Suffering children of Syria have known nothing but war
Five years ago this week, the first mass protests against the regime of Bashar al-Assad erupted in Deraa, a town near Syria's southern border with Jordan. The rallies were sparked after local schoolboys were detained and tortured by Assad's security forces. Their crime? Scrawling "Your turn, doctor" in red paint on their school wall. The reference was to Assad, an ophthalmologist. Two of his fellow dictators in the region, Egypt's Mubarak and Tunisia's Ben Ali, had just stepped down after unprecedented demonstrations swept both countries.
In Libya, Gaddafi also looked vulnerable as a Nato-led intervention began, following a popular uprising.
In the eyes of Assad, these were dangerous days, and his notorious security apparatus responded accordingly. Regime forces began opening fire on demonstrators, and rounding up leaders of the quickening protest movement.