It has been almost two years since the revolution called the Arab Spring began in the rural town of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. The revolution spread like domino across the region in what seemed to be and attempt on behalf of these countries to rid themselves of their authoritarian regimes, which most of the participating countries managed to do. Yet time has passed and the region is still experiencing turmoil due to the 20-month-old Syrian Civil War, and the return of protesters to Egypt’s Tahrir Square because of their discontent with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi’s politics. Given past, recent and present events in the region, reporters and foreign politics alike wonder to what level these uprisings were successful. They fear for a second round of violence in the region, since the conflicts in Syria have spread to Turkey and violence has returned to Egypt. They hope these events don’t, once again trigger a wave of violence in the neighboring countries as it happened in 2010.
In order to explain the geographical reasons why it would be possible that a “Second Arab Spring” would arise, I have created an interactive “heat map” of all the main focal points of the conflict.
Boston, MA- After nearly a month of cross border conflicts between Turkey and Syria, the world is wondering whether this conflict will resolve itself soon or if it will escalate into a full-fledged war. After interviewing three experts on the matter here’s what they had to say:
Middle East Correspondent Douglass Struck feels very optimistic about the situation between the neighboring countries and does not believe this conflict will go any further:
Ala Onur, from Istanbul does not think the conflict will even reach her city:
Political Communications student Anita Salakis, who is very familiar with the situation of this region hopes Turkey will abstain from entering Syria’s conflict:
Boston, MA- The Arab Spring is a regional phenomenon that began in Tunisia on December 18th, 2010. The revolution began with the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, a fruit vendor who set himself on fire to protest against the high levels of unemployment, high costs of food, high levels of corruption, censorship laws and lack of freedom of speech. This led to a series of demonstrations across the country which eventually led to the resignation of Zine Ben-Ali. This seemed like an isolated event yet it would soon be understood that it was anything but. Little did the world know that this phenomenon would spread through all of North Africa and some of the gulf countries as well.
The domino effect of the Arab Spring that was initiated by Tunisia was immediately followed by another North African country: Egypt. Things played out differently in Egypt since Hosni Mubarak’s regime was already alert that a “Tunisian-Style” explosion could occur in his own country. In Egypt,the protests ran for 18 days until finally on March 4th, Mubarak resigned from his position as president of the country.The level of importance of this revolution was not only measured by outcome but also because of the methods utilized in order to achieve the success they did.
The usage of social media in order to organize these protests was probably the most influential factor in the entire revolution. In countries where things like internet censorship, news bias and alteration and government oppression towards freedom of speech were the norm, the common citizen rebelled against this oppression and utilized tools such as facebok and twitter in order to voice their ideals. The revolution was actually documented by the bloggers, twitter users and YouTube stars more so than the mainstream news networks. Hence the nickname “The Twitter Revolution.”
Boston, MA- 11 days after the first attack produced on the Syrian-Turkish border international organizations are estimating a war will explode between the neighboring countries. The attack was produced on October 3rd, in the border town of Akçakale killing five civilians and injuring at least eight others.Syrian rebels have been occupying border towns throughout the entire revolution which is why the Syrian army has targeted the Turkish border. Throughout the entire year Turkey has called President Bashar Al-Assad, once a very strong ally to this country, to resign in order to avoid further bloodshed and destruction to the country. After the first attack multiple mortar bomb attacks have been produced in this border.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called an Emergency meeting of the NATO council, to seek permission to take military actions against Syria. He says his response to Syria will be both military and diplomatic. Syria responded by saying that this regime produced attack was mean for the Syrian town Tal al-Abyad, however it fell on the wrong side of the border. Although Turkey has no interest in going to war with Syria, they will not take this border attack lightly and will go to any extent to protect their citizens. Erdogan warned Syria that Turkey will not shy away from war if provoked.
NATO responded to Turkey’s complaints by accusing Syria of Flagrant violations of international law. This attack was not an isolated event since it was followed by multiple cross border attacks from Syria to Turkey, to which the Turkish military responded by trading artillery fire. Tensions between the two countries have escalated dramatically in the past 10 days. After moths of hosting Syrian refugees in their country and bearing witness to the atrocities being committed in their neighboring country, Turkish leaders believe that a war between the countries may not be very far away.
