It has been a momentous twelve months in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and in relation to developments popularly dubbed the 'Arab Spring' or (perhaps more helpfully) the 'Arab Awakening'. Time, we think, to stop for a moment and take stock.
How will the popular uprisings in the Arab world affect the future of states and regimes in the region? All possible outcomes are shadowed by the fate of the contending ideologies and movements - nationalism and socialism, secularism and Islamism, dynasticism and liberal constitutionalism - that have dominated the Arab political landscape in recent decades, says Sami Zubaida. His overview of their rise and fall both illuminates a complex history and indicates the scale of the challenge facing democratic reformers today.
Foreign intervention in Syria would drive the country into a full- fledged civil war, give the regime the excuse to continue the crackdown on dissent, alienate the undecided, and invite destructive groups to fuel turmoil, argues Middle East commentator Ghassan Michel Rubeiz. In joining the uprising, defecting soldiers should not use their arms against the national army. To win a battle of wills a country could be lost.
Events in Syria, though making headlines across the globe, and impacting the lives of everyone inside the country have left the Church in Lebanon tongue-tied it appears. Aline Sara, news editor of NOW Lebanon reflects on the political, religious, social and cultural issues which have led many Lebanese and Syrian Christians to refrain from criticising the regime for its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
Yemen has been much in the news of late – and the situation there is often portrayed rather negatively. Ekklesia’s Simon Barrow interviewed Progressio’s enterprising on-the-ground representative in Yemen, Abeer Al-Absi, to find out how she sees the situation, and to discover how the strands of hope can be threaded together. The discussion includes the role of women and the HIV-AIDS challenge.
No matter which way the winds blow in the weeks ahead, it is clear that the majority of Syrians desperately seek reform but they also fear sectarianism and foreign intervention, says Harry Hagopian. Much will depend upon how parties both inside and outside the country, including the power-brokers, choose to respond. An approach which feeds hope at the base rather than replicating top-down diplomacy is needed.
How should one respond to decades of subjugation, oppression, marginalisation, imprisonment, brutalisation, torture, rendition, murder and unenlightenment? Harry Hagopian examines the case of Syria, and finds complexity and long-term struggle, as well as immediate rebellion and repression, in the picture.