Political Implications of the Arab Spring, 18 Months On
One-and-a-half years after the start of the Arab Spring, Islamists have taken power in some countries, Gulf rulers are suppressing dissent with cash and Syria is descending into civil war. The Arab revolutions are at a turning point, but the horrors unleashed by Damascus could inspire moderation elsewhere. By SPIEGEL Staff
The rebels advanced into the center of Damascus, even into the garage of the Palace of Justice and a Republican Guard base next to the presidential palace. Syria and Turkey moved tanks and batteries of antiaircraft guns into position, as they faced off on both sides of the country’s northern border. “We are at war,” Syrian President Bashar Assad said last Tuesday, when he met with his newly appointed cabinet.
In Cairo, newly elected President Mohammed Morsi made it clear that he attached no importance to his portrait being hung in Egyptian government offices in the future. The Egyptian stock index rose by 7.6 percent on the day after the election results were announced. It was the biggest gain in nine years.
A court in the Tunisian city of Monastir upheld a ruling against bloggers Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Béji, who had been sentenced to seven years in prison for “transgressing morality, defamation and disrupting public order.” They had published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad on their Facebook pages.
A year and a half after the Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi took his life and the torpor of Arab despotism was interrupted, the optimistic visions of the future generated in those first few months are now obsolete. The leaders of four nations, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have been driven out, sentenced or killed. A fifth Arab leader, Syrian President Bashar Assad, appears to be fighting a losing battle for survival.