Before the war, Syria had a more elaborate
education system than most low-income countries and
other Arab countries. Reading and writing skills have
been high. In addition to the regular schools, there
were also Islamic schools, both state and private.
However, the civil war since 2011 has devastated parts
of the school system. The worst is in
opposition-controlled areas, where the school system
often ceases to function and many people are on the run.
According to the pre-war regime, which still prevails
in government-controlled areas, the children start in
the six-year primary school at the age of six. Then
follows a three-year, compulsory middle school and a
three-year high school, both of which have theoretical
and practical lines. Almost all children started earlier
in primary school, but only about two-thirds of them
went on to middle school, despite the formal mandatory.
Fewer girls than boys went out of elementary school. The
classes were often large, averaging 50 pupils, and there
was a shortage of qualified teachers. Most schools in
government-controlled areas are state-run, but since
2001 there are also private schools whose operations are
monitored by the state. The same goes for the country's
several hundred Koran schools.
Country facts of Syria, including geography profile, population statistics, and business data.
The state schools do not charge fees, which the
universities do. Syria has about ten state universities
or colleges and about as many private ones. In 2002, a
"virtual university" was established for students to
study remotely. Furthermore, there are technical
vocational schools and agricultural schools. Most major
universities and colleges are in the hands of the
The war has greatly affected the education system. In
2019, Unicef estimated that 2.1 million of Syria's
children could no longer attend school and that another
1.3 million risked being placed without education. More
than every third school building had been demolished,
other schoolhouses had begun to be used as refugees.
Schools, like health care institutions, have been
bombed. Amnesty International and other organizations
accuse the Assad regime of having deliberately attacked
schools, not least in the Idlib province.
In those parts of Syria that have been under rebel
control, opposition groups and local leaders have tried
to keep some education alive, but are often hampered by
resource shortages, bombings or mutual fighting, in
addition to poor and damaged infrastructure. The
curricula have been determined by the opposition group
that controlled the area. Some rebel groups have tried
to introduce their own Islamic embossed school system.
The regime's offensive to reclaim land, especially in
2018, has shrunk the rebel-controlled areas and
increased the population in them as rebel groups with
relatives are pushed together. For the children, it has
in practice meant a life as internal refugees, with the
risk of bombings making the school one of the most
In the Kurdish-controlled areas in the north, an own
school system has been under construction since 2016,
with teaching in Kurdish and other minority languages.
In 2018, about 210,000 students were reported to attend
these schools. Approximately 2,200 of the 2,500 schools
had changed curricula, the others adhered to the Syrian
state curriculum. Many parents chose to allow the
children to remain in state schools, even though it
could involve commuting and large classes, as they
feared that the students would not be able to read
further. With grades from Kurdish schools, students can
apply to the city of Qamishli, where there is a
university since 2016. In Kobane, a university was
founded in 2017.
Palestinian refugee children receive pre-school and
elementary education by the UN agency UNRWA. However,
many Palestinian families have been forced to flee
during the war, and schools have been admitted as
The UN and various aid agencies also conduct school
education for refugees in Syria's neighboring countries
and many refugee children attend school in the host
- Educationvv: Provides school and education information in Syria, covering middle school, high school and college education.
FACTS - EDUCATION
Proportion of children starting primary
63.2 percent (2013)
Number of pupils per teacher in primary
Reading and writing skills
80.8 percent (2004)
Public expenditure on education as a
percentage of GDP
19.2 percent (2009)
Public expenditure on education as a
percentage of the state budget
19.2 percent (2009)
The weapons are silent at the New Year
Russia and Turkey negotiate a nationwide ceasefire that is accepted by the
Syrian government and most of the rebels. However, the ceasefire does not
include IS, the al-Qaeda affiliated group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly the
Nusa Front) or the Kurdish militia YPG. The ceasefire comes into force overnight
until New Year's Eve and is generally respected for the first few days with the
exception of attacks against the excluded groups. During the New Year's Eve, the
UN Security Council behind the ceasefire and Russian-Turkish plans to hold peace
talks in Kazakhstan in January.
