SYRIA: Timeline of key events since mid-March*
Syrians at a previous protest. About 200 people have died in recent clashes between security forces and protestors (file photo)
DUBAI, 13 April 2011 (IRIN) - Syria has been under emergency law since the Ba’ath Party seized power in 1963 and banned all opposition parties. Since early March 2011, there have been regular protests in several towns and cities, with the southern town of Dera’a a focal point. About 200 people have died in recent clashes. Below is a timeline of some key developments since 16 March:
- “Silent” protest in Damascus by 150 members of imprisoned families and friends. Four protesters killed and dozens wounded by security forces in Dera’a, near the border with Jordan.
- Demonstrations in Dera’a demanding political freedom and an end to corruption in Syria.
- People continue to demand an end to Syria’s long-running emergency law banning political opposition. Crowds set fire to headquarters of the Ba’ath Party in Dera’a.
- Hundreds of security forces line the streets of Dera’a, but do not confront thousands of mourners marching at the funeral of a protester killed in the town.
- In a fifth consecutive day of demonstrations against the government, hundreds of people march in the southern cities of Dera’a and Nawa.
- Reports of Syrian forces killing six people in an attack on protesters in Dera’a, and later the same day opening fire on hundreds of youths marching in solidarity. Faysal Kalthum, regional governor of Dera’a, sacked by President Bashar al-Assad.
- The president's advisers say he has ordered the formation of a committee to raise living standards and study scrapping the emergency law.
- At least 200 people march in Damascus and hundreds also on the streets of Hama. Amnesty International says at least 55 people have been killed in Dera’a in the last week and there are reports of at least 23 dead around the country, including for the first time in Damascus. Thousands march in funerals for some of the dead; witnesses say protesters in Dera’a toppled a statue of al-Assad's father, former President Hafez al-Assad. Security forces open fire from buildings. According to Syrian human rights organizations, there are indications that almost all of those who had been arrested in and around Dera'a since 18 March have been released.
- Clashes between security forces and protesters in the coastal city of Latakia kill another 12, according to Syria's state news agency. Al-Assad deploys the army there the next day. In an attempt to placate protesters, the president frees 260 prisoners, and 16 more the next day.
- Army increases its presence in Dera’a.
- Security forces fire into the air to disperse hundreds of protesters in Dera’a. Reports of pro-government rallies taking place across the country. Amnesty International cites unconfirmed reports saying 37 more people had been killed since 25 March in protests in Damascus, Latakia, Dera’a and elsewhere.
- Resignation of government following weeks of protests. Al-Assad appoints former government head Naji al-Otari as the new caretaker prime minister.
- Al-Assad delivers a speech for the first time since the protests began, but does not announce any major reforms.
- The president orders an investigation into protest deaths in Dera’a and Latakia. The Syrian state news agency says a panel will study and prepare "legislation, including protecting the nation's security and the citizens' dignity… paving the way for lifting the emergency law" by 25 April.
- Up to eight people are killed after government forces use live ammunition against protesters in the Damascus suburb of Douma.
- Al-Assad appoints Adel Safar, Minister of Agriculture in the last cabinet, to form a new government.
- Mohammad Khaled al-Hannus appointed governor of Dera’a.
- Security forces open fire on protesters across Syria, killing as many as 26 people, mostly in Dera’a.
- Reports of shooting, many injuries and 200 arrests in the coastal town of Baniyas, 300km northwest of Damascus, following clashes in the area.
- Some 500 Damascus university students call for more political freedom. According to the Syrian Human Rights League, opposition figure, writer and journalist Fayez Sara, was arrested, as well as bloggers, activists and young opposition supporters. Human Rights Watch says there are reports of beatings and torture inside prisons.
– Thousands of women and children gather along the main road between the coastal cities of Tartous and Baniya calling for the release of hundreds of men rounded up there in recent days. Activists report student protesters gathered at Damascus University in the capital and in the northern university at Aleppo.
– New cabinet convened. In Damascus, the British, French, German, Italian and Spanish ambassadors meet the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallim to discuss the escalating situation amid concern over the rising number of victims and widespread violence across the country.
– Tens of thousands of demonstrators march in Damascus and other towns and cities nationwide.
– Homs, 165km north of Damascus, becomes another flashpoint for demonstrations, with up to 21 protesters killed over two days.
- A key demand of anti-government protesters is approved by Syria's government as it accepts to end decades-old emergency laws. However, Al-Assad will need to sign the decree to formally abolish the emergency law, which will reportedly be replaced by legislation requiring demonstrations to be licensed by the Ministry of Interior.
On the same day the head of the Syrian Human Rights League, Abdul-Karim Rihawi, said the Syrian authorities had arrested a leftwing opposition figure at his home in an overnight raid following an interview given to Al Jazeera.
– More large demonstrations take place in Homs.
: Alertnet, Al Jazeera, Amnesty International, BBC, Montreal Gazette, Reuters, Syrian news agency SANA, Guardian, Reuters, Washington Post, Financial Times, DP Press
*Updated on 26 April 2011