As the uprising in Syria enters its second year, demonstrators on both sides of the conflict came out (some more willingly than others) to note the important date. Today is a holiday in Syria, yet the government ordered everyone to go to work anyway, making it easier for state employees to be bused to a pro-government rally called a "Global March of Syria." The government continues to maintain that the conflict is the work of outside "terrorists."
The uprising "officially" began on March 15, 2011, when demonstrators gathered in four Syrian cities calling for government reforms in the wake of similar demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt. It was the second "Day of Rage" in Syria, but the first to draw a violent response from Bashar Al-Assad and his army, who began cracking down on the protests, shooting at civilians and cutting off all outside media access to the country. Many link the biggest and most important protest to the arrests and beatings of 15 teenagers who were caught spraying anti-government graffiti in the town of Daraa. Since that time, the conflict has devolved into a full-fledge civil war with several thousand killed (some estimates are more than 8,000), many more tortured and wounded, journalists targeted, and refugees fleeing bombed-out cities and heading for neighboring states.
Despite its overwhelming strength in arms, the regime has not managed to crush the rebellion entirely. Nor has it given in to the pressure from outside forces like the United Nations and the Arab League to create a cease fire. The result has become a war of attrition, with the government laying siege to its own cities and massacring its own civilians, while the international community struggles to find a response short of all-out invasion. Many have said that Assad's time is running out, but he shows no sign of relenting and will have no reason to as long as allies Iran and Russia continue to lend their support.
The government has made gains in recent days since driving out most of the rebel forces from the city of Homs and then moving on to attack other towns, like Darra and Idlib. There has also been a fracturing of the Syrian National Council, which has struggled to unite various rebel groups into a single fighting force. Several top figures in the movement reportedly resigned from the group this week. Still, the rebels have also given no sign of surrender or attempts to sue for peace. They say the goal continues to be the removal of Assad and a new government in Syria.