Aleppo completely in the hands of the government
After evacuating the last inhabitants of eastern Aleppo, the Syrian army
declares that it now has full control over the city. The message triggers joy
scenes in the western part of Aleppo that have been under government control
throughout the war. Representatives of the rebels admit that the loss of Aleppo
is a severe blow to them.
UN launches investigation into war crimes
The UN General Assembly votes to set up a committee to investigate
allegations of war crimes committed during the war in Syria. The purpose is to
bring those who have committed such crimes to justice. The resolution tabled by
Liechtenstein was supported by the United States and other Western countries,
while Russia, Syria and China voted against.
Evacuation of civilians
When it has become sufficiently calm in eastern Aleppo, the Red Crescent and
other relief organizations begin an evacuation of residents. They are primarily
transported to Idlib province further east. About 50,000 people are trapped in
the small part of the city that the rebels still rule.
Crucially close in Aleppo
13th of December
On December 13, the Rebels will only hold a few blocks in the southeastern
part of the city. Over a hundred thousand people have fled the fighting and the
UN has raised alarm that hundreds of men who have moved from rebel-controlled
territory to the government side may have disappeared. The organization says it
is worried about what happened to the men given that the Syrian government has
made itself known for arbitrary arrests, torture and disappearances. On the
evening of December 13, Russia pronounces and says that the battle is over and a
ceasefire begins. A plan to evacuate residents is being prepared. On Wednesday,
however, the fighting resumes.
IS recaptures Palmyra
The Islamic State temporarily recaptures the city of Palmyra which the
government side has held since April 2016. IS then controls the city until the
beginning of March 2017, when it falls back into government hands.
The United States sends more soldiers
US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announces that the United States is
sending 200 troops to Syria to help Kurdish and Arab rebels recover the city of
Raqqa from the Islamic State. Already, 300 American soldiers are in Syria with
the same mission.
The government side wins land in Aleppo
Syrian government forces continue their advance in the rebel-controlled
eastern part of the city of Aleppo. The government side is now reported to have
taken back three quarters of the areas held by the rebels.
Veto against ceasefire
Russia and China put a resolution in the UN Security Council calling for a
seven-day ceasefire in Aleppo.
Offensive in Idlib
The government's shooting of targets in the province of Idlib is intensified
with many deaths as a result.
Mass escape from eastern Aleppo
SOHR reports that over 50,000 civilians have left the rebel-controlled
eastern part of Aleppo in the past four days.
The government is recapturing parts of northeast Aleppo
The government's forces advance in Aleppo and on November 28, the government
recaptured the northeastern parts of the city. Tens of thousands of civilians
flee. Some move to Kurdish-dominated areas in the north, others to western
Aleppo and still others seek protection in rebel-controlled areas in the south.
The loss of northeast Aleppo is a tough blow for the rebels who have been in
control there since 2012.
More bombs against Aleppo
The bomb attacks against eastern Aleppo are escalating. Schools and hospitals
are affected and the outside world condemns the attacks in strong terms. In just
a few days, over 100 people are killed. The White Helmets organization, which
works to save people from the ruins, says the bombings are unprecedented so far
during the war.
New government offensive in Aleppo
After a month's pause, the government resumes its bombardment of eastern
Aleppo. At the same time, Russia announces that it has begun a major operation
in support of the government, and that attack aircraft have for the first time
taken off from the Russian aircraft carrier stationed in the eastern
Mediterranean. Russian planes must have attacked targets in Idlib and in Homs.
More sanction list names
The EU adds another 17 high-ranking Syrian officials and the governor to its
sanctions list, which now includes over 230 Syrian individuals as well as 69
companies or organizations.
Setback for rebels
Government forces are recapturing the areas the rebels have captured since
launching an offensive against the west in Aleppo at the end of October.
Nuclear weapons charges
The International Chemical Weapons Surveillance Authority (OPCW) accuses both
Syria and IS of using chemical weapons. OPCW also says that the report that
Syria submitted to its nuclear weapons stock in 2013 was incomplete.
