The Arab worldexperienced a series of revolutions in the last decade demanding theresignation of their top government officials. Syria joined the waveof political revolutions after Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Algeria.The country has been in civil war since 2011 after the protestsagainst the Bashar Al-Assad’s government to seek reforms. Bashartook over the presidency from his father when he died in 2000. Thecivil strife led to the displacement of some of its citizens whosought refuge in neighboring countries and even other countries faraway. Those who remained have no peace due to fear of attack anddeath among others. The current civil war was caused by peacefulprotests in various Syrian cities in 2011. This paper focuses on thegrievances of the Syrians that caused the uprisings, the molar eventsduring the protests, and changes made to the government and society.
Causes of thes in 2011
The protests started to demand the release and justice for theelementary school children in Daraa who were arrested and torturedfor writing anti-government graffiti (Al-Saleh, A. 2015). Thechildren wrote revolutionary slogans on their school walls inspiredby what they saw from the revolutions in Arabic countries such asLibya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen. The government militia in Daraahumiliated the family of the confined children. For example, theirparents were told to forget about their children and give birth toothers. The government engaged security forces that fired atprotestors, killing and maiming several citizens. The involvement ofthe security forces made people more outraged and started to call formore anti-government protests through various platforms such associal media. The protests in Daraa spread to other cities, making itbigger. This shows that the Syrians had various grievances that theyaimed to bring out through the protest. In reality, the arrest andtorture of about fifteen children were not worth to call for thecountrywide protests.
There are severalgrievances that the Syrian protestors sought to bring out through theprotests. The Syrians have experienced political repression andminority rule for decades. Hafez ruled the country for thirty yearsand upon his death, his son Bashar continued his father’s rule. Thecitizens thought that Bashar could bring reforms to various systemsin the country, but nothing changed. Power revolved around the rulingfamily. Since the country’s political system is a one party system,the Syrians lost their hope in a peaceful transfer of power torealize reforms. There has been no democracy in the political systemand therefore, there are limited channels to communicated and fulfilltheir social, political and economic desires (Lesch, D. W. 2013). TheAssad’s government could not allow for the introduction ofdemocracy in their country. Therefore, in order to realize it, theSyrians needed Assad to step down or be removed. No change could havebeen achieved if the power remained in Assad’s family sinceshifting power from the ruling family was almost impossible.
Power has been inthe hands of a few. The Assad family belongs to a Shiite religiousminority, the Alawi community. Most of the public offices in thecountry are occupied by the Alawi. The Sunni Muslims are the majorityin the country, yet they have neither ruled nor enjoyed the benefitsof being in government. Since power has been monopolized by the Alawicommunity, the Sunni felt that they are not represented in thegovernment. Furthermore, the government has failed to address theirdesires. Their underrepresentation in the government is a lack ofdemocracy and equality. For example, the security forces are composedof the individuals from Alawi families. The uprising demonstrated theconflict between the Alawi-dominated military and Sunni protestmovement (Ajami, F. & Herbert 2012). The Syrians (Sunni)were protesting against the minority rule.
Corruption is oneof the major evils that were rooted in various sectors in thecountry. The protests gave the citizens the opportunity to expresstheir desires about the vice. Corruption made the poor poorer andgave more opportunities to the wealthy. When seeking for a job,opening a shop and processing permits among others, one had to bribepublic officials. The poor could not afford the amount of moneydemanded from them in order to be attended by the officials. Howironical is it that the anti-government rebels even bought weaponsfrom the government military. The search for justice was not possiblesince the justice system was also corrupt. One could be released fromprison after bribing the associated authorities. The governmentplayed a significant role in the proliferation of corruption since itfailed to address it. Because of corruption, the implementation ofvarious policies became a dream. Laws were developed, but theirenforcement was hampered by corruption (Al-Zubaidi, L., Cassel, M., &Roderick, N. C. 2013).
Economicinequality is also among the grievances Syrians sought to expressthrough the protests. There is a wide gap between the poor and therich. The government played a significant role in widening the ridge.There are some reforms of socialism that enabled growth of privateinvestment and in turn increased consumerism among the urbandwellers. However, it only favored those who had connections with theruling family. Only the allies of Assad experienced financialwell-being and did not feel the rising cost of living (Al-Zubaidi,L., Cassel, M., & Roderick, N. C. 2013). The cost of living keptrising while jobs became scarce. Unemployment is a factor in thewidening gap between the rich and the poor. The drought that startedin 2008 affected more than one million people. Some farmers desertedtheir farms and flocked in various cities leading to the rapid growthof urban slums. The growing Syrian population also increased theurban slums, and the public sector could not provide enoughemployment opportunities. As a result, social and economic problemsincreased in the slums. These slum dwellers blamed the government forneglecting them while helping the rich get richer.
