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.
- COUNTRYAAH: 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 government.
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 dangerous places.
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 refugees.
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 country.
- Educationvv: Provides school and education information in Syria, covering middle school, high school and college education.
FACTS – EDUCATION
Proportion of children starting primary school
63.2 percent (2013)
Number of pupils per teacher in primary school
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 operation.
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 September.
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 the year.
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 dead.
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 rebels.
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 the ceasefire.
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 troops.
“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 days.
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.
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 “endless”.
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 the attacks.
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 sources.
“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 spokesman said.
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 conversation.
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 be recognized.
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 talks.
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 next week.
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.