Recovery of Raqqa initiated
Syria's Democratic Forces (SDF), which consists of Kurdish YPGs and smaller
Arab and Turkmen groups, announce that they have launched a military operation
to take back the city of Raqqa, the headquarters of Syria for the extremist
Islamist group IS. SDF is supported by the United States that has persuaded
Turkey, as well as the groups allied with Turkey, not to participate in the
Half-day armistice in Aleppo
Russia conducts a ten-hour ceasefire in Aleppo and establishes eight
corridors for evacuation of residents of the encircled rebel-controlled eastern
part of the city. When the ceasefire expires at seven in the evening, not a
single person has used the corridors to leave Aleppo.
The UN will investigate war crimes
The UN Human Rights Council is launching an investigation into possible war
crimes in Syria. A resolution proposed by Britain addresses stinging criticism
of al-Assad's regime and its ally Russia. The Russian delegate describes the
criticism as "pathetic", but UN human rights commissioner Zeid Rada al-Hussein
talks about the bombings of Aleppo as "crimes of historical proportions". The UN
will also investigate the bomb attack against a relief column in Syria in
Nearly 500 killed in Aleppo
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says Syria's and Russia's bombings in Aleppo
have claimed nearly 500 lives and that food supplies in the city are likely to
end within a week. About 2,000 people have been injured and more than a quarter
of the victims are UN children.
Turkey bombs Kurds
Turkish air strikes US-allied militias north of Aleppo, including the Kurdish
YPG guerrilla. According to the Turkish military, between 160 and 200 Kurds are
killed, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights states significantly lower
numbers. Syria's Kurdish political leadership is appealing to the UN, the US and
Russia to pressure Turkey to stop the attacks.
Too short a ceasefire, says the UN
The "humanitarian ceasefire" begins and, according to Russia, is observed for
eleven hours a day for three days. But fighting continues in parts of the city
and so far there is no evidence that residents are leaving. UN mediator Staffan
de Mistura says that eleven hours of armistice per day is too little for the
humanitarian efforts required.
Russian bomb stop
Already two days before the announced ceasefire in Aleppo, Russian and Syrian
flight stops its bombing of the city. Russia, on the other hand, accuses Belgian
flight of killing six civilians in a bombing raid in the Aleppo region, which
the Belgian government immediately denies. The Russian ambassador to Brussels is
called to the Belgian Foreign Ministry to receive a protest. (18/10)
A brief ceasefire is announced for Aleppo
Russian military leadership says Russian and Syrian government forces will
observe eight hours of "humanitarian" ceasefire in Aleppo on October 20. The
intention is to give civilians and rebels the opportunity to get out of eastern
Aleppo and to be able to evacuate injured people. The UN and the EU welcome the
message, but say that much longer a ceasefire would be needed so that
humanitarian aid can be brought into the city. At the same time, the EU's
foreign ministers say that the recent bomb attack on eastern Aleppo, with
deliberate shooting by hospitals and schools, among other things, could be about
war crimes. They say that extended sanctions against the Syrian regime are
waiting, but say nothing about punitive measures against Russia.
New loss for IS
Turkish-backed rebels conquer the city of Dabiq in northern Syria from IS.
The city has great ideological significance for the extreme jihadist group.
According to a Sunni Muslim prophecy, the final battle with the unfaithful is to
stand in Dabiq on the final day. After a series of other setbacks, IS has now
lost 16 percent of the territory controlled by the movement at the beginning of
New US-Russia dialogue
Just ten days after the US interrupted the dialogue with Moscow because of
the Russian bombings of Aleppo, the major powers decide to hold new talks to try
to resolve the situation in Syria. The talks will take place October 15-16 in
Lausanne and London. Saudi Arabia and Iran are also participating. According to
US Secretary of State John Kerry, some new ideas are being discussed, but no
details are announced. While the major powers are negotiating in Europe,
bombings of eastern Aleppo continue.
Russian veto in the Security Council
Russia stops to veto a resolution in the UN Security Council calling for an
end to the bombing in Aleppo. The proposal is heard by 11 of the 15 members.
