Syrian Civil War

Syrian Civil War
Part of the Arab Spring, the Arab Winter, and the spillover of the Iraq conflict
Syrian Civil War map.svg
Military situation in April 2019:
     Syrian Arab Republic      Syrian opposition & Turkish occupation      Rojava      Tahrir al-Sham[23]      ISIL
(Full list of combatants, Detailed map)
Date15 March 2011 (2011-03-15) – present (8 years, 6 months and 1 day)
Syria (with spillovers in neighboring countries)
As of 30 August 2019: the Syrian Armed Forces held 62.08% of Syrian territories; SDF 27.53%; rebel groups (incl. HTS) & Turkey 9.25%; ISIL 1.14%[24]
Main belligerents
InfoboxHez.PNG Hezbollah
 Russia (2015–present)


Salvation Government (Tahrir al-Sham)[d][e]

Emblem of the SA-NES.svg Rojava (Syrian Democratic Council) (2012–present)

Commanders and leaders

Units involved
See orderSee orderSee orderSee order

Syrian Armed Forces: 142,000(2019)[66]
General Security Directorate: 8,000[67]
National Defense Force: 80,000[68]
Liwa Fatemiyoun: 10,000 – 20,000(2018)[69]
Liwa Abu al-Fadhal al-Abbas: 10,000+(2013)[70]
Ba'ath Brigades: 7,000
Hezbollah: 6,000–8,000[71]
Liwa Al-Quds: 4,000–8,000
Russia: 4,000 troops[72] & 1,000 contractors[73]
Iran: 3,000–5,000[71][74]

Other allied groups: 20,000+

Free Syrian Army: 20,000–32,000[75] (2013)
Islamic Front: 40,000–70,000[76][77] (2014)
Other groups: 12,500[78] (2015)
Turkish Armed Forces: 4,000–8,000[79][80]

Ahrar al-Sham: 18,000–20,000+[81][82] (March 2017)

Tahrir al-Sham: 20,000-30,000(per U.S., late 2018)[83]
~3,000 (per Russia, mid 2019)[84][85]

SDF: 60,000–75,000 (2017 est.)[86]

  • YPG & YPJ: 20,000–30,000 (2017 est.)[87]
  • Syriac Military Council (MFS): 1,000 (2017 est.)[88]
  • Al-Sanadid Forces: 2,000–4,000 (2017 est.)[88]
  • SDF Military Councils: 10,000+[89][90][91]
Casualties and losses

Syrian Arab Republic:
65,187–100,187 soldiers killed[92][93]
50,484–64,484 militiamen killed[92][93]
4,700 soldiers/militiamen & 2,000 supporters captured[92]
InfoboxHez.PNG Hezbollah:
1,677–2,000 killed[92][94]
Russia Russia:
116 soldiers[95] & 186–280 PMCs killed[96]

Other non-Syrian fighters:
8,109 killed[92] (2,300–3,500+ IRGC-led)[97][98]

Syrian opposition 132,824–173,824 killed[f][92][93]

Turkey Turkey:
169 killed (2016–19 incursions)[99][100][101]
28,532+ killed (per SOHR)[102]
20,711+ killed (per YPG & SAA)[103][104]

Flag of Syrian Democratic Forces.svg SDF:
11,600–12,586+ killed[105][106]

11 killed[107]

112,623[92]–117,377[108] civilian deaths documented by opposition
100 other foreign soldiers killed (Lebanon 60, Turkey 17 (pre-'16), Iraq 16, Jordan 7)

Total killed: 371,222–570,000 (per SOHR)[92]

