Syria, located on the Mediterranean Sea between Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, is a country that has often experienced unrest. Ever since it gained independence from France in 1946, it has largely remained under authoritarian rule. Now, it's in it's fifth year of civil war and millions are fleeing the country.
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The Baath (Renaissance) Party has ruled Syria since 1963. It is controlled by the Alawite, a minority group that makes up only 12 percent of the total population. From 1970 to 2000, the president of Syria was Hafez al-Assad. Assad's rule was marked by severe consequences for domestic opposition and intervention in Lebanon that may have led to the assassination of the prime minister, Rafik Hariri. In Hama in 1982, it's estimated that tens of thousands were killed during the government's suppression of an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood. Assad's, Bashar al-Assad succeeded him and has continued his authoritarian policies.
The current unrest in Syria was inspired by the Arab Spring, which occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya in 2011. The Syrian government used imprisonment, guns, and tanks to attempt to suppress protests but it escalated to a civil war in 2012.
Read more about Syria and the civil war:
BBC: Syria profile
National Geographic: Syria Facts