China, which would otherwise stand on the same side as Russia with regard to
Syria, casts its vote. Later that day, the Security Council voted 9 votes
against a Russian proposal for a ceasefire in Aleppo.
Russia provides air defense
Russia announces that an air defense in the form of S-300 missiles is being
deployed on the Russian base in Tartus, Syria. An American spokesman announces
that the United States is monitoring developments closely but that it is
difficult to understand what the missiles will be used for as none of the rebels
fighting Russia in Syria have access to air. Moscow also states that two
warships will be sent back to the Mediterranean to support the Russian fighter
jet in Syria.
The government side advances in Aleppo
Syria's military announces that Aleppo bombings will be stepped down. The day
before, government forces advanced into rebel-controlled territory. According to
SOHR, 270 people, including 53 children, have been killed since September 22
when the government launched its offensive to recapture eastern Aleppo. The UN
notes that the eastern part is now completely besieged by government forces. In
the days that follow, the government side gains additional ground and bomb
attacks continue as before despite the promise of stepping down.
The US interrupts dialogue with Russia
The United States announces that the country is leaving talks with Russia to
revive the latest ceasefire. The reason is Russia's continued bombing against
the rebel-controlled eastern part of Aleppo. Moscow regrets the decision, saying
it is the US's fault that the ceasefire collapsed. At the same time, the
government and Russia bombings of eastern Aleppo continue. A few hours before
the US announces its departure, the largest hospital in eastern Aleppo is
completely destroyed in an airplane. According to the UN, the district's health
care system is about to be completely eradicated when healthcare facilities are
attacked "one by one".
Many new deaths
After a week of extensive bombing in the eastern part of Aleppo, at least 170
people have died. Air strikes have been directed to the two largest hospitals in
the area. The bombings are condemned, among other things, by the UN and the US
threatening to suspend all talks with Russia about an end to the conflict unless
the Russian planes cease their bombing. Moscow ignores the warning and announces
that the air strikes will continue.
New offensive against Aleppo
With the help of Russian aviation, the regime launches a new comprehensive
attack on the rebel-controlled part of Aleppo since talks in New York within the
international support group ISSG ended without results.
The ceasefire was blown off, auxiliary column attacked
Since the fighting is escalating again and again during the weekend, the army
declares it broken, after only a week. The army accuses rebels of more than 300
ceasefire violations and says they did not live up to "a single" part of the
deal. A few hours after the message, at least 18 of 31 trucks are hit in a
column of supplies in the Aleppo province, and several people are killed. A UN
representative says it could be a war crime.
US attack against army base
Dozens of Syrian soldiers are killed in an airstrike by the US-led coalition
near the city of Dayr al-Zawr in the province of the same name. The US
recognizes that regime forces may have mistakenly met instead of IS positions.
Moscow reports 62 dead Syrian soldiers; According to SOHR, there are at least 90
No auxiliary transport to Aleppo
Despite the ceasefire, 40 trucks with supplies for several days have been
stuck in the buffer zone between Turkey and Syria. The trucks have food for
80,000 people in a month. The ceasefire is fragile becomes apparent when fierce
fighting erupts on the outskirts of Damascus, between government forces and
UN envoy Staffan de Mistura says the ceasefire has led to a significant
reduction in the fighting. At the same time, an airstrike is reported against
the IS-controlled city of al-Mayadin in the province of Dayr al-Zawr in the
east, where 23 civilians, of which 9 children were killed. It is unclear who was
behind the attack. (15/9)
The ceasefire is extended
The ceasefire that initially applied for two days is extended by another 48
hours, following a new decision by the US and Russia jointly. This is happening
even though Moscow has accused rebels of breaking the ceasefire on 60 occasions,
and the United States for not living up to its commitments.
More than 300,000 deaths were noted
The SOHR states that the war now claimed more than 301,000 lives. More than
86,000 of those killed are civilians, of which just over 15,000 are children.
More than 107,000 deaths are attributed to the government side. Among the
rebels, losses are relatively evenly distributed between extremist groups,
including foreigners, and non- jihadists and Kurds - just over 52,000 in both
camps. These figures include more than 3,600 people who have not been identified
and thousands of people who have disappeared without a trace during the war and
who probably also lost their lives.
