Arab Spring, unrest and military clashes mark Bashar al-Assad's 20-year rule

As Syria's Bashar al-Assad mark 20 years in office as President of Syria, his country continues to remain in turmoil.

20 years in office as President of Syria

Bashar al-Assad will on Friday (July 17) mark 20 years in office as President of Syria, as the civil which began in 2011 still shows few signs of abating.

Assad assumed leadership of the middle eastern nation at age 34 in July of 2000, following the sudden death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, who had ruled Syria for three decades.

(Photograph:AFP)

Bashar's journey

Bashar had not initially been his father's intended heir, but was forced to assume the responsibility after the death of his older brother Basel in a car accident in 1994.

After winning overwhelming support in a single candidate nation-wide referendum, Assad was sworn into office for his first seven-year term on July 17, 2000.

(Photograph:AFP)

Assad's toughest challenge

In May 2007 Assad was returned for a second seven year term, winning 97.6 percent of the vote in an uncontested presidential referendum

Assad's toughest challenge came in March 2011, when protests triggered by the "Arab Spring" wave of demonstrations across the Middle East spread to rural areas of Syria.

(Photograph:AFP)

Assad's violent government

Assad sought to crush the protests with a fierce security crackdown while at the same time his government approved legislation to lift nearly 50 years of emergency rule and allow parties other than the ruling Baath Party to be established.

As government repression of the protests continued, opposition to Assad's government became increasingly violent, and by July of 2011 Assad was facing an armed insurrection against his rule.

(Photograph:AFP)

Kurdish separatists and pro-democracy groups

As government repression of the protests continued, opposition to Assad's government became increasingly violent, and by July of 2011 Assad was facing an armed insurrection against his rule.

The opposition to Assad's rule was not homogenous, and was made up of Islamist fighters as well as Kurdish separatists and pro-democracy groups, but over the next three years they managed to wrest significant sections of the country away from government control.

(Photograph:AFP)

Assad's power

But from 2015, Assad slowly regained the upper hand with the help of Russian air power and Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces, who helped deliver the defeat of the last rebels near the capital Damascus and the city of Homs, and allowed him to recover the southwest in a matter of weeks.

(Photograph:AFP)

Putin's hand

While the Syrian government now controls the majority of the country, pockets of resistance remain, particularly in the northwest, where Turkey is providing ongoing military support for opposition fighters operating in the region.
 

(Photograph:AFP)

Eight-year civil war

As the conflict enters its eighth year, all efforts have so far failed to make progress toward a political settlement to end the eight-year civil war.

'The United Nations says the conflict has killed approximately 400,000 people, displaced 6.6 million internally and more than 5.6 million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries.

(Photograph:AFP)

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