Since the end of 2010, millions of people across the Middle
East and North Africa region have taken to the streets to call for greater
rights and freedom and the replacement of authoritarian regimes. In Syria,
ruled with an iron hand by Hafez al-Assad from 1971 to 2000 and since then by
his son Bashar al-Assad, small demonstrations were held in February but evolved
into mass protests only in mid-March. Since then, the protests have spread nationwide
on an unprecedented scale and with a momentum that shows no sign of abating despite
severe government repression which has seen many hundreds of people killed.