Quiet after fire ceases
The ceasefire that comes into effect on Monday evening, September 12, is
reported to be largely held for the first day.
Arms rest agreement
The United States and Russia agree on a ceasefire in Syria, which will apply
from Monday evening, September 12. The agreement is approved by the Syrian
government and welcomed by the Syrian opposition alliance represented at the
Geneva peace talks. The ceasefire should not include IS, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham
(formerly the Nusa Front) and the Kurdish militia YPG. During the ceasefire,
humanitarian aid will be placed in the cities that are besieged by the
government. When the ceasefire comes into force, Russia and the United States
will coordinate their military efforts against the radical groups not covered by
Eastern Aleppo besieged again
Government forces manage to conquer some rebel-controlled areas in Aleppo,
and thus the eastern part of the city is once again besieged by government
"Border cleared from IS"
Turkey states that Turkish forces in cooperation with Syrian rebels have
driven IS from all positions along the Turkish border. Thus, according to
Turkey, IS is no longer able to bring in recruits or supplies to Syria from
Turkey. Syrian sources confirm this.
New Turkish Front in Syria
Another at least 20 Turkish tanks, five squadrons, trucks and other armored
vehicles drive into Syria from the Turkish border city of Kilis. This opens a
new Turkish front against IS and Kurdish YPG.
Turkey and YPG clash
The United States calls on both sides for reflection since fighting erupted
between Turkish troops and Kurdish YPG militia outside Jarablus. At least 40
people are killed in Turkish air raids against villages in northern Syria. The
army talks about killing Kurdish "terrorists", while local spokesmen describe
the victims as civilian Kurds. According to the Turkish government, the aim of
the attacks in northern Syria is to prevent the Kurdish YPG from creating a
corridor throughout the country, from the Iraqi border to the Mediterranean. The
battles put the United States in a difficult position as Washington is allied
with NATO Brother Turkey and with the YPG as the United States is considered the
most useful force in the fight against IS. In Washington, a spokesman for the
Pentagon Defense Headquarters comments that it is "unacceptable" for Turkish
forces to join forces with US Kurdish allies in Syria.
New attempts at ceasefire
US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov
meet outside Geneva, Switzerland, to try to establish a ceasefire. After a day's
talks, both parties state that important steps have been taken along the way but
that no agreement has been reached. The talks will continue over the coming
Turkish troops cross the border
After a day's shooting across the border from both sides, a dozen Turkish
tanks roll into Syria. An elite force is also reported to be running into Syria,
as are Syrian rebels supported by Turkey. The invasion forces receive flight
support. IS is reported to be retiring from Jarablus, but President Erdoğan says
the effort is just as much aimed at the Syrian-Kurdish guerrilla YPG as against
IS. YPG is considered by Turkey as an extension of the Kurdish PKK guerrilla in
Turkey is taking a more active role
Turkey says the entire region along the border with Syria must be "cleared"
on IS. Syrian rebels are reported to have gathered on the Turkish side of the
border, pending offensive to IS in the Syrian city of Jarablus, which is
described as the Islamic State's last major transit point at the border.
Turkey's Prime Minister Yıldırım says the country will take on a more active
role in the Syrian conflict in the next six months, suggesting that talks with
President Assad may be necessary, something the Turkish government has
categorically dismissed in the past.
Bombs against Kurds
The government for the first time bombs Kurdish positions in northern Syria.
It happens in the city of Hasaka, which is divided between Kurdish militia and
government-friendly militia groups. The bombs are then dropped screen screens
erupted between the Kurds and the government-friendly groups when the Kurds
demanded that the latter be disbanded. Earlier in the war, the government has
seen between the fingers of the Kurds' expansion in the north, but a government
spokesman says the bombings are intended as a warning to the Kurds not to
challenge national unity. A few days later, the Kurds and the government side
under Russian mediation conclude an agreement on fire.
"The suffering in Aleppo endlessly"
The battle over Aleppo is one of the worst conflicts that have hit a city in
modern times, says Peter Maurer, head of the International Red Cross Committee.
