Thousands of Syrians gathered in a central square in Damascus on Thursday in order to mark the one-year anniversary of the Syrian uprising against President Bashar Assad's crackdown on anti-government protesters.
While Arab uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen toppled four Arab leaders, Assad has withstood the year-long turmoil, deploying tanks, elite troops and artillery to crush rebellion across the country.
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The brutal crackdown on Syrian citizens took a severe toll. Over 9,000 civilians have been killed during the conflict, mostly civilians and thousands more tortured and injured, while reports of Assad and his wife, Asma Assad shopping have been circulated in the media.
The severity of Assad’s crackdown triggered Western condemnation and sanctions. Arab countries have called on Assad to step aside. For a brief period, rebel fighters seized control of the eastern suburbs of Damascus, in addition to seizing control of some parts of Homs, Syria’s third biggest city and a major industrial centre.
But Assad’s forces managed to sweep back into the suburbs, dismantle the rebels and regain control of Homs after a month-long brutal crackdown which took many Syrian lives.
One of the cities from which the uprising began, Daraa became once again a target for Assad's security forces crackdown. According to a Syrian opposition source, over 20 people were killed in the city on Thursday, including seven Assad government deserters.
Facebook pages identified with the Syrian opposition have already changed their profile page in order to mark the one year anniversary of the Syrian revolt. Over 400 thousand people on Facebook put up a status reading "A new year will mark a new revolution."
One activist wrote on the Facebook page: "Every year during the month of March we will celebrate the revolution. One day the dream will become a reality."
Other opposition Facebook pages noted the activists' frustration over the fact that Assad was still governing following a brutal year. "Thousands are dead and not one hair has fallen off of Assad's head," one activist wrote.