Timeline: Syrian crisis five years on
Five years have passed since the uprising began, first with a small protest in downtown Damascus on March 14, 2011
After a nearly quarter of a million deaths, and the flight of millions of refugees - Syria has arrived at a critical juncture: A diplomatic framework is in place to end the carnage, a two-week-old partial cease-fire is holding, and peace talks resumed on the eve of the five-year anniversary mark.
Five years have passed since the uprising began, first with a small protest in downtown Damascus on March 14, 2011, followed a few days later by larger protests in the southern city of Deraa in response to the arrest and torture of high school students who scrawled anti-government graffiti on a school wall.
Coming after a string of popular uprisings that toppled dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, the protests triggered panic in the echelons of the Syrian power structure.
Security forces responded with brute force. Within a few months, the confrontations morphed into an armed insurgency and the conflict slid into one of the most savage civil wars in modern history.
As the US, Iran, Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and ultimately Russia poured in weapons and cash to back up opposing sides of the war, the fighting became more brutal. Massacres were committed on a massive scale, and entire blocks in major cities were reduced to rubble.
Through it all, Assad has been unflinching, maintaining that he is fighting terrorism. The rise of the ISIS group and al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, has eclipsed the original core of nationalist activists seeking an end to dictatorship.