He says when rebels and government troops have intensified their fight for
dominion over the city a few weeks ago and the fighting has claimed the lives of
hundreds of people. The shooting is constant and houses, schools and hospitals
are in the firing line, says Maurer, who calls the suffering in Aleppo
IS bracket is taken
A coalition of Arab and Kurdish forces out IS from the strategically located
city of Manbij in northern Syria. The offensive is backed up by air strikes from
the US-led coalition. Manbij has formed an important link in the supply chain
that IS has established from the Turkish border to the city of Raqa, which
serves as the capital of the caliphate that IS has proclaimed.
The news front breaks with al Qaeda
The leader of the Nusrafront announces that the group has now cut ties with
the terror network al-Qaeda and changes its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham
(Front of the Levant's Conquest ").
The battle for Aleppo is escalating
Syrian rebel groups launch a major offensive on July 11 against the western
part of Aleppo held by government troops. The offensive begins after the
government side managed to cut off the main supply route into the
rebel-controlled eastern part of the city. Just a week later, the government
side takes complete control of the road and the residents of eastern Aleppo are
thus trapped. The rebels say that "the siege of Aleppo has begun". Between
200,000 and 300,000 people live in eastern Aleppo.
Change of head of government
President Assad re-furnishes the government after the April election and
appoints the engineer and Imad Khamis as new prime minister.
IS operated on retreat
Syrian rebels drive IS from two villages on the border with Turkey, thus
opening an important supply route to the rebels in northern Aleppo.
Setback for dialogue
The lack of progress in the talks in Geneva causes the head of the opposition
negotiating committee HNC to leave its position.
Bombing in Latakia
Bombing in Latakia. Over a hundred people lose their lives when a series of
bombs explodes in two cities in the Latakia province in northwestern Syria. In
Latakia, President Assad has his strongest hold and the province has been
relatively spared from acts of violence during the war. IS says they are behind
Mass death in prisons
In a report, SOHR states that at least 60,000 people have died in the
country's prisons over the past five years. Prisoners have been tortured to
death but also died as a result of lack of food and medication or other
maladies. A spokesman for SOHR says the report is based on data from regime
"Russian forces left"
A spokesman for the US Defense Pentagon headquarters says Russia has barely
reduced its military presence in Syria since President Putin announced in March
that most of the Russian forces would be taken home. According to the spokesman,
the situation is almost identical to before. "They (the Russians) still have
aircraft, ground troops and artillery as well as special forces in Syria," the
Calmer in Aleppo
The US and Russia force a two-day ceasefire in Aleppo. The ceasefire is
respected and extended, but the fighting continues elsewhere. The outside world
condemns an attack on a camp for disabled people in northern Syria that requires
at least 70 lives.
Aleppo under attack
Stepped-up air strikes against rebel-controlled parts of the city of Aleppo
demand hundreds of lives in the second half of April.
Marking in Geneva
The part of the opposition that is represented in the attempts at peace talks
in Geneva shows its dissatisfaction with the increasingly serious crimes against
the ceasefire by ending its formal participation in the talks. This means that
the delegation no longer goes to official meetings with UN representatives but
the delegation remains in Geneva for informal discussions.
Parliamentary elections are held in the government-controlled parts of the
country, and the Baath party with allies wins 200 of the 250 seats in
parliament. The opposition in exile calls the election "a father's".
Invitation from Assad declined
In an interview with a Russian news agency, President Assad says he intends
to include independent forces and the opposition in the proposed transitional
government. He does not say anything about his own role, but the opposition once
again states that Assad must resign and cannot participate in the transition
regime. A spokesman for the White House said in a comment to the interview that
suggestions that Assad was left out could not be the starting point for any
IS is driven away from Palmyra
In a symbolically important victory, government troops retake the city of
Palmyra from IS and the outside world applauds. According to sources quoted by
the AFP news agency, Russian forces have played an important role in the
recapture of Palmyra. The AFP states that the Russian withdrawal announced in
mid-March was less extensive than expected and that only 10 to 25 percent of the
Russian forces were actually taken home. Following the success of Palmyra, the
government forces are beginning to target the city of Raqqa, which is IS "the
capital" of Syria.
