The 2011–2012 Syrian uprising is an ongoing internal conflict in Syria. It is a part of the wider Arab Spring which began in December 2010, a wave of social upheaval throughout the Arab World demanding greater political freedom and an end to autocracy. Public demonstrations began on 26 January 2011, and developed into a nationwide uprising. Protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, the overthrow of the government, and an end to nearly five decades of Ba’ath party rule. The Syrian government deployed the Syrian Army to quell the uprising, and several cities were besieged. According to witnesses, soldiers who refused to open fire on civilians were summarily executed by the Syrian Army. The Syrian government denied reports of defections, and blamed "armed gangs" for causing trouble. Beginning in Summer 2011, civilians and army defectors formed fighting units, which began an insurgency campaign against the Syrian regular army. Violent clashes took place across the country, increasing by the end of 2011, and the insurgents unified under the banner of the Free Syrian Army and fought in an increasingly organized fashion. The uprising in Syria has sectarian undertones, as the opposition is dominated by Sunni-Muslims, and the regime is dominated by Alawite Muslims. Bashar al-Assad still receives support from parts of the Syrian population, for example minorities such as Alawites and many Christians, and parts of the Sunni upper and middle classes. The Kurdish minority is split, with some supporting the uprising and others remaining neutral. The Syrian opposition denies that sectarianism plays a significant role in the uprising, and the Syrian government has yet to mention sectarianism. Verification of death-tolls and specific events have been hard to verify due to the Syrian government putting restrictions on foreign journalists. According to the UN and other sources, since the beginning of the uprising, up to 8,000 people, including 1,850–2,900 armed combatants, have been killed in total, many more injured, and tens of thousands of protesters have been imprisoned. Over 400 children have been killed as well. Another 400 children have been reportedly arrested and tortured in Syrian prisons. Additionally, over 600 detainees and political prisoners have died under torture. A global campaigning organization said in July 2011 that over 3,000 people have gone missing since the start of the uprising. Since the beginning of the uprising, the Syrian government has given several concessions. On 21 April, emergency law in Syria was lifted after forty-eight years of enactment, which had granted the government sweeping authority to suspend constitutional rights. Furthermore, on 24 July, a draft law was introduced in parliament to allow for the creation of more political parties under the conditions that they were not based on religious, tribal or ethnic beliefs and did not discriminate against gender or race. However, these concessions were widely considered trivial by protesters demanding more meaningful reform. The Arab League, the European Union, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Turkey and the United States, among others, have condemned the use of violence against the protesters. However, military intervention has been generally ruled out by foreign powers. The Arab League suspended Syria's membership over the government's response to the crisis, but sent an observing mission as part of its proposal for peaceful resolution for the Syrian crisis. Al-Qaeda has voiced support for the uprising, and its Iraqi branch is believed to be operating against the regime. On the other hand, Russia and China have consistently vetoed UN resolutions targeting the Syrian government, fearing they will lead to violent regime-change and civil war. The government of Iran, Assad’s primary regional and political ally, suggested the demonstrations were a foreign plot, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for reforms and for both sides to reach an understanding, and stated that neither side has the right to kill others. The Lebanese militia Hezbollah have voiced support for the Syrian government.