Syria and the Arab Spring Essay

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As the Arab Spring enters its second year, major uprisings and revolts have occurred all over the Middle East, pushing for an end to the corrupt autocratic rule and an expansion of civil liberties and political rights. Most recently, images from Syria have emerged, depicting the government’s use of force to suppress the voice of its people. One might ask, “Is this the beginning of a revolution? Is the country on the path to democracy?” To assess this question and examine the future trends in the region, one must look back on the country’s somewhat tumultuous history, the relationship between the citizens and the state, and the political economy.
After a wave of Arab nationalism swept through the region, the authority of the Ottoman Empire
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Started by Michael Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Bitar, the movement gained legitimacy by using sources that Arabians could identify with: history, religion, nationalism, development, freedom, and socialism (Gerner 112). Combined with Syria’s defeat in the war with Israel and the discontent among rural laborers and the urban poor, the movement was able to gain party support within the Syrian army.
However, Baathist began to lose some of their domestic power in 1957 to the Communist Party as the appeal of radical leftist positions grew due to the incompetence of democratic governments the anti-Western sentiment spreading through the Arab world (Congressional Quarterly 442). In order to regain the power they were losing, Baathists in power agreed to form a union with Egypt who was under the power of president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Thus, the United Arab Republic was formed in February 1958.
The disastrous union only lasted three and a half years. During the time period, Syria experienced a drought and an economic recession which the effects were not eased by the union with Egypt. Additionally, the union resembled more of a merge instead of a federation of sovereign states. Therefore, the Syrian government which was smaller than Egypt’s was completely dominated by officials from Cairo who were loyal to Nasser. These officials not only dissolved all political parties in Syria but also implemented radical land reforms that were not

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