And the Arab Winter Rumbles On…


Syrian Soldiers Patrol the Streets of Homs. Courtesy of the Guardian/Yin Bogu/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Syria has rejected the Arab League’s demand to end its violent crackdown on protesters and allow greater freedom or face economic sanctions from the League after 3500 people have been killed since the rebellion began in March.

They were suspended from the League on Wednesday.

Along with the demand to end the violence, the League also ordered Syria to allow foreign journalists to work, release all recent political prisoners, withdraw all military from the cities and enter talks with opposition groups within two weeks.

It is understood that the Syrian authorities have agreed to allow a small number, much smaller than originally proposed by the League, of observers in to monitor the peace talks but activists say that 11 have died in the unrest since last Friday are worried that the country will slide into civil war.

Libyan’s suspension from the League was a major factor in the UN agreement to send in support for the rebels back in March and with huge public pressure in countries around the Western world Syria is widely tipped to be the next country faced with foreign intervention. However there are fears within the elite that if they give into the League’s demands and in allowed foreign peace keepers they will lost control of large swathes of territory.

Meanwhile in Egypt, more than 200 people have been hurt in clashes in Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the Egyptian revolution earlier this year, as police use rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the long-term sit-in that started on Friday to protest against Egypt’s military rule.

Finally, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son that always claimed the regime would rise again, was captured trying to flee the country yesterday and will be transported to the Hague to stand trial at the International Criminal Court.

It would seem the Arab Spring still isn’t over.

Revolution is often seen a static and irreversible event. The French Revolution was the storming of the Bastille and the execution of Louis XVI. The Russian Revolution was the storming of the Winter Palace and the take over of the Bolsheviks. However it’s often more complicated than that. Three years after Louis XVI was executed, a Constitution banning universal suffrage was introduced, Napoleon took over in 1799 and proper democracy as we would recognise it wouldn’t arrive till 1870. As for the Bolsheviks; they never really got the hang of that whole ‘freedom from oppression’ thing.

Writing in the New Internationalist, Lebanese agronomist Rami Zurayk says

‘Driven by people’s protests, the Arab world is being reborn. We have toppled dictators, and others are on their way out. From Morocco to Yemen, the streets are resounding with the call for freedom and equality.’

However, Egypt is under military rule eight months after Mubarak has been overthrown, Tunisia elected a Islamist group to lead a minority government and there doubts over its survival, Libya has a long and painful journey towards reconstruction ahead of it and the old Syrian elites refuse to give up the ghost.

Revolution doesn’t come in a day and it looks like the Spring has turned to Winter. This does not come from a position of scepticism, I do believe that the Middle East can change and that democracy is compatible with that part of the world. It just doesn’t come in seasons.

The Spring was a good start but it is important not to get too complacent now. It’ll take many cycles before its complete and the world has to prepare for a long winter yet.

Updated with additional information 16:00pm (GMT) on 20/11/11

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Published by

Caroline Mortimer @CJMortimer

Freelance journalist.

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