Estimated ≥7,600,000 internally displaced & ≥5,116,097 refugees (July 2015/2017)[109]

a Since early 2013, the FSA has been decentralized with its name being arbitrarily used by various rebels.
b Turkey provided arms support to rebels since 2011 & since Aug. 2016 fought alongside the TFSA in the Aleppo governorate vs. the SDF, ISIL & Syrian gov.
c Sep.–Nov. 2016: U.S. fought with the TFSA in Aleppo governorate solely against ISIL.[110][111] In 2017–18, the U.S. purposely attacked the Syrian gov. 10 times, while in Sep. 2016 it accidentally hit a Syrian base, killing ≥100 SAA soldiers. Syria maintains this was intentional.[112]
d Predecessors of HTS (al-Nusra Front) & ISIL (ISI) were allied al-Qaeda branches until April 2013. Al-Nusra Front rejected an ISI-proposed merger into ISIL & al-Qaeda cut all affiliation with ISIL in Feb. 2014.
e Ahrar al-Sham's predecessor, Syrian Liberation Front, and Tahrir al-Sham's predecessor, al-Nusra Front, were allied under the Army of Conquest from March 2015 to January 2017.
f Number includes Kurdish & ISIL fighters, whose deaths are also listed in their separate columns.[113][92]

g Iraq's involvement in Syria is limited to airstrikes against ISIL & are coordinated with the Syrian gov.[1]

The Syrian Civil War (Arabic: الحرب الأهلية السورية‎, al-ḥarb al-ʾahlīyah as-sūrīyah) is an ongoing multi-sided civil war in Syria fought between the Ba'athist Syrian Arab Republic led by President Bashar al-Assad, along with domestic and foreign allies, and various domestic and foreign forces opposing both the Syrian government and each other in varying combinations.[114] The war is currently the second deadliest of the 21st century.[115]

The unrest in Syria, part of a wider wave of the 2011 Arab Spring protests, grew out of discontent with the Syrian government and escalated to an armed conflict after protests calling for Assad's removal were violently suppressed.[116][117] The war, which began on 15 March with major unrest in Damascus and Aleppo,[118] is being fought by several factions: the Syrian Armed Forces and its international allies, a loose alliance of mostly Sunni opposition rebel groups (including the Free Syrian Army), Salafi jihadist groups (including al-Nusra Front), the mixed Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), with a number of countries in the region and beyond being either directly involved or providing support to one or another faction (Iran, Russia, Turkey, the United States, as well as others).

Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah support the Syrian Arab Republic and the Syrian Armed Forces militarily, with Russia conducting airstrikes and other military operations since September 2015. The U.S.-led international coalition, established in 2014 with the declared purpose of countering ISIL, has conducted airstrikes primarily against ISIL as well as some against government and pro-government targets. They have also deployed special forces and artillery units to engage ISIL on the ground. Since 2015, the U.S. has supported the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria and its armed wing, the SDF, materially, financially, and logistically. Turkey is directly involved in operations against the Syrian government since August 2016, not only participating in airstrikes against ISIL alongside the U.S.-led coalition, but also actively supporting the Syrian opposition and occupying large swaths of northwestern Syria while engaging in significant ground combat with ISIL, the SDF, and the Syrian government. Between 2011 and 2017, fighting from the Syrian Civil War spilled over into Lebanon as opponents and supporters of the Syrian government traveled to Lebanon to fight and attack each other on Lebanese soil, with ISIL and Al-Nusra also engaging the Lebanese Army. Furthermore, while officially neutral, Israel has conducted airstrikes against Hezbollah and Iranian forces, whose presence in southwestern Syria it views as a threat.[119]

International organizations have accused virtually all sides involved, including the Ba'athist Syrian government, ISIL, opposition rebel groups, Russia,[120] and the U.S.-led coalition[121] of severe human rights violations and massacres.[122] The conflict has caused a major refugee crisis. Over the course of the war, a number of peace initiatives have been launched, including the March 2017 Geneva peace talks on Syria led by the United Nations, but fighting continues.[123]


Assad government

The secular Ba'ath Syrian Regional Branch government came to power through a successful coup d'état in 1963. For several years Syria went through additional coups and changes in leadership,[124] until in March 1971, Hafez al-Assad, an Alawite, declared himself President. The secular Syrian Regional Branch remained the dominant political authority in what had been a one-party state until the first multi-party election to the People's Council of Syria was held in 2012.[125] On 31 January 1973, Hafez al-Assad implemented a new constitution, which led to a national crisis. Unlike previous constitutions, this one did not require that the president of Syria be a Muslim, leading to fierce demonstrations in Hama, Homs and Aleppo organized by the Muslim Brotherhood and the ulama. The government survived a series of armed revolts by Islamists, mainly members of the Muslim Brotherhood, from 1976 until 1982.

