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Arab spring aftermath analysis

By Mike Nunes


Three experts speak about the challenges that Middle Eastern countries still face. (Warren Fields / Staff Photographer)

It has been almost three years since the protest movement in the Middle East known as the Arab Spring altered the region. The protests have led to civil wars, regime changes and, in some cases, democratic reforms.

On Wednesday, Feb. 27 the College welcomed three experts on different countries in the region to give an in-depth analysis on what has changed in countries affected by the Arab Spring.

It’s hard to go a week without hearing about the tragedy continuing to unfold in Syria. Between Aleppo and the massacre at Homs, rebels continue to fight back against government forces.

“The government controls less than half of the country,” said Bassam Haddad, professor and director of Middle East studies at George Mason University.

Despite being pushed further toward the capital of Damascus, it is unclear when revolt will end.

“It is very difficult to know,” Haddad said about the fall of the regime. “It looks like it is not going to go away anytime soon.”

There are currently over 70,000 people who have been killed in the conflict as well as 1.5 million refugees.

Egypt, the land by the Nile, has seen major political change over the last two years. Between electing its first democratic leader, Mohamed Morsi, and writing a new constitution, life is changing for its citizens.

Under the deposed Mubarak regime, social inequalities as well as social media helped to spark an uprising. Hordes of young Egyptians from all walks of life took to the streets. The protests have become so popular that the focal point, Tahrir Square, has become a national landmark.

But all is not yet well for Egyptians. In recent months, new protests have started against the new government. Some citizens feel that their voices are still not being heard.

“The way the system is set up now, there is not civilian control of the military as one would imagine in a democracy,” said Diane Singman, professor of Middle East studies at American University.

In addition, over 16,000 Yemenis took to the streets in the capital Sana’a to protest against the 30 year rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh. With the stepping down of the old regime, a tug of war on the international stage for influence in Yemen has occurred between the Iranians and the Americans.

As of now, the country is in a phase of transition. On March 18, country leaders will hold a national dialogue in order to write a new constitution. Elections are planned to be staged by next year.

Despite the new democratic reforms, many things in the state are uncertain.

“I suspect elections will only be a partial solution,” said Charles Schmitz, professor of geography at Townson University.

There are still many “festering” problems in the future of this Gulf state. Schmitz believes that if Yemen is to succeed and form a new government, communication is needed.

“The best scenario would be continued dialogue,” Schmitz said, concluding the presentation.

“I thought that each presenter gave a full picture of the issues going on in the Middle East today,” said freshman English major Robert Handerhan. “It was very interesting how they would complicate and problematize the picture that is stereotypically held.”


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