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In March 2011, Arab Spring–inspired protests kicked off in the impoverished Syrian agricultural town of Dara‘a. The mini-uprising, defined by its peaceful character, met a brutal response, one that few observers at the time could have anticipated would blow up into a far wider rebellion against President Bashar Assad and the entrenched, decades-long rule of his family. With Syrian authorities clamping down on journalistic access and freedoms, we saw glimpses of the unrest there for months only through grainy YouTube footage—images as uncertain and hard to corroborate as the events on the ground.
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