Syrian mark the 10th anniversary of the start of its uprising-turned-civil war that has killed half a million people.
Syrians are marking 10 years since peaceful protests against President Bashar Assad’s government erupted in March 2011, touching off a popular uprising that quickly turned into a full-blown civil war.
Despite a decade of fighting and a broken country, Assad remains firmly in power, thanks to military support from Iran and Russia.
The decade of war has wreaked unfathomable destruction on Syria. Nearly half a million people have been killed and more than half the pre-war population of 23 million displaced, including more than 5 million who are refugees, mostly in neighbouring countries.
Millions of people have been pushed deeper into poverty, and a majority of households can hardly scrape together enough to secure their next meal.
The Middle Eastern country is economically devastated and remains divided.
Armed groups dominates the northwestern Idlib province, with Turkey-backed rebels controlling stretches along the Turkish border.
US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces hold around a quarter of the country in the northeast while Assad controls the rest.
Through most of the conflict, Assad was able to shield Syrians in government-held territory from unbearable economic pain. Even if barely sometimes, the state kept fuel, medicine and other supplies coming and the currency propped up.
Now he has gained a decisive upper hand in the war with Russia and Iran’s help, his grip on areas under his control is unquestioned, and the rebellion is largely crushed.
But the economy has fallen apart with startling swiftness. It was hit by a double blow of new, far-reaching US sanctions imposed last year and the financial meltdown in Lebanon, Syria’s main link with the outside world.
That proved too much, on top of the strains of war, government corruption, other Western sanctions in place for years and the coronavirus pandemic.
The United Nations says more than 80 percent of Syrians now live in poverty, and 60 percent are at risk of hunger. The currency has crashed, now at 4,000 Syrian pounds to the dollar on the black market, compared to 700 a year ago and 47 at the beginning of the conflict in 2011.