The Arab Spring,10 Years On…

I believe that one of the most important political/cultural/social movements of the last ten years was the Arab Spring. Therefore, I thought it deserved the initial post here at the relaunch of STL. But as I tried to put something together as a coherent argument on something about it, I realized that I am at a loss. The way in which it did not substantially work for the better leaves me lost even after ten years. I have no sure feelings, beliefs, or convictions on the period, or what is now called the “Arab Winter.” I can say I was so hopeful at the time that it almost lent itself to elation, but now I feel nothing but such dense disappointment; almost hopelessness. I have read books, articles, and saw many documentaries and news pieces on this most important set of events, yet I cannot put my finger on any argument to be made. Maybe it’s because I am a Westerner; a Roman Catholic. Maybe it’s because I was not there on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, or the destroyed streets of Aleppo, or at the Libyan storm drain where Qaddafi was found and killed. Maybe it is because I do not want to believe something negative. I don’t know. But below is a strategy, something I hope that can salvage the movement using the stories of the those times. Maybe something to look to inspire the future.

Simply put, What happened between the end of 2010 and the end of 2020? My thoughts are scattered below: 

Up until December 2010, the North African country of Tunisia was as typical of an Arab state as it gets: a history of empire and colonialism; a hopeful independence; a state-centered, socialist economy; a slide into dictatorship implemented through secret police (Feldman, 2020). This small, coastal nation on the Mediterranean Sea did not seem out of the ordinary in any way compared to its’ neighbors..

Then on December 17, 2010, a young Tunisian named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself afire to protest against police harassment. He died on January 4, 2011, but not before his gesture went viral, sparking protests against the country’s authoritarian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the people’s poor economic situation. Ben Ali’s 23-year-rule ended 10 days later when he fled to Saudi Arabia, becoming the first leader of an Arab nation to be pushed out by popular protests. What happened next across the Arab world, what we now refer to the as the “Arab Spring,” followed something like this:

On January 25, 2011, thousands of Egyptians marched in Cairo, Alexandria, and other cities, demanding the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power for 30 years.  Then on February 11, as more than a million took to the streets, Mubarak resigned and handed control to the military.

The Muslim Brotherhood-linked government of Mohammed Morsi was then elected in 2012, but was overthrown the following year by the military led by the general, now president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

On February 15, in Bahrain, protesters took over the Pearl Square roundabout in the capital which they renamed “Tahrir Square”, and demanded a constitutional monarchy among other reforms. But their camp was stormed by riot police three days later, killing three people and injuring many.

The same day the Bahrain protests started, the Libyan police used force to break up a sit-in against the government in the second city, Benghazi. The country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi pledged to hunt down the “rats” opposing him. The uprising turned into a civil war with French, British and American air forces intervening against Gaddafi. On October 20, 2011, Gaddafi was captured and killed in his home region of Sirte by rebels who found him hiding in a storm drain. The country is now split between rival eastern and western-based administrations.

On March 6, a dozen teenagers tagged the wall of their school in southern Syria with “Your turn, doctor”, referring to President Bashar al-Assad, a trained ophthalmologist. The torture of the youths sparked mainly peaceful protests at first, and calls for democratic reform. But with violent repression by the government, the revolt turned into civil war. Syria’s war also contributed to the rise of the ISIL (ISIS) group and renewed conflict in neighboring Iraq, culminating in a genocidal attack on minorities in the north of the country.

On October 23, 2011, Tunisians streamed to the polls for their first free election, in which members of the Ennahdha movement triumph.

On February 27, 2012, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled for 33 years, handed power to his deputy Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, after a year of protests. The Arab world’s poorest country, Yemen also descended into violence following initial protests.

Russia, who with Iran is al-Assad’s biggest ally, started air attacks against Syrian rebels on September 30, 2015, changing the course of the war. After 10 years of fighting, which left 380,000 dead, al-Assad was able to claim significant victories.

Ten years after Tunisia, It all seems for nothing when put together like that, does it not? All those aspirations for a more liberal-democratic pan-Arab region. A Guardian-YouGov poll published on December 17 even finds that a majority of populations of nine countries across the Arab world feel they are living in significantly more unequal society today than before the Arab Spring. And read here about Bouazizi’s legacy in his own country.

