In Syria, when pro-democracy groups began to challenge the regime in March 2011, security forces were immediately called in to arrest, torture and even kill demonstrators in an effort block the revolutionary wave that had washed over other countries. The violent response only emboldened further protests, and so began what is undoubtedly the most violent chapter in the history of the Arab Spring.
As hundreds of thousands more joined the anti-government movement, once peaceful protesters took up arms, and the nation descended into civil war. More than a quarter million Syrians have died in the conflict, which is still unresolved, and millions more have been displaced, leading to a refugee crisis that has gripped the Middle East and Europe. The country is divided among regions controlled by the regime, rebel groups, Islamists and Kurdish forces.
Western nations have gradually been tugged further into the Syrian crisis with each passing year. Initially, western countries issued sanctions against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. By the summer of 2011, President Barack Obama called for Assad to step down.
In 2012, the same year reports surfaced of war crimes and the use of chemical weapons to carry out attacks against rebels by the Assad regime, the West was arming rebel groups, who were splintered into different factions.
In 2013, as Syrian military forces and rebels were caught in a stalemate, the United States demanded that Assad give up his chemical weapons, with Obama considering a military strike against Syria. The rise of the Islamic State (ISIS), which carried out terrorist attacks in western nations over the past year -- notably the mass murder of 130 people in Paris -- has led to airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition.
Despite the chaos of the last five years, Assad, who now has the backing of Russia, in addition to support from Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah, doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
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