During the time that IS had dominion over Palmyra, several important ancient
remains were destroyed in the city (see August and
September 2015). Archaeologists are rushing to the city to assess the
damage and Syrian experts say they will be able to rebuild the ruined monuments
within five years. Foreign experts doubt and point out that the security
situation prevents extensive restoration work and that it is difficult to
rebuild ancient temples that have "turned into dust".
The United States and Russia agree on a timetable
US Secretary of State John Kerry visits President Putin and they agree to put
pressure on the parties at the Geneva peace talks and try to persuade them to
speak directly to one another. They also demand that a plan for transitional
governance and a draft new constitution be ready in August.
"Genocide in progress"
The United States says IS slaughter of Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims
in Syria and Iraq can be likened to genocide and promises to try to stop the
violence. The White House also calls on the International Criminal Court (ICC)
to investigate the case and offer assistance in gathering evidence.
Kurdish Federal Region
The Kurds announce that they have established a federal region in the areas
they control in northern Syria. The idea is to tie together the three autonomous
cantons, Afrin, Kobane in the province of Aleppo and Jazire in Hasakeh province,
where elected councils are to be set up. However, representatives of the Kurds
assure that this should not be seen as a step on the road to independence. The
decision is condemned by both the Syrian government and the opposition in exile
as well as by many rebel groups in the country. The US, which supports the Kurds
militarily, has also warned that no self-governing Kurdish region in Syria will
Russian troops are taken home
14th of March
Russia announces that the country will withdraw most of its troops from
Syria. According to President Putin, the objectives of the campaign have been
achieved. With Russian support, the government troops have regained the
initiative and taken back some land. The retreat does not affect the Russian
fleet base in Tartus and a Russian air base. Russia will also maintain an air
defense system in Syria and soldiers to protect their bases. The UN envoy says
he hopes the Russian decision will have a positive impact on the Geneva peace
The dialogue resumes
14th of March
Talks between the government and the opposition under UN supervision resume
in Geneva (see February 2016). The parties are still far from
each other regarding the fate of President Assad in the event of a possible
peace agreement, and the talks are also this time through agents, that is, the
government and the opposition do not sit in the same room and do not speak
directly to each other. Russia opposes that the Kurds are not part of the
opposition negotiating committee HNC, and demands that they be included in the
talks. After a few days, the UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, expresses
appreciation for a proposal from the opposition on how Syria should be ruled in
the future. De Mistura urges the government to also submit such a proposal for
The domestic opposition alliance NCC announces that it will boycott the
parliamentary elections that the government plans to hold on April 13
Death victim despite ceasefire
According to SOHR, 135 people were killed during the first week of the
ceasefire. The figure applies to the areas covered by the armistice; outside
these, the death toll is significantly higher: 552.
Warfare declines significantly during the first day's ceasefire. Minor
attacks are reported to occur. HNC accuses the regime and its allies of 15
ceasefire violations, while Russian Defense Ministry blames most of it on
rebels, including Islamists not affected by the agreement, and Turkey. On the
whole, however, there are no more serious crimes against the ceasefire during
the first few days.
Cessation of fire is accepted
Both the regime and the opposition negotiating committee HNC say they accept
a Russian-American plan for ceasefire from February 27. The extremist movements
IS and the Nusra front are not covered by the plan, and the regime says the
fight against them is continuing. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demands
that the Kurdish guerrilla YPG, which he regards as terrorists, should also be
exempted from the ceasefire. Turkey says it does not intend to cease fire if its
security is threatened. HNC claims that the Russian air strikes are intensified
following the announcement of impending ceasefire.
Elections in April
President al-Assad announces parliamentary elections until April 13.
IS takes on devastating assaults
On one day, 57 people were killed by two car bombs in Homs and 120 injured
when several suicide bombers attack a Shiite shrine south of Damascus. At least
90 of the victims in Damascus are civilians, says SOHR, who describes it as the
single most bloodthirsty attack since the war began in 2011. IS claims to have
done the killing in both cities.
