This Is Syria After Nearly 5 Years Of Civil War

Published August 31, 2015
Updated August 26, 2022

Claiming over 300,000 lives and turning half of the population into refugees, these photos of the Syrian Civil War reveal the cost of 5 years of conflict.

In 2011, nationwide protests calling for expanded political freedoms and the subsequent military response to these protests sparked the Syrian Civil War, which has dragged on for four and a half years. The conflict, which initially pitted anti-government forces against those loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, has since escalated into a region-wide battlefield ensnaring combatants from across the globe.

The war has taken a cataclysmic toll on the country. In 2014, the World Bank estimated that four in five Syrians were living in poverty, and unemployment has skyrocketed from 15 percent in 2011 to 58 percent at the end of 2014.

Furthermore, the United Nations estimates that nearly 4 million refugees have fled the country with another 7.5 million people internally displaced. Worst of all, the U.N. reported this year that at least 220,000 people have perished since the war started. Explore the all-encompassing devastation that the war has wrought in the images below (warning: some images are graphic):

Protests In Homs November 2011
A protester faces off with riot police near Homs.The Atlantic

In January 2012, protesters gathered after Friday prayers in Homs. The signs, taken during the initial days of unrest, read: "Your conscience is on trial" and "To the free world; we are waiting for you as we die."The Atlantic

Idlib Protests
The northwestern city of Idlib was a locus for resistance during the initial civil uprising. Taken in February 2012, protesters burn an image of Bashar al-Assad.the Guardian

Throwing Back Tear Gas
A demonstrator in Homs throws a canister of tear gas back at government security forces. In December 2011, the Syrian government released the gas against the population.The Atlantic

Kfar Nebel 2012
In 2012, protesters in Kfar Nebel voice their displeasure at outside powers--specifically Russia and China--who continue to support President Assad.The Atlantic

Syrian Civil War Isis Execution
Executions have become a regular facet of life under ISIS: as of July 2015, 3,027 people have been executed by ISIS.

Isis Execution
The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant--commonly referred to as ISIS or Daesh--has been the most successful among non-state groups at recruiting fighters. Their videos of gruesome executions have been among their most popular tools at attracting new recruits, especially on social media. In this video, a group of supposed spies for the Syrian regime is bound in a cage and slowly lowered into a pool until they drown.

Fighting Isis
Meanwhile, Kurds have used the Syrian and ISIS conflict as a means to seize territory and gain political support. Here, a Kurdish fighter offers her thoughts on fighting ISIS during a campaign in the northern city of Kobani. The full video of the interview is available below the gallery.

Atrocities and human rights violations have been documented against all sides in the conflict. Above, a man shows scars from torture he reportedly received at a government detention center.The Atlantic

Child Soldiers Syrian Civil War
Abboud, 12, and his brother Deeb, 14, both joined the Free Syrian Army following the death of their two

Child Soldiers
As manpower has steadily decreased over the war's duration, parties on all sides have enlisted soldiers as young as

Rocket Launcher
In March 2012, a father teaches his 11-year-old son how to use a toy rocket launcher. This photograph, taken in Idlib, Syria, would win a Pulitzer Prize.BBC News

Fsa Allepo
Members of the Free Syrian Army shoot at a Syrian army position in the old city of Aleppo in August 2012.The Daily Star Newspaper - Lebanon

Rebels in Aleppo play with a bird they recently discovered in an abandoned apartment. A mannequin in the background acts as a decoy for government

Fruit Vendor
Even among carnage, everyday life still manages to carry on. Here, a fruit vendor offers his goods among the destruction in Aleppo.AFP Photo Department on Twitter

Busses In Aleppo
To stabilize life in conflict zones, civilians have stacked buses to act as makeshift shields against government snipers.Mail Online

Bus Shields Aleppo
On their way to school, young boys pass by buses stacked on top of each other to prevent sniper fire.Mail Online

Destroyed Tank
Though tanks are far from ideal in urban combat, the Syrian military has relied heavily on armored vehicles throughout the war. Destroyed tanks are now a regular part of the Syrian landscape.

Urban Warfare
After years of intense urban warfare, groups have adapted to make use of their surroundings. Travel systems including building-to-building entrances and underground tunnels. These systems are vital as they allow combatants to freely move without making themselves vulnerable in open

Converted Armored Combat Vehicle
Lacking many military supplies at the onset of the civil war, rebel groups were forced to make use of what was available. In 2012, a car in Homs has been converted into an armored vehicle.The Atlantic

Syria War Displaced
While approximately four million Syrian refugees now live in neighboring countries, over 7.5 million people are estimated to be internally displaced within Syria. Overall, a little over half of the pre-war Syrian population is now considered displaced.

Za'atri Camp Jordan
An aerial photograph of Zaatari refugee camp, which houses over 80,000 Syrian refugees in northwestern Jordan.Zaatari refugee camp - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Makeshift Villages
Displaced people have erected makeshift tent villages, as evidenced by this village near the Turkish border.The Atlantic

Refugee In Turkey
A Syrian girl uses a bucket to retrieve water for her family in a Turkish refugee camp. The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees estimates that over one million Syrians now reside within

Internally Displaced
Two girls poke their heads out of their school in a displaced persons camp in Atmeh, Syria.The Atlantic

Queue For Food Syrian Refugee Camp
Taken in February 2014, several thousand Syrians wait for food to be distributed by the United Nations in a battered Damascus.All That Is Interesting

Wound Civilians Arrive At Aleppo Hospital
A family of civilians injured during fighting arrives at an Aleppo hospital. Recent reporting from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that over 60,000 civilians have died so far in the conflict.

Field Hospital
A wounded rebel rests in an Aleppo warehouse that has been converted into a field hospital.VICE

Fsa Aleppo 2012
Free Syrian Army fighters in Aleppo relax below their weapons in 2012.The Atlantic

Fsa Demascus
A Free Syrian Army fighter in Mleiha, near Damascus.

Kurdish Woman
In the Kurdish People's Protection Units--commonly known as the YPG--between five and ten thousand women actively serve and have been instrumental in battles against ISIS in northern Syria and Iraq.the Guardian

Snipers Nest In Aleppo
A sniper from an unidentified rebel group looks out of a sniper's nest in Aleppo.The Times

In Damascus, necessity proves to be the mother of invention. CNN

"Once a great city, now a wasteland." Homs during the winter of 2013.Clarissa Ward on Twitter

Homs Before And After
Referred to as the "capital of revolution," Homs has paid a significant toll as a focal point of the war, as evidenced by the photograph above.

In an almost completely leveled village, a single fragment of a building stands adorned with a poster of President Assad.

Homs Syria 2012
Abandoned and partially destroyed buildings now make up a significant portion of Homs' cityscape. The Atlantic

Syrian Police Officer
A police officer rests in badly damaged headquarters in

Darayya Graffiti
In the Damascus suburb of Darayya, graffiti on a destroyed building examines how the civil war has evolved over time.reddit

Yarmouk Demascus
A Free Syrian Army fighter looks over the Yarmouk neighborhood of Damascus.UN News Service Section

Kobane Syria
A fighter looks over the remains of Kobani.The Huffington Post UK

We also recommend that you watch this interview with a female Kurdish soldier on the front lines against ISIS as well as the following VICE News videos on the Syrian Civil War:

Be sure to also see our gallery on the Kurdish women fighting ISIS and Afghanistan in the 1960s before the Taliban. And before you go, like All That Is Interesting on Facebook.

Alexander is a Brooklyn-based cofounder of All That's Interesting with an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in History and Economics and an MSc from the School of Oriental and African Studies in Economics. He specializes in American history, the Cold War, and true crime.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.