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- 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.
Boston, MA- It’s been over 18 months since the ending of the so called Arab Spring yet whether the aftermath of this movement was positive or negative is yet to be determined. The region is still going through convulsions that wont seem to be resolved in the near future, and turmoil seems to be returning with the series of attacks towards American organizations in the countries involved. In an interview with former Middle East correspondent Doug Struck, he stated that he doesn’t think the conflict will be resolved for the next 10 years, and that the roots of the crisis are much more economic than they are political. “The Arab Spring was much more than an effort to overthrow their authoritarian governments” said Struck “It was a reaction to the desperation of the people who did not see such a bright future ahead of them.”
Having lived in Cairo for five years during the first Gulf war in the early 90′s, Struck believes it is foolish to try and predict what will happen with these countries; but he does not see an Iran type regression to fundamentalist Islam in either Egypt or Tunisia. Both countries are very secular within Muslim Country standards with very high regards on women’s rights. He says that although the Muslim Brotherhood won in Egypt, they have a history of being very moderate and are not likely to impose religious laws on the Egyptian population. He also believes the reason why the Muslim Brotherhood won the elections in Egypt is because former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak never trusted the Brotherhood, which made the citizens of this country feel even more compelled to vote for them.
When asked his opinion about all the recent attacks to American embassies across the Middle East he said: “Its crazy to believe that after the fall of the dictatorships there wouldn’t be chaos. We shouldn’t be surprised that there is resentment towards the U.S. because they didn’t out these countries before” He states that the main problem the U.S has faced when dealing with Middle Eastern countries is that they usually only get to deal with the elite, who are very far removed from the actual situation of the rest of the country’s citizens.