While the Syrian conflict began during the Arab Spring of 2011, it was fueled by decades of political oppression. On March 6, 2011, schoolchildren, inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Libya, graffitied anti-Bashir al-Assad messages on several buildings in Daraa. After Syrian police arrested the children, protests erupted in Daraa against the regime and its oppressive reign. Despite gestures towards reform, the Syrian government responded to protests with violence and lethal force. By December 2011, the protests escalated into armed conflict against the Syrian government. As of March 2013, nearly 70,000 Syrians have been killed, with allegations of war crimes committed by both government and opposition forces.