Six years on: The price of saying 'no' to Assad
Al Jazeera speaks to three Syrians whose lives have been forever changed since the 2011 uprising began.
Beirut - Since March 2011, around half a million Syrians have been killed, and more than half the population displaced from their homes. The war in Syria has had ramifications far and wide, and has affected millions of lives. Hundreds of thousands of families have been divided across continents, with countless lives lost at sea.
But beyond the numbers, lives have been changed forever.
Three Syrians talk to Al Jazeera about the early days of the revolution, and what has happened since.
| Diala Brisly, an artist, originally from Damascus, currently living as a refugee in France
|I began painting murals for children in refugee camps in Lebanon [Courtesy of Diala Brisly/Al Jazeera]
'I lost hope the day I decided to leave Syria'
When the protests first started in 2011, we were very romantic, it was so dreamy for us - Syrians - to do this. But I never went to a protest without feeling scared. The Syrian troops were very, very violent. It was not easy. Sometimes protests would only last five minutes before we had to disperse, but it was important for us to do this, to keep up the pressure.
When you look at things in a rational way, I don't know how you can be hopeful about the future of Syria. But I look at the Palestinian people as an inspiration - they still resist.
We wanted to make trouble for the government all the time. They were arresting people and torturing people all the time, putting some areas under siege, shelling, just because the residents had protested. We didn't want them to think they could get away with it.
We thought if we protested, and after the regime had reacted in such a violent way, that the UN and everyone would say Assad was a criminal. But we were shocked … no one cared. The English language media kept talking about "sectarian strife", but we had no idea what they were talking about.
I began buying medical supplies to be distributed around the country, but it became increasingly dangerous to do so. The security forces were throwing people in jail for doing this, claiming they were assisting "terrorists."
I lost hope the day I decided to leave Syria.
I first went to Istanbul, where I soon became very depressed. I questioned the entire point of political activism, and everything we had done. I also felt so guilty. Other people were stuck in Syria, or they had chosen to stay, to keep resisting.
|'Through painting, we can help children imagine their own world and live it,' says Brisely [Courtesy of Diala Brisly/Al Jazeera]
I felt guilty because I was still alive, because I didn't resist more. I always had friends who were arrested, and I had never been. I felt guilty because I had an easy life. I needed to break out of this mood, so after a while, I went to visit Syrian friends in Lebanon. There I began painting murals for children in refugee camps, and teaching art workshops.
We really can't change their lives or take them out of these camps. But we can help them imagine their own world and live it. When children see colours, on their face, on their clothes, they always tell me, "put more colours, more colours", because they have no colour in their lives.
Now I am in France, where I applied for asylum. I needed stability. I have been granted 10 years of protection here.I am still sending murals to the camps in Lebanon, and I have been working with the White Helmets on an educational booklet for children, about safety and landmines - 95 percent of the work I do is still focused on Syria.
When you look at things in a rational way, I don't know how you can be hopeful about the future of Syria. But I look at the Palestinian people as an inspiration - they still resist, they focus on education. They do not give up.
| Mohammad Shbeeb, originally from Aleppo, is now living as an IDP in Idlib province
|'We had no freedom or any space to do what we wanted, or even to say whatever we wanted to say' [Courtesy of Mohammad Shbeeb/Al Jazeera]
'We were only seeking our freedom, our dignity and our rights'
I will not talk of a war, but of a revolution.
For anyone who lived in Syria before 2011, it was impossible to think that any revolution or uprising would ever happen in our country. The idea of a revolution seemed like a fiction. The regime was so strong and controlled everything in the country through military rule.
But then after the Egyptian revolution started in January 2011, and protests in Tahrir Square ended the rule of Hosni Mubarak, suddenly there was hope in Syria. There were some initial attempts to protest in February 2011 - not even against the regime, but just asking for some reforms - but they were unsuccessful.
It's really hard to describe the feeling of being forced to leave. I really felt like I was losing my soul.