But maybe not all is lost. Let’s look at some social movement theory from Han and Wuk Ahn (2020) that may pick up the Arab Spring up from the canvas someday:

“Studies of social movements have benefited from the examination of narratives. Social movements are defined as networks of informal interactions between a plurality of individual, groups, and/or organizations engaged in political or cultural conflicts, on the basis of shared collective identities. Activists use stories to make sense of the reality surrounding them, motivate collective action by forging collective policymaking. Narratives unite participants in social movements and are utilized as tools. To be effective…social movements should not just mobilize financial and human resources, utilize political opportunities, and present solid transition plans but should also adopt effective frames. Narratives provide actors with tools to turn themselves into heroes with a powerfully mobilizing identity when they lack established organizations or coherent ideologies [38]. Narratives translate feelings of shame and individual responsibility into feelings of empowerment, efficacy, and entitlement.”

So maybe the people of the Mid-East will someday be able to launch a new uprising, one taken from the stories of the those contentious politics that have occurred over the last decade. At this point, I admit I really do not know. I feel as if I’m just clinching at straws to pull something positive out of it all, something positive in this Arab Winter.

What do you think? Leave comments below. 

Here is a good video piece from Al-Jazeera I find particularly moving that centers on the professional and amateur reporters who documented the movement. Maybe those reports and films will serve to inspire those of the next Arab Spring, if it ever occurs. 

The Intercept: Report Finds Much Higher Civilian Death Toll in Raqqa, Syria

There is a myth that our airstrikes are so surgical do to laser targeting, advanced intelligence abilities, and other technologies that civilian deaths (or, “collateral damage”) are rare.

But these reports from Amnesty International and Airwars report differently due to better investigation techniques and a lack of U.S. PR concerns.

Also notice how quoted military leaders say these reports are aiding ISIS. Unreal…

Amnesty International and Airwars offer the most methodical estimate to date of the death toll from the U.S.-led battle to retake the city from ISIS.
— Read on theintercept.com/2019/04/25/coalition-airstrikes-in-raqqa-killed-at-least-1600-civilians-more-than-10-times-u-s-tally-report-finds/

Rising Islamic Groups Raise Concern in Syria

I have made no secret here that I fully support the liberation groups in Syria courageously trying to overthrow both pro-Assad forces and Hezbollah. But according to this article in The Guardian, Islamic-fundamentalist groups are on the rise and they cannot be funded by outside groups when they have links to Al-Quaida and other terrorist-affiliated groups.

Read Here.

We Should Fight In Syria! There! I said it!

syria.630We have to stop Assad from using chemical weapons on his own people!

As I state that I feel like I’m being attacked by the Right who want to crucify Obama with the same arguments sane people used against Bush and his disaster known as the Iraq War. I’m under attack from the Left who want no war at any cost, and I’m even under attack from my co-blogger here at STL, Paul Phillips.

Now I don’t care about any lack of evidence that isn’t 100% collected or any unfinished investigations. I don’t care about power vacuums and the who’s and what’s about Al-Quaida amongst the Syrian rebel forces.

What I am confident about, judging by all the evidence I’ve seen, is that most likely Assad is behind these attacks despite what the pundits on the isolationist sides say.

And I can’t stand seeing anymore vids on T.V. and the internet of babies being carried into hospitals limp and lifeless, or choking on the affects of the chemical attack. I can’t stand seeing anymore vids of long rows of shrouded corpses with no blood traceable through those white shrouds.

Now I know there will be civilian deaths associated with our strikes against Assad. And I know he may increase his use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people in an attempt to curb the American attacks. But something has to be done.

As you can tell by reading into this post this far that I am very emotional about this issue and, in all honesty, I may not be the best person to be in the White House making these decisions. But I can’t stand seeing anymore babies, choking to death, at the hands of the murderer Assad.

Maybe it’s revolutionary Guevar-ist in me, and contrary to many Leftists, there is a place for violence in the maybe not-so-sure realm of politics. Let the Syrians choose who they want to fill that power vacuum. Is that our decision or theirs? And I don’t know what the best strategy would be to attack Assad with would be. That’s the Pentagon’s job, not mine despite the fact that I think I know everything. I’m rarely handing it off to the boys and girls in uniform.

We have do something and I can’t believe so many are against this righteous action.

//

New Twist in Syria: May Have Been Rebels Using Nerve Gas

The United Nations’ team investigating Syria may be on its way to a very different conclusion from the U.S. and Britain on the use of nerve gas in the Syrian Civil War.  Their early evidence is suggesting the rebels are the ones responsible for the use of chemical weapons and not the Assad regime as everyone has assumed to this point.  The results of the investigation will not be released until June 3 but one investigator has “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof” the rebels used sarin gas during the fighting.

Who is doing what in Syria?

Since the results are a month away, this makes the next few weeks even more volatile with the push for intervention growing because of the possible use of chemical weapons and the increasing Israeli bombing of Syrian regime targets.  Are the rebels willing to use this type of tactic in an effort to garner sympathy for their cause and essentially trick the West into action?

It could prove effective since politicians in the U.S. and Russia have called the use of chemical weapons a “red line” in the war and, of course, it would not be the first time the United States has been pushed into action through the abuse of propaganda.  The U.S. was infamously fooled by the Nayirah testimony when gearing up for a reaction to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait as the claim (made by a member of the Kuwaiti royal family) of Iraqi soldiers taking babies out of incubators and leaving them to die was never substantiated.

The difficult question now is: should the West wait for the results of this investigation nearly a month away to decide whether it intervenes in Syria or take action without conclusive evidence on the use of chemical weapons?  A tremendously strenuous decision awaits the leaders of the West over the next few weeks as they try to solve this crisis as they see fit.

U.S. & Assad’s Use of Sarin Gas: What Should We Do?

File photo of Free Syrian Army fighters taking cover as they prepare to join an attack on a Syrian Army base in DamascusJudging by the latest in this NYT report, Pres. Obama and his administration are just as confused about what to do in Syria as I am. And with every report it seems that something else is additionally complicating the situation further. So I am asking our loyal followers for their help.

As a comment to this post, please tell me what you think should or should not be done about the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war by the Assad regime.

Read the latest NYT report here.

Assad Regime Using Chemical Weapons: Should We Arm The Rebels?

syriaA good article in The Guardian going in depth into an Israeli report that the Assad regime in Syria is using chemical weapons against the rebel forces there. Also the story goes into, if the Israeli report is true, should NATO get involved in the conflict even though the jihadis may end up with some of the supplied arms. And adding to the discussion should be that Israel, whose report is reported on, is just interested in self-preservation because they worry that both the chemical and possible NATO supplied conventional weapons would end up being used in the Palestinians’ fight for freedom. Big questions I cannot find a good answer to yet.

Read Here.

Nothing New: Israel Bombs Sovereign Nation of Syria

31airstrike-map-articleInlineOnce again Israel flaunts international law and attacks a military installation in Syria without being attacked themselves. Mossad and the U.S. government (Israel’s unconditional supporter) claimed that it was a convoy of weapons that was heading to Lebanon which was destroyed, but they have yet to offer any evidence, which comes as usual when they make their preemptive strikes. When will they be reigned in?

Read Here.

Can We Praise Something Not Extraordinary?

Heroes of Retreat, Revisited – By Christian Caryl | Foreign Policy.

An op-ed worth the read.  The writer argues we should notice the actions of those who do great things politically without the great story behind them that can be sold through the media.  Some may look at this Burmese president, Thein Sein, and say he doesn’t deserve too much praise because he just satisfied the will of his people by giving them more power.  But we should remember the recent history of the Arab Spring and the reluctance of the powerful to easily give up their hold on a country, such as Gaddafi in Libya or Assad in Syria.  What Sein is doing deserves some recognition and should be commended by those favoring democratic reforms around the world.

Affront to Islamic Community & Not Indivivduals

A great article in the NYT on how the violent protests in the Middle East are a result of a different concept of freedom that Muslims hold dear in the region contrary to those in Western democracies: the freedom of the many over the freedom of the individual.

Read Here.