The truce is delayed
On the 19th of February the weapons would have been silenced but the day
passed without stopping the fighting. Parts of the opposition say they join a
ceasefire if Russia stops bombing groups other than IS. The US and Russia
continue to negotiate to try to reach a cease fire. The UN special envoy to
Syria announces that it is no longer realistic to believe that attempts to get
real peace talks going will resume as planned on 25 February.
Emergency assistance to trapped
Sieged cities in the vicinity of the capital Damascus and in northern Syria
are reached by relief broadcasts, including food and medicines. The aid
broadcasts are part of an agreement concluded in Munich earlier this month.
Attack on hospital
At least 50 people are reported to have lost their lives at aviation flights
to hospitals and schools in northern Syria. One of the hospitals was run by the
Doctors Without Borders organization, which claims that the attacks were
deliberately directed at the hospital. Turkey and France call the attacks "war
crimes", and the Turkish government accuses Russia of being behind what is
denied by Moscow.
Agreed on a ceasefire
The international support group for Syria, the ISSG (see November 2015),
decides at a meeting in Munich to try to establish a ceasefire in Syria within a
week. The question marks surrounding the ceasefire are numerous as it should not
include the Russian bombings of the area around Aleppo, nor the fight against IS
and the Nusrafront. As part of the settlement, humanitarian aid should begin to
be sent into besieged areas immediately. One of the major rebel coalitions
welcomes the news while the Syrian government is awaiting comment. The ceasefire
and the introduction of humanitarian aid have been the opposition's demands to
start real negotiations.
"Extermination campaign against prisoners"
The UN Human Rights Council accuses in a report the Syrian government of
crimes against humanity. According to the report, the regime has pursued an
eradication policy against thousands of prisoners. Investigators who interviewed
hundreds of witnesses state that many prisoners have been tortured and some have
been killed while others have died from lack of food, water or medical care.
Also, rebel groups such as the Islamic State and the Nusra Front are accused in
the report of crimes against humanity. According to the report, IS holds a large
number of prisoners imprisoned in camps where torture and extrajudicial
executions are commonplace.
Tens of thousands fly Aleppo
Government forces supported by Russian fighter aircraft are gaining ground
and are about to surround the city of Aleppo in the north, which has long been
divided into a regime- and a rebel-controlled part. The government's offensive
means that the iron grip that the rebels have kept about their part of the city
is relaxed. Tens of thousands of Aleppo borers exit and leave on their way north
towards the border with Turkey. There they are stranded as Turkey does not let
them in. The refugees are being rescued by Turkish aid organizations that are
starting to build a refugee camp inside Syria.
Collection for the needy
At an international conference in London, the participating countries pledge
the equivalent of $ 10 billion in humanitarian aid to Syria. The money will go
towards measures to create jobs and arrange schooling for the millions of
Syrians who are on the run abroad but some are set aside to provide food,
medicines and roofs for the needy in Syria.
Continued call attempts
Proceedings for real peace talks are initiated between the parties who are
seated in different rooms without direct contact with each other. The probe does
not seem to bring the parties closer together, and after a few days the
government starts an offensive around the city of Aleppo in northern Syria,
which stirs up the opposition. The probes are temporarily suspended. UN envoy
Staffan de Mistura admits that there have been hardships during the preparatory
talks but claims that the process has not failed. The plans are scheduled to
resume on 25 February.
Peace talks in headwinds
Disagreement over who will represent the opposition means that the peace
talks scheduled for Monday, January 25, may be postponed for four days. The
parties arrive in Geneva the following weekend, including the opposition
represented by two groups.
Food to starve
The government gives the go-ahead to pass deliveries with supplies to the
besieged but rebel-controlled community of Madaya outside Damascus, the UN
reports. There are reports that people in Madaya have died of starvation.
According to the UN, there are a total of almost 400,000 Syrians in 15 besieged
sites that are besieged by government or rebel forces, and cut off from the
outside world. More aid shipments arrive in Madaya and other besieged cities
during the month. Yet more deaths are reported as a result of malnutrition.