In pictures: A look back at 12 years of Syria’s devastating civil war

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Twelve years ago, protesters across Syria gathered after the arrest and torture of a group of teenage boys in the southern city of Deraa just a couple of days earlier.

A violent crackdown by the government in Damascus followed, which quickly transformed into the Syrian Civil War. Its repercussions continue to be catastrophic. According to the United Nations, around 1.5% of the country’s pre-war population has been killed. 

Here are just some of the people and places affected by the devastating conflict.

A man rests on the streets of Aleppo

Aleppo was one of the worst-hit places, with a four-year battle for the city resulting in large parts of it being completely destroyed. According to the UN, the city also saw the war’s highest death rate, with over 51,000 civilians killed between 2011 and 2021.

A boy in the back of an ambulance

In 2016, five-year-old Omran Daqneesh was filmed in the back of an ambulance after an air strike killed his brother. The image of a stunned little boy, covered with blood, quickly became a symbol for the millions of civilians affected by the Syrian Civil War.  

More than 27,000 children have been killed in the conflict, so far. 

A medieval souk deserted

Aleppo is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world, and much of its architecture dates back centuries.

During the battle for the city, at least 60% of its Old City was severely damaged, according to UNESCO.

That includes its historical market, which has since been partially restored. 

An ancient minaret in ruins

The Umayyad mosque, which dates back to the 11th century, was also partially destroyed in the fighting. 

In 2013, its minaret was reduced to a pile of rubble.

A baby is pulled from the rubble

Syria Civil Defence – known as the White Helmets – has become one of the main symbols of resistance during the civil war. The volunteer group has rescued countless people trapped in harrowing situations. 

It operates in opposition-held areas of the country and has since been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for its work on the ground. 

An opposition fighter in Idlib

Russia is one of the main backers of Bashar al Assad’s government. And it has militarily helped to attack opposition groups and rebel-held areas. 

In this photo from 2018, a fighter is shown taking part in combat training at an unknown location in the Idlib province to prepare for an offensive by Russian and Syrian government forces. 

A sister mourns

The so-called Islamic State emerged early in the fighting in Syria. It committed countless acts of violence and atrocities in the regions it controlled until its self-proclaimed caliphate was destroyed in 2019.

Mohammed Ismael’s brother was one of the group’s victims. In 2015, he was killed in a series of suicide car bombings in Tal Tamr, a Kurdish-majority city in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh province.



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