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Factors of Arab Spring in Syria: Analytical Essay

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The Arab Revolution also named Arab Spring is a huge protest movement that occurs in most Arab country at the end of year 2010 and early 2011. Arab Spring is seen as the main point to a new change to more democratic at Middle East. The word Spring refers to a flower season that related with a beautiful, and colorful and changes from winter to spring. There are many meanings of Arab spring has been defined from many scholars. The term Arab Spring is a reference to the Revolutions of 1848 which took place in Europe (Manfreda, 2019). Some countries called Revolutions of 1848 as the Spring of Nations, People’s Spring, Springtime of the Peoples or the Year of Revolution. The connotation of Spring has been applied to other periods ever when a chain of revolutions ends in increased representation in government and democracy (Manfreda, 2019). Arab spring is generally believed to have been caused by the way and manner by which rulers ran the administrative affairs of local government though others have attributed it to the general income inequality (Abdelsalam, 2015). According to (M.Moss, 2013) the term “Arab Spring” most commonly refers to the mass protests, uprisings, and revolutionary movements that began in Tunisia on December 2010, and then spread to Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region (M.Moss, 2013). While Ibn Taymiyyah (2004), defined the word Arab in two meanings which are people who did not know any languages except Arabic language, and a citizen that live in Arab country that use Arabic language as a daily communication medium. Arab is a races that live in Middle East and North Africa country including Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Arab Saudi and others.

Next according to the MacMillan dictionary (2011), Arab Spring is a series of citizen’s protests in several Arab countries include Egypt, Tunisia, and Syria which began in 2011. Wafa Lutfi (2012), Al-Rabbi ‘Al-Arabi means rebellion, opposition, and revolution. It is the opposition of the people that demanded an innovation in the country’s administrative system. The opposition has changed the political, economic and social structure of the country into uncontrollable. In that event, the leader of the dictator forced to resign as in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

The starting point of the Arab revolution occurs in Tunisia on 18 December 2010 after the case of Mohamed Bouaziz’s self-immolation (Hadi, Setiawati and Cipto,2015). Bouazizi is a Tunisian lived in Sidi Bouzi and sell fruit. His failure to pay bribes to police officer make him feel frustration because the police destroyed his stall. Due to his frustration, Bouazizi has poured himself with fuel and burn himself on 17 December 2010 in front of the office. Yet in 5 January 2011 he died. The news of the fruit sellers’ death spread to all corners of the earth and social media users. Bouazizi’s frustrating story sparked anger and a wave of protests throughout Tunisia. The people took to the streets shouting injustice and frustration by the increasingly heavy economic pressure. The difficulty and frustration of the fruit seller is what have been felt by most people in Tunisia. Thousands of people have go down to the streets in Tunisian city centers. Less than a month after the self-immolation, Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali was forced to step down after 23 years on the throne (Saidin, 2018). The success of protest in Tunisia cause the protest wave spread to Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen.

Arab revolution in Syria sparked due to detention of the fifteen school children who wrote graffiti ‘Ash-sha’b yurid isqat an-nizam’ which means people want to overthrow this regime. The school children was writing on that wall because they are inspired by what they saw on television about Egypt. The actions of the school children made Bashar Al-Assad angry and that security forces arrested the school child. The actions taken by the security forces against the torture of a group of school children were a major factor in the occurrence of the Arab Spring in Syria because it was able to arouse Syrian public anger. So that the main factor is able to bring up several other causative factors in Arab Spring in Syria. This is proven by the opinion of David W. Lesch that school children who make grafiti on the walls of the school are a form of frustration and irritation towards the system of Bashar Al-Assad’s government and they really want social justice.

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Factor of Arab Spring in Syria

Autocratic leader

Syria was governed by autocratic leaders that has full power where the leader gains the power without going through a democratic election process. The al-Assad family has held power in Syria since 1971 (Killalea, 2017). First, it was Hafez al-Assad, then Bashar who has ruled since his father’s death. According to the Lowy Institute’s Middle East expert Dr Rodger Shanahan, Hafez brought about stability after years of coups, but said, this came at a huge cost and resulted in autocratic rule (Killalea, 2017). The appointment of Bashar al-Assad as Syria President is to replace his father position that already dies on 10 June 2000. In the days following his death, Syria’s parliament quickly voted to lower the minimum age for presidential candidates from 40 to 34, so that Bashar could be eligible for the office. Ten days, after Hafez’s death, Bashar al-Assad was chosen for a seven-year term as president of Syria. Bashar was considered a younger-generation Arab leader, who would bring changes to Syria, a region long filled with aging dictators. He was well-educated, and many believed he would be capable of transforming his father’s iron-rule regime into a modern state (Hu, 2016). In his first year as president, he promised to reform the corruption in the government, and spoke of moving Syria toward the computer technology, internet, and cell phones of the 21st century. After his first year as president, many of Bashar’s promised economic reforms had not materialized (Editors, 2014). Assad has positioned himself as the lesser of evils in Syria and more legitimate and stable than the rebels and jihadists. One of Assad’s first orders of business after coming to power was ushering in the Damascus Springa period of free expression, the release of political prisoners and sweeping economic reforms. Assad soon retreated to older styles of repression and relied on the secret security police to enforce his demands.

