Syria and the “Spring” that never came

Posted on Posted in Analyses, Intelligence and Security, Middle East

By Konstantinos Efthymiou, Associate Contributor KEDISA

Millions of words have been typed and hundreds of analyses were transmitted while attempting to evaluate the Arab Spring’s aftermath. Some consider it to be the outcome of years of repression and need for bringing the Arab world to modernization and reform. Others simply highlight social protests and civil unrest as deliberate or even orchestrated events leading to the de-stabilization of the region. The truth is that the need for reform and the almost unchallenged authoritarian way of ruling people was a catholic norm in almost all of MENA countries. Thus yet, even if a graffiti made by a young Syrian boy against Assad’s regime seems to be ambiguous reason for civil revolution, recent Syrian history came to prove the opposite.

While authoritarian leaders like Hosni Mubarak and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali were being swept from power, Syrians were still supporting Assad’s governance although his electorate power came mostly from non-Sunni Arab minorities like Christians, Alawi sect and Druze. Syrians demanded reform and a more fair governance especially for Syria’s working class and peasantry, largely from Syria’s Sunni Arabs who make up 60 percent of the population. However that reform was far from realistic and pragmatic.

Thus, on March 15 2011, after Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, waves of Syrians marched on the streets of Deraa, Jisr al-Shughour, Homs, Idleb, Douma and Hama fully inspired by many social media’s supportive news coming mainly from Tunisia and Egypt. The aggressive and absolute response to protests turned a new page in recent Syrian history. However, despite the killings and the brutality against the protests, Assad still retained the support of those minorities that were skeptical of majoritarian Sunni Arab rule, and had been his electorate base as well as some members of the Sunni middle classes, particularly in commercially-successful Aleppo province.

Since then, life in Syria is broadly monitored and the following numbers elevate cruelty to another level while revealing the chaos: 250,000 people killed; more than 11 million people have been forced from their homes leading to the largest refugee crisis of the 21st century; continuous bombardment of civilian areas; tortures and unthinkable atrocities from Syrian security apparatus and other government forces; 65,000 people missing after being arrested by government forces and the rise of extremism and terrorism to have become ordinary news feed are just some few elements of the spring which still Syrians hope to see.

Five years later and nothing has changed. The Arab Spring’s legacy is visible in extreme poverty; continuous bloodshed; thousands of children’s’ corps laying on pavements and streets; fear; financial Armageddon and a security and governance vacuum which seems to be impossible to be filled soon. While Turkey is getting into the game in order to slow-down Kurdish up-rise; while Russians are signing financial and military agreements with Iran and mostly while US diplomacy seems to be stuck in the middle – backing Syrian Kurds and Turkish missions in North Syrian borders simultaneously – Syrian political instability will drive the new civil war. The Arab Spring’s initial incentives for hope and reform have already been forgotten whilst the redesign of Middle East offers potentials for markets in the near future. I believe that Syrian civil war will eventually finish in a few years leaving behind an unprecedented catastrophe. What will also remain though is a brand new soil with a reformed military and a possible new Kurdish region which will enable global markets to deploy and invest in the region. Because it does not matter if “spring” will never come. Economic growth “summer” is what follows next.