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After the Arab Spring: power shift in the Middle East?: Syria’s bloody Arab Spring

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When the dictatorial regimes of Tunisia and Egypt were toppled by popular unrest few expected Syria to follow. Despite suffering under dictatorship for over 40 years and facing similar economic and social challenges that had prompted rebellion elsewhere, Syrians appeared to support their young president, Bashar al-Assad, who had cultivated an image as a populist anti-western moderniser. When protests did eventually reach Syria in March 2011, in the southern town of Deraa, they called on Assad to reform not resign. Yet any faith in Assad as a reformer soon evaporated. His security forces responded with live fire, killing hundreds in Deraa and elsewhere, while the president offered only piecemeal reforms. The regime fashioned a narrative that protests were led by criminal armed gangs, intent on stirring up sectarian divisions within Syria’s heterogeneous population. Yet in these early stages it was mostly regime-backed Shabiha militia from Assad’s own Alawi sect that were responsible for any violence, while most protestors remained peaceful and inclusive. Tragically, as regime violence continued and protests spread, with over 9,000 deaths in the first year, that narrative became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not only have some taken up arms against Assad, but sectarianism is increasing, with the Alawi community as a whole blamed for Assad’s excesses.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/43464/1/After%20the%20Arab%20Spring_Syria%E2%80%99s%20bloody%20Arab%20Spring%28lsero%29.pdf

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