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As the successor to his father, Hafez, Bashar al-Assad has continued with his father's brutal rule of Syria.
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In May 2011, the Syrian military responded with violent crackdowns in the town of Homs and the suburbs of Damascus. In June, Bashar promised a national dialogue and new parliamentary elections, but no change came, and the protests continued. That same month, opposition activists established a "National Council" to lead a Syrian revolution.
By the fall of 2011, many countries were calling for President Bashar al-Assad's resignation and the Arab League suspended Syria,
leading the Syrian government to agree to allow Arab observers into the country. In January 2012, the Reuters News Agency reported that more than 5,000 civilians had been killed by the Syrian militia (Shabeeha), and that 1,000 people had been killed by anti-regime forces. That March, the United Nations endorsed a peace plan that was drafted by former UN Secretary Kofi Annan, but this didn't stop the violence. In June 2012, a UN official stated that the uprisings had transitioned into a full-scale civil war. The conflict continues, with daily reports of the killing of scores of civilians by government forces, and counter-claims by the al-Assad regime of the killings beging staged or the result of outside agitators.
The increased brutality against Syrians, including women and children, has destroyed any ideas of Bashar al-Assad as a reformer, and his claims of foreign interference have only reinforced his image as a brutal dictator in the eyes of most Syrians. In the end, Bashar al-Assad seems to be more a product of his environment than a transformational figure who could change that environment. To survive the increased alienation from other Arab states and the West, as well as internal pressures from within his own regime, he must show that he is a strong leader that will crush any signs of opposition, resentment or independence.
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