Interactive Map: Syria’s Uprising
Follow @azmatzahraNovember 8, 2011, 8:12 pm ET
The mass protests, which began in the rural farming town of Dara’a in mid-March, have since spread to more heavily populated cities like Homs and Hama, where the regime has responded with brutal military assaults. The UN estimates that at least 3,500 civilians have been killed.
Despite the protests’ growing reach, Syria’s two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, remain relatively quiet in comparison with the centers of the uprising, an indicator that the battle could be long and slow.
Click on a blue city on the map below to learn more about how the uprising is playing out there.*
A major commercial hub where the regime has pushed infrastructural development and economic reform, Aleppo has not seen mass anti-government demonstrations on the same scale as those taking place in Hama and Homs.
Analysts warn that if large-scale protests reach Aleppo and Damascus, the country’s largest cities, the regime will almost certainly fall. The government has gone to great lengths to keep Aleppo a stronghold, maintaining heavy security there, while also relaxing stringent laws. In late October, the government organized a rally in support of President Assad that attracted tens of thousands.
Still, there is evidence of growing dissent in the city. In May, several thousand students protested the military’s siege on other cities, and in August, the government conducted a rare raid on anti-government protesters, killing two.
After persistent anti-government demonstrations, the government sent tanks into this coastal city in April and May, calling Banias a “center of Salafist terrorism.” Leaders in Banias said the charge was an attempt to spread fear among the city’s minority Alawites. Though Banias is mainly Sunni, it is surrounded by Alawite villages.
In an unusual protest in April — because it was mainly comprised of women and children — thousands of protesters called for the government to release opponents of the regime who had been picked up by security forces. Such protests are generally expected to receive more gentle treatment, but three women were killed in another all-female demonstration in May.
The town’s government-run hospital has been accused by Amnesty International of carrying out human rights abuses against injured protesters seeking treatment. As a result, some of the injured are turning to secret makeshift hospitals run by activists instead.
The sporadic anti-government protests in Syria’s capital have been small in comparison with those in Hama and Homs, analysts say, in part, because urban business elites have stood by the regime.
Maintaining control of Damascus, the country’s largest city, is crucial to the regime’s maintaining power. It has heavily deployed security forces — activists estimate the number of secret police on the streets has doubled since the uprising began — and organized rallies in support of President Assad attended by tens of thousands. In June, state television claimed that 2 million people marched in Damascus in support of the government.
Still, protests regularly take place in the city’s southern neighborhood of Midan and surrounding suburbs. Though the demonstrations are quickly quashed, often by security forces firing on protesters, opposition meetings are sometimes permitted. In late June, the government allowed a rare public gathering of opposition leaders during which participants insisted the uprising could only end if Assad surrendered absolute power.
The Syrian rebellion began in this small farming town 60 miles south of Damascus in mid-March. Residents of Dara’a took the streets after schoolchildren were tortured by security forces for scribbling anti-government graffiti. The ensuing military crackdown sparked protests that spread to other rural areas, eventually reaching cities.
In May, activists reportedly discovered a mass grave near Dara’a believed to hold the bodies of dozens of anti-government protesters, including women and children. The government denied the reports of a mass grave, but said the deaths were being investigated.
Resentment runs deep in Syria’s fourth-largest city, which has seen some of the country’s biggest protests, and some of the worst violence.
Hama’s roots as an opposition stronghold date back to the early 1980s, when Islamist groups based in the city conducted a bombing campaign against the regime. In 1982, with the country on the brink of civil war, President Hafez al-Assad ordered a massacre that killed at least 10,000 people and left parts of the country in shambles.
Hama has seen a wave of protests during the current uprising, and in July, the U.S. and French ambassadors to Syria visited the restive city in a show of support for the nearly half million demonstrators there.
Earlier this summer, the opposition gained control of Hama for six weeks, until the government sent troops into the city in August for a brutal assault, which killed an estimated 130 civilians on the first day alone.
Today the government says Hama is under its control, but demonstrations continue.
Syria’s third-largest city is the capital of the uprising, and has borne the brunt of the regime’s violent crackdown.
Analysts warn that Homs could potentially become a hub for sectarian violence if the regime falls. Since the 1970s, the city has been rife with tensions between its majority Sunni population and minority Alawites, who make up a disproportionate percentage of the government.
The apparent abduction and murder of three Alawites in July led to a military assault on the city, which activists said was an attempt by the government to portray the conflict as a sectarian one.
Amnesty International has documented cases in which both the National Hospital and the military hospital in Homs have committed human rights abuses against injured protesters seeking treatment. As a result, the injured are turning to secret makeshift hospitals run by activists instead.
Analysts say the revolt in Homs is especially significant because it is increasingly led by an armed opposition fighting the country’s security forces, “taking on the tone of civil war.” In November, security forces launched a brutal attack to retake Homs.
A city with a history of rebellion against the Assad regime, Jisr al-Sughour has been the scene of heavy fighting in Syria, but accounts about the fighting have been disputed.
In June, government forces claimed to have uncovered a mass grave filled with the bodies of security forces killed by armed groups in the city. According to the government, 120 security personnel overall were killed in clashes to suppress an armed rebellion in the town.
Activists suggested the bodies discovered in the grave could be those of army defectors or recruits who refused to fire on protesters. Because independent media is not allowed in the country, reports have been hard to confirm. The BBC has laid out the various claims here.
Hundreds of thousands have protested against the government in Syria’s fifth-largest city, located in the country’s gas- and oil-producing region.
Deir al-Zour is in a mostly Sunni tribal area close to the border with Iraq and is characterized by its extended clan network. “Armed and fiercely independent,” the clans have links with tribes across eastern Syria and western Iraq, which residents say could support them if the government besieges the city like it has in Hama or Dara’a. So far, the military has mostly stayed on its outskirts.
Tensions with the government escalated in late July after the arrest of Sheik Nawaf al-Bashir, the head of the city’s Baqarra tribe.
Military forces attacked the Mediterranean coastal city in April after protests first broke out. By mid-August, the Syrian government re-entered the city with Navy vessels, tanks and soldiers, killing dozens.
While a majority of its residents are Sunnis, Latakia is also the heartland of Syria’s minority Alawite sect. Residents have reported tensions between Sunni and Alawite neighborhoods, but activists said defecting soldiers, not sectarianism, were driving the clashes.
*Because Syria has largely barred western journalists from the country, it is impossible to confirm some reports and death toll estimates.
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