait City.
- The United Nations reports the number of Syrian refugees reaches one million.
- The United Nations says there have been almost 93,000 documented deaths in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011, but the actual numbers of deaths is probably much higher.
- The United Nations says 400,000 refugees have fled Syria in just the past seven weeks. There are now almost 1,400,000 people registered as refugees or awaiting registration.
- The United States announces it will contribute an extra $100 million in humanitarian assistance for people affected by violence in Syria, bringing its total assistance to almost $510 million.
- United Nations agencies issue a call for US$4.4 billion to support humanitarian work in Syria and neighbouring countries - the largest humanitarian funding appeal in history.
- The United Nations says almost 93,000 have been killed in the Syrian conflict.
- The number of children displaced by the Syrian crisis reaches 1 million.
- Rockets filled with sarin nerve agent are fired on agricultural districts around Damascus, killing an estimated 1400 people.
- United Nations investigators confirm chemical weapons were used during attacks on a Damascus suburb in August.
- The United Nations Security Council endorses the expeditious destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme.
- Syria sees its first outbreak of polio in 14 years, prompting a large-scale immunisation program.
- Sweden offers permanent residency to all Syrian refugees who are granted asylum.
- Media outlets report hundreds of people have been killed in a series of air raids on Aleppo in northern Syria.
- The Geneva II Conference is held in Switzerland. Peace talks take place during January and February but largely fail, as some parties refuse to discuss a transitional government.
- A report by three former war crimes prosecutors finds there is clear evidence that Syria has been involved in the systematic torture and execution of about 11,000 detainees since the conflict began in March, 2011.
- The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution demanding all parties immediately cease use of weapons in populated areas of Syria and lift the siege of populated areas.
- The United Nations Security Council strongly condemns “increased terrorist attacks carried out by organizations and individuals associated with Al-Qaida, its affiliates and other terrorist groups”.
- The United Nations reports that about 200,000 people are under siege in Government-controlled parts of Syria, and 45,000 people are besieged in areas controlled by opposition forces.
- Physicians for Human Rights reports it has documented the deaths in Syria of 526 medical personnel and attacks on 145 medical facilities.
- President Bashar al-Assad wins the election for a third presidential term after polling in government-controlled areas.
- The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons reports the Syrian Government has finished handing over its chemical weapons, which will be destroyed, as per an agreement struck with the United States and Russia in 2013.
- The establishment of a new ‘Caliphate’ is announced by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi named as the Caliph. The group formally changes its name to “Islamic State.”
- The United Nations reports the death toll from the Syrian conflict stands at more than 191,000 during the first three years of the conflict.
- A United States-led coalition launches air strikes on Syria targeting Islamic State.
- The United Nations calls on Europe to allow in Syrian refugees, as thousands cross the Mediterranean Sea.
- A siege of the Damascus suburb of Yarmouk enters its third year, with residents cut off from supplies of food and water.
- After intense fighting, extremist groups are pushed out of the northern town of Kobane close to the Turkish border, by Kurdish forces, triggering mass displacement of residents who flee to Turkey.
- The Syrian Observatory for Human rights reports Islamic State has abducted about 150 Christians from Syrian villages. Amnesty International later reports that all are released by October, 2014.
- Life expectancy in Syria has reduced by 20 years to just 56 years. Total economic loss since the start of the conflict is estimated at $202.6 billion, while 80 per cent of the population are now living in poverty. The information is contained in a United Nations-backed report by the Syrian Centre for Policy Research.
- The ancient city of Palmyra is seized by Islamic State.
- Islamic State abducts about 150 boys who are returning home after taking school exams in Aleppo.
- The United Nations estimates the death toll from the conflict has risen to more than 250,000, including more than 10,000 children, and says the Syria conflict has become the world’s largest humanitarian crisis
- Syrian Government forces carries out several air strikes on the city of Douma, in the region of Eastern Ghouta, held by rebels. Dozens are killed.
- Compassion is stirred world-wide as an image emerges of the body of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi, washed up on a beach in Turkey.
- Russia begins air strikes on Syria, saying it is targeting Islamic State. Media outlets report the airstrikes have targeted Syrian opposition forces.
- A report from the independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic warns the Syrian conflict is intensifying, with no resolution in sight. It reports there are “mass human rights violations” which “are massive in extent and scope” and calls for international action towards finding a political solution to end the violence.
- Turkey begins building a wall along its border with Syria, to try to stop entry of Jihadi fighters
- The International Syria Support Group holds the Syria Conference in Vienna to discuss how a resolution to the conflict in Syria can be accelerated.
- The United Nations calls on member states with the capacity to “take all necessary measures” to fight Islamic State militants in both Syria and Iraq
- United Nations Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura reports a ceasefire may be possible in Syria, with continued discussion and active inclusion of parties to the conflict.
- The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons expresses “grave concern” that chemical weapons have again been used in Syria.
- The United Kingdom joins the United States-led airstrikes campaign on Islamic State in Syria
- The United States Government reports that as at December 9, it has conducted 3,018 air strikes in Syria, and has destroyed 16,075 targets including tanks, buildings and fighting positions.
- Human Rights Watch releases a report documenting mass deaths and torture in Syria’s detention facilities.
- The United Nations Security Council unanimously passes a resolution calling for a Syrian ceasefire, President Assad and opposition groups to join formal negotiations in 2016, towards finding a political solution to the conflict.
Besieged town of Madaya in Syria made headlines as alarming images of starving residents were shared by international media. With sustained international pressure, aid convoys were able to gain access and deliver life-saving humanitarian aid to its residents.
After a series of meetings in late January between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, talks regarding a political solution resumed with the parties to the conflict.
The UN Security Council actively pursued issues of humanitarian access and political resolution of the Syria crisis with an increase in activity across key related areas..
- On 4 February 2016, the UK, Germany, Kuwait, Norway and the United Nations co-hosted Supporting Syria and the Region Conference in London. The conference raised over US$ 11 billion in pledges – $5.8 billion for 2016 and a further $5.4 billion for 2017-20 to enable humanitarian agencies and partners to plan for the future.
- The US and Russia, as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group, issued a document setting out terms for cessation of hostilities in Syria, which applied to all parties engaged in the conflict except those designated as terrorist organisations by the UN Security Council.
Left: In partnership with UNHCR, World Vision supplied blankets, hygiene kits, and baby kits to Syrian refugees in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon (Pic:© Nicholas Ralph/World Vision Australia); Right: A camp for Syrian refugees in Lebanon (Pic: © Stephen Levitt/World Vision Australia).