Economic crisis

Economic crisis felt by the Syrian since the administration of Hafiz al-Assad was continued until his son’s administrations, Bashar al-Assad. This crisis becomes worse when the corruption among officer is increases. During the administration of Hafiz al-Assad, Syrian economy was left behind another country with few problems such as corruption, excess labor which is not in line with the amount of work available and inefficiency in arranging public money. When Bashar al-Assad take over the administration, the problems still occur. On 2005, Bashar introduces economic reformation called as Social Market Economy that replace …….economy to liberal economy. Liberalization in economy gives prosperity to Damascus and Aleppo but did not spread to small district and other cities. Economic system in Syria was dominated by three main groups which are manager in public sector, small traders and protective groups of entrepreneurs who are also members of security and military groups. These groups have special rights in the Syrian economy. Anyone who is involved in military forces or security will not be touched by the law so that corruption is circulating in the area of the security forces. Economic inequality is increasingly felt when not all levels of society can join the security forces, because the schools adhered to are also influential in their acceptance to become security forces. Of the 200,000 Syrian military troops, around 70% are Alawie.

Spring Damascus 2001

At the beginning of Bashar al-Assad’s administration, a movement called ‘Spring of Damascus’ was established. Damascus Spring is the name given by Bashar al-Assad which is a new movement that was initially given place by Bashar al-Assad, but suddenly it is forbidden and ‘Damascus Spring’ changed to ‘Winter Damascus’ (Baidawi, 2014). These forums marked various demands like political, legal and economic reforms. The movement was initiated by a number of Damascus intellectual activists, such as Michel Kilo and Riad Seif. In addition, the movement also formed an informal political forum held to promote open conversation about political issues, civil society and reform (Baidawi, 2014). The political openness promised by Bashar al-Asad was billed by Syrian intellectuals. Intellectual of Syria have sent an open letter asking the president to immediately stop the emergency and martial law that had been in effect since 1963, release political prisoners and allow exiled Syrians to return and grant political freedom including freedom of expression and freedom of the press. However, the tendency towards openness is immediately closed. In mid-2001, Bashar was either due to his initiative or encouraged to take the initiative, against supporters of the reform (Muhammad, 2016). The regime’s spokesman, and even Bashar himself, immediately described the reformists as ‘Western agents, who only intended to undermine the internal stability of Syria from within, for the benefit of the enemies of the country.’ The ruling regime ordered to stop the forums that emerged throughout Syria. In fact, a number of activists from the reformist camp who loudly criticized the ruling regime were imprisoned (Muhammad, 2016). Syrian intellectuals and foreign observers assumed that the government led by Bashar would turn out to be more democratic than the reign of his father, Hafiz al-Asad. This assumption is supported by the consideration that Bashar al-Asad has no military background and grows in a democratic country. He was also not prepared to become president and was studying an ophthalmologist specialist. Anti-corruption campaigns that have been set at the beginning of Bashar’s entry into government when his father was still president also indicated that he was different from his father, so that when he promised to offer change to the Syrian people, the youth, and intellectuals agreed to support it. The promise that Bashar al-Asad gave about freedom was billed when he served as president. Bashar also proved by not tolerating all forms of corruption that existed in his government. The change in Damascus Spring to Damascus Winter did not weaken the minds of young people and intellectual groups who have once felt the momentary freedom given by the regime of Bashar al-Asad. Starting from that day, the opposition groups were born and developed outside Syria and waited for the momentum to strive for freedom. Therefore, once again they became pro-democracy activists when the Arab Spring hit a number of Middle Eastern and North African countries and tried to change the political order in the country (Wikas, 2007).

Military Policy

Policy implement in Syria during the leadership of Bashar are more likely to continue his father policy earlier. There are also some policies that have undergone changes such as the occupation of the Syrian army in Lebanon (Bhardwaj, 2011). During the reign of Hafiz al-Asad the military forces have some development but during the reign of Bashar al-Assad the Syria military forces have been withdrawal from Lebanon due to the operational cost and request from Lebanon itself to avoid interference from Syria with their country’s problems (Bhardwaj, 2011). Security forces that have been placed outside the Syrian territory and security forces to spy on all people’s activities are paid 40 dollars a day and make the country have to spend one third of the state budget for military needs. The Syrian government is more concerned about the military condition than the welfare of its people. Syria’s budget spends 50 percent to fund the needs of military forces.


  1. Abdelsalam, E. (2015). The Arab Spring:Its origins, evolution and consequences…four years on. iNTERNATIONAL iSLAMIC uNIVERSITY mALAYSIA, 123.
  2. Desai, S. (2015). Syrian Revolution: How the Road from Democracy Ended in a Caliphate. Manekshaw Paper, 1-44.
  3. Editors, B. (2 April, 2014). Bashar al-Assad Biography. Retrieved from The website:
  4. Hu, Z. (4 October, 2016). Why Bashar al-Assad is still in power. Retrieved from Al Jazeera:
  5. Killalea, D. (11 April, 2017). Syria war explained: Who is Bashar al-Assad? Retrieved from
  6. M.Moss, D. (2013). Arab Spring. The Wiley-Blackwell Encylopedia of Social and Political Movement, 456.
  7. Manfreda, P. (11 January, 2019). What Is the Arab Spring? Retrieved from ThoughtCo.:
  8. Wikas, S. (2007). Battling the Lion of Damascus. The WashingtonInstitute for Near East Policy, 1-48.

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