Arab Spring in Syria the Middle East Essay

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Arab Spring in Syria

The Middle East is a region which has been rife with violence and political upheaval since its original inhabitation millennia ago. Peoples who desire power over others have used force and violence in order to subvert the civil rights of others and expand their dominion over more land. Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century advances in technology, including weapons technologies has only made the wars between factions even more deadly, leading to eradications of large numbers of the populations. Many countries in the Middle East have suffered because of leadership more interested in their own power than in the rights of the people. In each of these countries, there have also been groups dedicated to the spreading of democracy and the overthrowing of totalitarian regimes. These series of civil wars have become collectively known as the Arab Spring, since spring is the season traditionally associated with new life. Countries throughout the region have tried to remove their authoritarian leadership and put into place a form of government which will work by and for the people of those nations. Unfortunately, a very real result of these wars has been further bloodshed and widespread violence. In Syria, the people have been in the midst of an Arab Spring since the turn of the twenty-first century and it appears unlikely that the situation will resolve itself peacefully any time soon.

Beginning on the 18th of December 2010, a wave of protests and political demonstrations echoed throughout the Middle East. The people demanded a democratic system of government which would support them rather than oppress the population. Since 2011, there have been mass demonstrations in Syria to protest Bashar al-Asaad, the country's tyrannical ruler who was the latest Syrian leader who was supported by the Ba'ath Party. For some four decades the people of Syria had suffered greatly under the authoritarian rule of their leaders. Among the many crimes attributed to al-Asaad is providing aid and comfort to enemies of Syrian allies. The nation has been proven to be aiding Al Qaeda, a group with an unseemly amount of power (Shinkman 2012). The Syrian government has received money from Al Qaeda and has in return supplied them with provisions and protection, thwarting the international aim of tracking down members of the terrorist group and prosecuting them for their involvement in world violence. Iran has lent its support, both economic and in terms of arms, to the Assad regime (Daftari 2012). This is but one group who has provided such aid to the government, at the expense of the rebels. The Syrian government has also admittedly been involved in mass murders of members of their political opposition within the country, a series of murders which teeters on the brink of a full out genocide.

Syria is unique in that rather than demand the overthrow of Assad immediately, the initial protests of the people called for reform which would allow him to stay in control of the country. Even this was rejected and instead of creating any sweeping changes, Assad went on a campaign of terror. In the other countries involved in the Arab spring, the time difference between the initial protests and the eventual resignation or execution of the oppressive leader was a matter of months, or days in the case of Egypt (Reedy 2013). Syria has been involved in a civil war for more than two years now. Analysts have argued that the reason for this has to do with the mandate of the people. In nations where the civil discrepancy was resolved quickly, the revolutionaries had nearly unanimous support from the people which the government did not believe could be overcome. In Syria, the rebellious faction does not have this same kind of unilateral support. Consequently, the government does not feel the same pressure from the people to allow the rebel troops to take over control of the country. The people largely see the rebels as equal to the government in wickedness and the potential to abuse civil rights, meaning there is less support.

Some argue that the beginning of the Syrian Arab spring began on January 26, 2011. In Damascus, a police officer assaulted a man in a public street, in full view of a large number of citizens. Responding to this, various protests or "days of rage" were planned by protestors, but these were largely unsuccessful and things seemed to be quieting until the beginning of March. On the sixth of March, about a dozen children were arrested in Daraa for writing lines on walls which made statements of protest against the government. Following the arrest of the young people, things exploded into major upheaval when adults protested this abuse of power and demanded the children be released (Sterling 2012). Over the next few weeks, protests occurred in all of the major cities of Syria which resulted in some 3,000 arrests; some of those who were arrested are still in custody and have not yet been given the benefit of a trial or any form of due process. Assad ordered his troops to open fire in Daraa, one of the locations were the protesters were focused (Phillips, page 37). This resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people in the first short period of the civil war although it is unknown exactly how many people lost their lives in March of 2011.

An unfortunate component of any war, civil or otherwise, besides the obvious depressive fact of the cost of so many innocent lives both young and old, is the destruction of antiquities and valuables related to the national heritage. For example, serious damage has been done to important historical cities including Hama, Homes, Aleppo, and Damascus (Edwell 2012). Both sides of the conflict have engaged in large-scale destruction in order to supplant their adversaries and take control of the country's population and its territory. The nearly constant bombings and shelling from airplanes has left many national landmarks in various stages of destruction. Valuables which have not been destroyed outright have gone missing; it is presumed that looters have gone through the remains of museums and taken these treasures for their own financial gain.

Syria has a history of violence and bloodshed, as do many countries in the Middle East. Some argue that the protesters of the oppressor regime are just of bloodthirsty as the ones they are fighting. There have been issues over Syrian interference in Lebanon, over its relationship with the Palestinians, its record of violations of human rights against its own people, and its continual development of weapons of mass destruction despite direct order from the United Nations. In Syria since 2010, more than 70,000 people have been confirmed dead because of the atrocities being committed in the name of national identity (Edwell 2012). Of this number, the majority of the dead people are civilians who are not employed by either the state or the democratic revolutionaries who want to take over control of the government. The Syrian government is still controlled by Assad and his colleagues. The major opposition is a large rebel army called the Free Syrian Army who becomes involved in full-scale war against the government.

Syria is still considered to be in a period of civil war without any clear suggestion of a pending peace. As of 2013, the situation still looks no closer to finding a peaceful resolution. On the contrary, at the Arab League Summit in Doha, Syrian government officials made statements it clear that the government intends to seek United Nations support for military intervention against the rebels (Hallun 2013). At the meeting, it was decided that the various Arab nations in the league could choose individually whether to support the rebels or Assad's government. "In the opinion of Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby, arming the opposition would 'balance' the forces of the adversaries in Syria and eventually accelerate the achievement of a political solution" (Hallun 2013). By arming both the rebels and the government, it is believed that somehow this will bring the two sides somehow closer to a resolution, which does not seem to make sense. Further armament will absolutely mean more bloodshed, but outside forces seem reluctant to find another solution to this nation's internal devastation. While many Middle Eastern countries have supported the Syrian government, the west has been less supportive. Interestingly, most other nations in the west have given support to the rebels, largely because of their supposed dedication to democracy. The United States has given substantial funds to the Syrian rebels. Former Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton "announced that an additional $15 million would go to support civilian opponents of Mr. Assad's government working inside the country to establish an alternative government in areas now liberated from Syrian forces. That brings the amount the United States has given to the opposition to nearly $45 million, mostly in computers and communications equipment, even as it opposes providing arms to rebel fighters" (Barnard 2012). This is but one example…[continue]

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