The Arab Spring
Syria is the latest country to join the wave of protests in the Middle East
TOP: People gather to remember civilians killed during the Syrian military’s crackdown on protests.
(Ali Bitar / UPI / Landov)
CENTER: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (UPI / Newscom)
BOTTOM: The government wants to stop protests from spreading to Damascus, the country’s capital.
Since January, several countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa have called for change, beginning with Tunisia and Egypt. The uprisings have become known as the Arab Spring.
Syria is the latest nation in this region to stand up to its government. Antigovernment demonstrations began in March, and a government crackdown immediately followed. More than 8,000 people have gone missing since then, and human-rights groups believe those people have been arrested by the government. Nearly 1,000 people have been imprisoned in Syria since Saturday alone, after mass protests against President Bashar al-Assad again swept through the country last week.
Syria’s military has besieged, or surrounded, the small town of Daraa, located on Syria’s border with Jordan. Protests have been raging there for more than six weeks. But now soldiers and military tanks have cut off the town’s supply of food, water, and electricity. Phone lines have been cut to stop protesters from communicating with each other. The military is trying to prevent protests from spreading to Damascus, the country’s capital.
President Bashar al-Assad inherited power from his father, Hafez al-Assad, in 2000. The Assad family has ruled Syria for 48 years. Many people thought the current President would change the government after his father’s dictatorship ended. But Assad’s leadership has changed very little from his father’s rule. “Anything is better than Bashar Assad,” one of Daraa’s residents told reporters last week.
The United States and its allies have been working to protect civilians in Libya, another Arab country, from attacks by their government. Many Syrians are hoping for similar help from abroad.
“The international community has spoken and expressed its outrage at the violence used by the Syrian government,” says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking for the U.S. government.