News / Middle East

    Syria's Islamists Disenchanted with Democracy After Morsi's Fall

    A Free Syrian Army member cleans his weapon on a street in Deir al-Zor, July 7, 2013.
    A Free Syrian Army member cleans his weapon on a street in Deir al-Zor, July 7, 2013.
    Reuters
    Syria's Islamist rebels say the downfall of Egypt's popularly elected Muslim Brotherhood president has proven that Western nations pushing for democracy will never accept them, and reinforced the view of radicals that a violent power grab is their only resort.
        
    Radical Islamist groups, some of them linked to al-Qaida, have lately been in the ascendancy in Syria's two-year conflict as the death toll rises above 100,000.
        
    Assad has celebrated President Mohamed Morsi's fall as a symbolic blow to the Islamist-dominated opposition, though on the battlefield, where his troops are already making gains, it is likely to have little impact given the Brotherhood's limited role in the fighting.
        
    Hardliners in the rebel ranks have long overshadowed the Muslim Brotherhood, a regional movement with a more moderate Islamist brand, and often criticized it for working within the framework of democracy instead of demanding an Islamic state.
        
    "[We] always knew that our rights can only be regained by force and that is why we have chosen the ammunition box instead of the ballot box," said a statement by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the local franchise of al-qaida's international network, published on the day Morsi fell.
        
    "If you want to shake off injustice and create change it can only be done by the sword. We choose to negotiate in the trenches, not in hotels. The conference lights should be turned off," it said, in an apparent reference to the Western and Gulf Arab-backed meetings for the Syrian opposition's National Coalition meetings in Istanbul this week.
        
    There, Syria's own Muslim Brotherhood movement, which has dominated the political representation for the opposition abroad since its inception, also took a hit. For the first time, a non-Brotherhood president was elected, though that was expected even before the collapse of Morsi's government in Cairo.
        
    Psychological blow
        
    Pro-Assad groups were buoyed by the Egyptian army's removal of Morsi after millions protested against him. Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for more than four decades, called it "the fall of so-called political Islam".
        
    Assad's father and predecessor put down an uprising by Syria's Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980s, killing thousands and leveling parts of the city of Hama in its suppression of the group's violent uprising there.
        
    Since then, the Brotherhood has been nearly non-existent inside the country and became an expatriate movement.
        
    A supporter holds a poster of Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi with Arabic that reads, "Sisi traitor," during a rally, in Nasser City, Cairo, July 4, 2013.A supporter holds a poster of Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi with Arabic that reads, "Sisi traitor," during a rally, in Nasser City, Cairo, July 4, 2013.
    x
    A supporter holds a poster of Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi with Arabic that reads, "Sisi traitor," during a rally, in Nasser City, Cairo, July 4, 2013.
    A supporter holds a poster of Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi with Arabic that reads, "Sisi traitor," during a rally, in Nasser City, Cairo, July 4, 2013.
    But even pro-democracy Syrian activists say Morsi's fall has undermined their faith in Western and Gulf-Arab backed movements against autocratic leaders such as Assad and Morsi's predecessor Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years.
        
    "Apparently armies in 'democracies' can topple presidents elected by the majority? This is a bad sign for revolutions," said Tareq, an Aleppo-based activist, speaking by Skype.
        
    The Brotherhood's fall in Egypt will be felt by Syrian activists as more of a psychological blow than a strategic one. Activists say the Syrian branch is already learning from the regional movement's mistakes and had begun negotiating a new relationship with anti-Brotherhood regional powers such as Saudi Arabia.
        
    But others say rebels may take more of a hit than they expect. One activist, who asked not to be named, said it could hurt the flow of weapons and cash coming from Libya as well as Egypt, where the erstwhile Brotherhood president had recently endorsed jihad, or "holy war" against Assad in Syria.
        
    "Egypt was the transit point for some of those supplies and with the Egyptian army now in power, that might stop. And some Islamist groups that were providing us support will probably be more concerned with their own affairs," the activist said.
        
    Joshua Landis, a U.S.-based Syria analyst, said if Morsi's downfall did weaken the Syrian Brotherhood, it would deprive the opposition of its only organized institutional force.
        
    "Whatever our views of the Brotherhood, it was the only group that was organized and had structure. If it is weakened, all you will have is these small, extreme Islamist groups on the ground who can't gain support of Syria's middle class Sunnis," he said.
        
    'No more games'
       
    While Syria's Brotherhood had dominated the fractious National Coalition's negotiations with foreign powers for military and financial aid for the rebels, it never had a strong presence on the ground. A myriad array of mostly Islamist units along with army defectors run day-to-day affairs in rebel areas.
        
    Many secular parties and groups that were loyal to autocratic leaders toppled by in the region's "Arab Spring" have celebrated what they see as a blow to Islamists who took power in post-uprising states such as Egypt and Tunisia. But radical groups fighting in unfinished revolts, as in Syria, say the ultimate outcome will be quite the opposite.
        
    "Whether we supported Syria's Muslim Brotherhood or not, many Islamist rebels accepted that we might have to work within a civil state. Now, it is clear that world powers and their allies in the region are targeting Islam, first and foremost," said a rebel called Abu Nidal, from the Mustafa Brigades in Damascus.
        
    "Now the Islamists reject any more of the international community's political games."
        
    Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad are seen at an industrial area in the al-Kaboun neighborhood in Damascus after taking control of it from the Free Syrian Army, July 6, 2013. (Photo distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA)Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad are seen at an industrial area in the al-Kaboun neighborhood in Damascus after taking control of it from the Free Syrian Army, July 6, 2013. (Photo distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA)
    x
    Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad are seen at an industrial area in the al-Kaboun neighborhood in Damascus after taking control of it from the Free Syrian Army, July 6, 2013. (Photo distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA)
    Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad are seen at an industrial area in the al-Kaboun neighborhood in Damascus after taking control of it from the Free Syrian Army, July 6, 2013. (Photo distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA)
    As Assad's forces gain momentum in the fight and continue to batter opposition areas with air strikes and artillery, many local opposition leaders have already turned their backs on the external opposition anyway.
        
    They are frustrated at the inability of their political leadership abroad to create a unified front that could convince foreign powers to provide the opposition with more military and financial support.
       
    "Muslim Brotherhood or otherwise, all these guys are becoming increasingly irrelevant," the analyst Landis said.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.