Upon Hafez al-Assad's death in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad was elected as President of Syria. Bashar and his wife Asma, a Sunni Muslim born and educated in Britain,[126] initially inspired hopes for democratic reforms; however, according to his critics, Bashar failed to deliver on promised reforms.[127] President Al-Assad maintained in 2017 that no 'moderate opposition' to his rule exists, and that all opposition forces are jihadists intent on destroying his secular leadership; his view was that terrorist groups operating in Syria are 'linked to the agendas of foreign countries'.[128]


The total population in July 2018 was estimated at 19,454,263 people; ethnic groups – approximately Arab 50%, Alawite 15%, Kurd 10%, Levantine 10%, other 15% (includes Druze, Ismaili, Imami, Nusairi, Assyrian, Turkmen, Armenian); religions – Muslim 87% (official; includes Sunni 74% and Alawi, Ismaili, and Shia 13%), Christian 10% (mainly of Eastern Christian churches[129] – may be smaller as a result of Christians fleeing the country), Druze 3%, Jewish (few remaining in Damascus and Aleppo).[130]

Socioeconomic background

Socioeconomic inequality increased significantly after free market policies were initiated by Hafez al-Assad in his later years, and it accelerated after Bashar al-Assad came to power. With an emphasis on the service sector, these policies benefited a minority of the nation's population, mostly people who had connections with the government, and members of the Sunni merchant class of Damascus and Aleppo.[131] In 2010, Syria's nominal GDP per capita was only $2,834, comparable to Sub-Saharan African countries such as Nigeria and far lower than its neighbors such as Lebanon, with an annual growth rate of 3.39%, below most other developing countries.[132]

The country also faced particularly high youth unemployment rates.[133] At the start of the war, discontent against the government was strongest in Syria's poor areas, predominantly among conservative Sunnis.[131] These included cities with high poverty rates, such as Daraa and Homs, and the poorer districts of large cities.


This coincided with the most intense drought ever recorded in Syria, which lasted from 2006 to 2011 and resulted in widespread crop failure, an increase in food prices and a mass migration of farming families to urban centers.[134] This migration strained infrastructure already burdened by the influx of some 1.5 million refugees from the Iraq War.[135] The drought has been linked to anthropogenic global warming.[136][137][138] Adequate water supply continues to be an issue in the ongoing civil war and it is frequently the target of military action.[139]

Human rights

The human rights situation in Syria has long been the subject of harsh critique from global organizations.[140] The rights of free expression, association and assembly were strictly controlled in Syria even before the uprising.[141] The country was under emergency rule from 1963 until 2011 and public gatherings of more than five people were banned.[142] Security forces had sweeping powers of arrest and detention.[143] Despite hopes for democratic change with the 2000 Damascus Spring, Bashar al-Assad was widely regarded as having failed to implement any improvements. A Human Rights Watch report issued just before the beginning of the 2011 uprising stated that he had failed to substantially improve the state of human rights since taking power.[144]

Other Languages
Bân-lâm-gú: Su-lī-a Lōe-chiàn
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Грамадзянская вайна ў Сырыі
한국어: 시리아 내전
Bahasa Indonesia: Perang Saudara Suriah
Bahasa Melayu: Perang Saudara Syria
日本語: シリア内戦
Papiamentu: Guera Civil Syrio
Simple English: Syrian civil war
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Građanski rat u Siriji
татарча/tatarça: Süriä watandaşlar suğışı
Tiếng Việt: Nội chiến Syria