Timeline: Protests rock Bashar al-Assad's Syria

AMMAN (Reuters) - Here is a timeline of events in Syria since protests started in March.

Syria has been under emergency law since the Baath Party took power in 1963 and banned all opposition.

March 16 - Security forces break up a silent gathering in Marjeh square in Damascus of about 150 protesters who were holding pictures of imprisoned relatives and friends.

-- The next day human rights group Amnesty International condemns the violent crackdown by security forces. Witnesses tell the rights group at least 30 people were arrested.

March 18 - Security forces kill three protesters in Deraa, residents say, in the most violent response to protests against Syria’s ruling elite.

March 20 - Crowds set fire to the headquarters of the ruling Baath Party in Deraa, residents say. “No, no to emergency law. We are a people infatuated with freedom!” marchers chant.

March 21 - In Deraa, hundreds of black-uniformed security forces line the streets but do not confront thousands of mourners marching at the funeral of a protester killed in Deraa. March 22 - Hundreds of people march in Deraa and Nawa, two southern Syrian towns, demanding freedom.

March 23 - Syrian forces kill six people in an attack on protesters in the Omari mosque complex in Deraa, and later open fire on hundreds of youths marching in solidarity.

-- An official statement says later that President Bashar al-Assad has sacked Deraa regional governor Faisal Kalthoum.

March 24 - Assad orders the formation of a committee to raise living standards and study scrapping the emergency law in place in Syria for the last 48 years, his adviser says.

March 25 - At least 200 people march in Damascus and there are reports of at least 23 dead around the country including, for the first time, in Damascus.

-- In Deraa, thousands march in funerals for some of the dead, chanting “freedom.” Witnesses say protesters haul down a statue of Assad’s father, late president Hafez al-Assad, before security forces open fire from buildings.

-- Amnesty International says at least 55 people have been killed in Deraa in the last week.

-- Hundreds of people chant “freedom” in Hama, where in 1982 thousands of people were killed by Syrian security forces in a crackdown on Islamists.

March 26 - Twelve people are killed in protests in the town of Latakia. Assad deploys the army there the next day.

March 28 - Armed forces fire into the air to disperse a pro-democracy protest in Deraa as the crowd chants “we want dignity and freedom” and “no to emergency laws.”

-- Amnesty cites unconfirmed reports as saying 37 more people had been killed since March 25 in protests in Damascus, Latakia, Deraa and elsewhere.

March 29 - Government resigns. Assad appoints Naji al-Otari, head of the government that stepped down, as the new caretaker prime minister.

-- Thousands of Syrians hold pro-government rallies after two weeks of pro-democracy protests.

March 30 - Assad does not lift Syria’s decades-old emergency law in his first public speech since the wave of protests started, defying expectations.

-- Assad says he supports reform but offers no new commitment to change Syria’s rigid, one-party political system.

April 1 - At least 10 people are killed when security forces open fire on protesters in the city of Douma. Demonstrators have set up a vigil outside the mosque. April 3 - Thousands of Syrians call for freedom at the funeral of eight protesters after Assad asks former agriculture minister Adel Safar to form a new government.

April 7 - Assad grants Syrian nationality to Kurds in eastern Syria to deflect pro-democracy protests and cool resentment over nearly 50 years of strict Baathist rule.

April 8 - Protests erupt across Syria and 17 people are killed in Deraa. Protesters there also smash a stone statue of Basil al-Assad, the president’s late brother, witnesses say.

-- More than 80 people have now been killed in three weeks of protests.

Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit, editing by Andrew Heavens