United Nations- Irani President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened to eliminate Israel from the Middle Eastern map in the 67th annual meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations. His timing could not have been more perfect, since he did so during the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur during which most Israeli Diplomats were not present. This is not the first time Ahmadinejad has made these declarations, he has a history of expressing his wish to eradicate the state of Israel. His reasons for wanting to eliminate Israel off the Middle Eastern map is because he claims they have no historical roots in the region.
Israel did not remain quiet after these threatening words. The General Assembly received a visit from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu where he urged the United States to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program, since he says Iran is only months away from developing an atomic bomb. Iran’s possession of nuclear power would not only be dangerous to Israel but also to the U.S. since Ahmadinejad’s threats were directed at both countries. In order to avoid attacks and casualties from Iran to the west Netanyahu asked the U.N. to draw a red line on Iran’s nuclear plans, which is something the Obama has refused to do in the past.
Due to the recent events it seems that Obama will finally have to call a truce with Netanyahu, and take some decisive action against Iran. Ahmadinejad’s threats to the state of Israel along with the emergence of an Islamist Regime in Egypt make Israeli-American alliances more important than ever for the State of Israel.
Boston, MA- Originally from Damascus, Emerson College Professor Yasser Munif says he feels very skeptical about the fact that people now refer to the rebellions in his home country as a civil war. Munif believes that the Syrian uprising is part of The Arab Spring and is completely related to the events of its neighboring countries: Egypt,Libya and Tunisia. The reason why the Syrian Uprising has lasted longer is because, even though they hold common grounds with the Arab population, there is a Syrian specificity which is the fact that in his country the Military is part of the regime, and cannot rebel against the government like in Tunisia and Egypt. This is why it has been so difficult to overthrow President Bashar Al-Assad and also the reason why The Free Syrian Army was created.
“So far the main common ground Syria holds with its neighboring countries is the right kind of context, yet it lacks a weak ruling class and and organized opposition” says Munif who feels the reason why the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt ans Libya was more successful than in Syria is because the country’s opposition is fragmented: “They don’t have a charismatic leader who is going to save them.” Another factor that has influenced the lack of success is their refusal to accept help from the west. This is also a big difference between Syria and Egypt since Mubarak was a French-Western idealist and Egyptians were looking for an independent Egypt; whereas Assad is Anti-Imperialist and completely against the west “the Syrian population doesn’t like the west but they don’t want Assad either, so that’s why its so tricky.” says Munif.
He hopes the regime topples soon since the longer the uprising lasts, the bloodier it will become and the worse the repercussions. However, he speculates that conflicts will end eventually since the Syrian government lost all its credibility when it rose against its own population:”As bloody as it has been, this is still just a rebellion against an oppressive regime not a Civil War.”
New York City- The 67th annual General Assembly meeting of the U.N. marked a very significant moment in history. It was the first time a democratically elected Egyptian President would address the United Nations. During the meetings, President Mohammed Morsi gave a very unapologetic Islamic view on current world events such as the Syrian civil war, the construction of a Palestinian state and the American film that denigrates Islam’s prophet Mohammed and mocks the Islamic religion.
Morsi referred to the situation in Syria as the “tragedy of the age” and urged all UN member nations to take action in helping opposition forces overthrow Bashar Al-Assad’s 40 dictatorship. He believes that it is time for Assad to step down since the conflict in Syria has been going on for over 18 months with an alarming death toll of 30,000 people making it one of the bloodiest conflict the Middle East has seen in a long time. He expressed that he is grateful that the Egyptian revolution- which made him the first democratically elected Egyptian President- was much more peaceful. Although Morsi feels Assad should resign, He is completely against foreign military intervention in Syria.
He then proceeded to talk about the inclusion of a Palestinian state in the UN with or without Israel’s agreement.The latter issue is one that has been under discussion for several years yet the Palestinians have yet to be awarded UN recognition due to the lack of a peace agreement with Israel. Recognition would be highly beneficial to the Palestinians since it would grant them the rights of an independent country. In no moment did he mention anything about Egyptian-Israeli relationships.
He finalized his UN debut by expressing his outrage at the popular, American-Produced anti-Islam video that has been going around the internet since he believes that freedom of speech does not give you the right to attack any religion or incite hate towards a religious group. He says the violent reactions shouldn’t come as a surprise to the US since they meddled with something they had no right to criticize. However he in no moment tried to justify the attacks to American embassies.