Syria. Four years later. A world of refugees.

From youth protests to all-out civil war. A destroyed country with more than 220,000 deaths. President Assad is firmly in power. An uncertain future.

From a slogan painted on the wall of a high school to a civil war with 220,000 deaths. Three million 800 thousand refugees from Syria to neighbouring countries, nearly 8 million people displaced, about 12 million people (out of a population of 23 million) forced to flee their homes, destruction of infrastructures and the foreign invasion of Sunni jihadists and Shiite militias which fight on opposite sides.

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This is the spiral of events that in four years has led Syria into the black hole of an endless conflict where everybody is against everybody.
The Syrian protests began in the southern city of Daraa on 15 March 2011, after the arrests of at least 15 children for painting anti-government graffiti on the walls of a school. A fact without precedents in the history of 40 years of the oppressive Assad family rule. The regime’s crackdown on demonstrators was violent in Daara and in the other cities of the country where the protests started to take place. Security forces opened fire, killing some protesters and within days, the protests grew into rallies that gathered thousands of people. The Syrian opposition decided to take up arms against Assad’s regime and army deserters formed the Free Syrian Army. Since then, the whirlwind of violence has never stopped.

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Despite the fact that in summer 2011 US President Barack Obama and the European Union, explicitly called for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, he is still in office thanks to the loyalty of the majority of the units of the armed forces and the support of his two major allies, Russia and Iran. However Assad’s regime currently has complete control over just a part of the Syrian territory: the land that stretches from Damascus, through the central region of Homs, up to the Mediterranean coast, where Assad’s strongholds are located.

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The northern part of the splendid city of Aleppo, which was the economic and commercial capital of Syria, has been devastated by the armed clashes between loyalists and rebels, which have been going on for two and a half years now. Further east the Islamic State is imposing its obscurantist version of Sharia in the provinces of Al Hasakah and Raqqa. To the south, near the border with the part of the Golan Heights occupied by Israel, fighting continues between Islamist groups and the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, while Iranian councillors and Lebanese Shiite militias of Hezbollah support loyalist forces.

Hopes d of peace dashed away
Peace talks in the Geneva Peace Conference, organized early in 2014, failed and during the following summer the U.N-Arab League peace mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, gave up, like former Secretary General Kofi Annan had done before him, after trying unsuccessfully to mediate an end to Syria’s civil war.

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New UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, a veteran Italian-Swedish diplomat, is trying to foster dialogue through a small step strategy aimed at achieving, at least at the beginning, just modest goals, such as local and temporary truces, starting from Aleppo. But even this initiative appears to face significant difficulty. In the meantime, following the rise of Isis, Assad, who in the summer of 2012, seemed to be close to defeat, as fighting had almost reached the centre of the capital Damascus, is now aware that he can take advantage of the West’s fear of the Islamic State. Several European governments are considering resuming the dialogue with Damascus, which could become a possible ally in the fight against jihadists.(J.K.)


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