This Background Note documents the evolution of the international responses to the uprising in Syria from March 2011 to June 2012.
This includes the reactions of international bodies such as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), as well as key individual countries.
On 12 June 2012 the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, described the situation in Syria as a ‘civil war’. This is the first instance of such strong language being used by a senior United Nations figure.
In mid-March 2011 ‘Arab Spring’ protests began in the southern Syrian city of Dera’a, calling for the release of political prisoners and for political reform. Despite government repression and the nominal enactment of reforms—such as the lifting of the 48-year-old ‘state of emergency’ in April 2011—protests spread to other Syrian cities. From about June 2011, the emergence of armed insurgent groups signalled a new phase in the uprising.
In 2012, while protests have continued, the situation in Syria has more closely come to resemble a civil war, with opposition groups seizing villages (and parts of cities such as Homs) and fighting more sophisticated battles against government forces. In June 2012 in particular, rebel forces began to take and hold territory, especially along the Turkish-Syrian border.