State violencealso contributed to the spread of the protests from Daraa to othercities across the country. Al-Saleh, A. (2015) reports that whenthere was Islamic uprising in Hama in 1982, Hafez responded bysending the military and air force to bomb the city leaving tens ofthousands dead. The same case was witnessed when there was a protestagainst the arrest and torture to the children who wroteanti-government graffiti in Daraa. The security forces opened fire onthe protestors killing some of them. The uprisings spread to othercities to support their fellow citizens in Daraa in demanding the endof search actions by the government (BBC). The Syrians do not feelsecure in their country due to the fear of the state. The Syriangovernment established several intelligence services that werepresent in every community to report and respond to any suspiciousanti-government movement. This denied the citizens the freedom ofspeech and democracy which many desired.
The wave ofprotest across the Arab world was also significant in the uprising.Civil protests led to the fall of various regimes in countries suchas Tunisia and Egypt. Since chances for a peaceful shift of powerwere becoming impossible, the uprising was the promising way ofachieving reforms in the country (Gelvin,J. L. (2012). Syrians saw that the country could follow the exampleof other countries in the Middle East in attaining change. The mediaplayed a major role in informing the people what was happening inother countries in realizing freedom and democracy. Despite the statemedia being under strict orders, the proliferation of satellite TV,internet and computing devices could not insulate its citizen fromwhat was happening across the borders. The new media enriched theSyrians with insights on how possible achieving their desires was.
Major events ofthe uprising
Lucas, S. (2016)profiles the major events that took place during the .The beginning of the countrywide protests in Syrian can be tracedfrom the Daraa city protests. The city residents were protestingagainst the detention and abuse of the teenage boys accused ofwriting anti-government graffiti (Al-Saleh, A. 2015). However, therallies grew bigger where the citizens started expressing theirgrievances over socioeconomic problems and the brutal rule of theAssad’s regime officials. The demonstrations spread and grew fasterin such a way that security forces were unable to contain theprotestors. The security forces responded with more open fire,arrests, and torture. The residents continued demanding the releaseof the regime’s prisoners.
Some soldiersdefected from the Syrian military and took arms to protect theprotestors. The defection of soldier gave birth to the Free SyrianArmy (FSA) which had the mandate to provide security to theopposition. The president ordered the release of Islamic politicalprisoners in order to restore order. However, the Syrian military wasnot able to contain the areas against the local FSA. Due to thegrowing resistance, Assad resorted to aerial attacks on the areasbelieved to be occupied by opposition. The US imposed sanctions onthe Syrian president and his top officials. Several countries such asthe US, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain closed their embassies inDamascus. Foreign countries demanded the resignation of Assadconsidering him unfit to rule. Assad and his allies and even theopposition warned the West of any military intervention in theircountry. Towards the end of 2011, the Arab League imposed economicsanctions on Syria. However, Assad conditionally accepted the ArabLeague peace plan and demanded revocation of the sanctions.
In autumn 2012,powerful foreign actors began to take sides in the ongoing conflict. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar supported various groups of therebels in order to end the Assad’s regime. However, Iran sided withthe government and provided military training to the National DefenseForces to help the overstretched Syrian military. The oppositionscarried various attacks of the Syrian army, one of which killed theDefense Minister and the brother-in-law of Assad. The Kurds began toclaim territory. By the end of autumn 2012, every part of Syria wasinvolved in a civil war. The Islamic state in Iraq entered Syria torecruit fighters. Despite having political differences, the rebelsfought alongside the Jihadist against the Syrian military, a commonenemy.
