Syrian civil war: A rising death count
Thousands of Syrians have died since the uprising began in March 2011. Several efforts by the United Nations to end the violence have failed.
since March 2011
The Assad dynasty
Bashar al-Assad, right, became president of Syria in 2000 after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, a brutal dictator who took power in 1970. A British-trained opthamologist who became the heir apparent after his brother was killed in a car accident, many hoped Bashar al-Assad would take a more liberal approach to governing. But other than some limited, mostly economic reforms, Bashar al-Assad has largely continued his father's iron-fisted regime.
The Assad family belongs to the Alawite minority, a Shiite Muslim sect that has been oppressed for most of its history. The sect cemented its control over the country after the 1970 coup that brought Hafez al-Assad to power. Today, Alawite elites dominate every aspect of the country's government and security apparatus. The rebellion is led by the Sunni majority, which has mostly suffered under Alawite rule.
GRAPHIC: The Washington Post. Updated Dec. 22, 2012.