News / Middle East

Arab Spring Transforming Into Violent Summer

A boy holds a bullet while attending a rally where protesters were calling on the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, near the courthouse in Benghazi, Libya, May 14, 2011
A boy holds a bullet while attending a rally where protesters were calling on the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, near the courthouse in Benghazi, Libya, May 14, 2011
Meredith Buel

Middle East analysts say the revolts across the region, which have become known as the Arab Spring, face an ominous future of violence and bloodshed.

The protests that quickly brought down presidents in Tunisia and Egypt prompted an exhilarating optimism among people in the Arab world where many have long suffered from repression under authoritarian rule.

However, as the demonstrations for freedom and democracy have spread to other countries, dictators seeking to hold onto power have used their militaries and massive detentions in an effort to suppress the unrest.

Dalia Ziada is an Egyptian human rights activist who directs the North Africa bureau of the American Islamic Congress. She says the euphoria that erupted after the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has turned to a deepening concern over where the region is headed.

“But now I think we are heading into some kind of summer, with all the heat and conflict and humidity and all the bad things associated with the word summer in the Arab world,” she said.

Ziada said she is concerned that the promises for democratic reform and a better future may not come soon enough to meet the high hopes generated by calls for political change.

“We have a big conflict between our hopes and our fears," she said. "We have very high expectations about what the revolution should bring us and I think we need, or the administration now in Egypt needs, some sort of management of expectations.”

Robin Wright is a journalist who has been writing about the Middle East since 1973.

Currently a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Wright said a major fear in the coming years is the potential for failed expectations of Arab populations seeking freedom and democracy.

“There is not a single government in the region that will be able to accommodate expectations, either economic or political anytime soon and probably for years to come," said Wright. "So the momentum I think that we have seen over the last few months will be very difficult to sustain. The post-rebellion letdown endangers real serious, further public discontent.”

In Libya, where leader Moammar Gadhafi is unleashing his military power on the civilian population, war continues to rage with an armed opposition fighting the government.

Protests continue across Yemen, as demonstrators keep up their demands for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

In Bahrain, with the help of foreign troops, the government has crushed demonstrations by the mainly Shi’ite Muslim majority, which led the revolt against the Sunni-led monarchy.  

In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad has ordered tanks and troops to open fire on pro-democratic protestors and rounded up thousands of young men in an effort to suppress the revolt.

Amr al-Azm is a Syrian expert who grew up in Beirut and has lived in Damascus. Currently he is a professor of Middle East studies at Shawnee State University. Al-Azm calls the current situation in Syria “corrosive,” saying it will eventually lead to the end of the current government.

“Even if he succeeds in suppressing it for a while, even if he starts this so-called reform process it will fail and in so doing the regime is going to fail too. There is no return,” said al-Azm.

At a recent forum sponsored by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, experts tried to predict what the region will look like five years from now. Martin Kramer is a senior fellow at the institute.

“As the era of dictators winds down, the likely outcome will be a mix of quasi-democratic practices with regionalism and sectarianism and even tribalism," he said. "Violence will be endemic and disaffected groups on the margins will seek to break away from ineffectual central governments.”

Analysts say the Middle East will become a far more complicated place for foreign policy than it was when dictators dominated their governments and in many cases enjoyed alliances with the West.

Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said, “Our binary view, and I think for the average American, it is pretty binary, where if you are a secular liberal in the Middle East we love you, if you are an Islamist we fear you. That is by necessity going to become a much more complicated story as Islamists take power in democratic settings.”

Analysts say it is likely to take years, decades or even a generation before the changes sweeping the Arab world possibly form a region that is more democratic and peaceful than the current transformation convulsing the Middle East.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Asian Stocks Plunge on Weak Factory Activity

Official survey finds China’s manufacturing sector contracted at its fastest pace in three years More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs