More than 100,000 dead. More than one million children displaced. The three-year-old Syrian civil war began, it's said, with students spray-painting graffiti on a wall. It grew into one of the worst humanitarian crises of the 21st century. Thousands of refugees stream out of the country into Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and other countries.
Long one of the Middle East's most secretive countries, and long allied with the Soviet Union and now, Russia, Syria's response to its civil unrest was naked military violence that shocked even war-hardened neighbors.
It wasn't always this way. Syria began when it shrugged off French colonial rule and embraced hopes of pan-Arab unity. It was one of the first members of the 22-nation Arab League. However, a burgeoning Cold War-era relationship with the Soviet Union resulted in Syria adopting the worst characteristics of a totalitarian regime. It amassed one of the world's largest chemical weapons arsenals as a deterrent against neighboring Israel. It invested billions of dollars in Soviet and Russian-built military equipment and isolated itself almost completely from the world.
This history, going back to 1920 and forward to today, shows the beginnings of a Syria with ideas, prosperity and hopes for Arab unity, though they were short-lived, as throughout the last three decades, Syria became synonymous with isolation, silence, and repression.
And with a family named Assad.
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