Assad rejectedthe June 2011 Geneva Communique release detainees, ceasefire, theestablishment of a transitional governing body, and respect forfreedom of association. He interfered with the operations of the UNmonitors and prevented investigations of various killings. The US,France, Turkey, and the Arab states formed a coalition for attackingthe Syrian army, but the US pulled back and changed its diplomacystrategy. The US then became an ally of Russia in processing thehanding over of the chemical stocks by the regime. The conflictfragmented in early 2014 the ISIS-rebel coalition broke, and IslamicState started attacking the rebels and the Kurds. The shift in the USposition did not interfere with the opposition operations. In 2015,Russia among other countries engaged in strategic attacks to saveAssad and his military. In November 2015, the West, Russia, and Arabstates agreed that Assad could remain in power and consideredtransition without a necessary removal of Assad and his inner circle(Lesch, D. W. 2013).
Changes made tothe government and society
Assad sacked thegovernor of Deraa, Faisal Kalthoum, on March 23, 2016, for failing tocontain the demonstrations in the city. Assad issued a decreegranting the Kurds Syrian citizenship and orders the release ofdetainees hoping that it will calm the protestors. The presidentdissolved the cabinet and swore in a new cabinet on March 16, 2016.He appoints Adel Safar who was a former minister for agriculture theprime minister in the new cabinet. The president also appointed anew governor, Ghassan Abdul-Al, for the central city of Homs. Assadended the 5-decade emergency rule and abolished the state securitycourts. He also issued a decree that granted the citizens the rightto demonstrate peacefully. Besides adopting a draft law, the Syriangovernment promised more reforms. The Assad’s government orders theclosure of the Damascus Casino accusing it of engaging in unlawfulactivities. The president also removed the ruling that banned femaleteachers from putting on the niqab. Wearing niqab in classrooms wasbanned in July 2010 forcing several women to leave teaching foradministrative jobs. After removing the ruling, the educationminister announces that the teachers would be allowed to return toclassrooms (Aljazeera, 2011). The uprising was characterized byabandoning the collectiveness of the society since most Syrians werefleeing for their lives (Al-Saleh, A. 2015).
The changes madeby President Assad did not address the people’s grievances sincetheir effects were short-term. The people wanted genuine reforms,democracy, and freedom. This would mean resignation of Assad and hisinner circle so that new administration could take over power. Assad,however, was not willing to step down. They wanted an independentjudiciary and accountability for security apparatus instead of thedecrees. The opposition argued that the ruling family and thesecurity forces have interfered with the judiciary in such a way thatthey are not subject to the law. Therefore, the changes made by Assaddid not resolve grievances of the Syrians since security forces andthe corrupt government officials could interfere with theirenforcement.
Reactions to theuprising
Jane, amiddle-class elementary school teacher, aged 45, focused on thesocial effects of the . She argued that the conflicthas significantly affected the social structures of the Syriansociety. Near all social structures in the country are notfunctional. This may lead to fading of important values and norms ofthe country. Jane feared that social structures might not berestored completely even after the civil war is over. Those who fledare safe physically, but they don’t feel at home. There are someSyrians who may prefer being refugees rather than going back to theircountry. She hopes for the restoration of order in the country sothat a new government can be sworn in through democracy. This wouldrequire the intervention of foreign actors.
Mark Taylor, a50-year old economist, argued that the uprising has affected Syriaand other countries economically. According to him, the citizens whowere protesting against the uneven economy are now experiencing worseeconomic situations. They have lost most or all of their propertiesand their loved ones. However, this is not what they desired toachieve. As a country, Syria will need much support, internally andexternally, in order to start rebuilding its economy. The amount ofresources needed to revive the country’s economy and address thepeople grievances keeps increasing with the duration of the war.According to Mark, the involvement of foreign countries is because ofthe international economy and Syria’s stability threatened by thewar.
The Syriangovernment has failed to address the social, political and economicgrievances of the citizens for decades. Instead, any person who wassuspected to be against the government’s way of ruling wasarrested, killed or tortured. The urge for reforms in the country hasbeen growing among the Syrians for a long time. The arrest and abuseof the elementary school children accused of writing anti-governmentgraffiti acted as a trigger for the protests and then the civil war.Among the Syrian grievances they wanted to bring out includepolitical repression, minority rule, corruption, brutal rule, lack ofdemocracy and freedom, and economic inequality. The governmentmilitary response was not appropriate. The changes and reforms madeby Assad were not enough since their implementation was the mainproblem. In order to address the people’s grievances and restoreorder in Syria, a transitional body needs to be established to ensurepeaceful elections and reforming the entire government. However, thiscan only be achieved if the civil war is over. Foreign interventionis appropriate since the opposition and the government cannot easilyarrive at an agreement.
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