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Syria: How it all began

A single act of brutality by Assad's secret police ignited protests that swept the country.

In his first public statement on the crisis on March 30, Assad blamed the uprising on a “foreign plot” and said those killed in Daraa had died as a sacrifice for national stability. The speech incensed families like Mohammed’s.

“He didn’t ask the MPs to stand for a minute’s silence and he said those who were killed were sacrificial martyrs,” said Mohammed. “But here in Daraa, the army and security deal with us like traitors or agents for Israel. We hoped our army would fight and liberate the occupied Golan, not send tanks and helicopters to fight civilians.”

By April 8, the fourth consecutive Friday of protests, the chants on the streets of Daraa were pure fury. “Hey Maher you coward, take your dogs to the Golan,” shouted the protestors, 25 of whom were killed on that one day.

“They think we want new roads or a new hospital. No! We want to lift the state of emergency, release all political prisoners and allow our relatives who live in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other countries to return to Syria. We want to buy and sell our land without permission from security,” said Ayman, an activist from Daraa.

“My uncle is suspected of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and so was forced to live in Saudi Arabia. Every day my grandmother prayed to God that she could see her son, but she died without ever seeing him again. What we want now is freedom.”