ARAB SPRING: STILL MORE TO BE SPRUNG

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ARAB SPRING: STILL MORE TO BE SPRUNG

Paige Fry

Ending a cycle of violence can sometimes seem as difficult as breaking a vicious circle of bullying.

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Even more than two years after the wave of revolution began, the political reality in the Arab world continues to shift. Politicians around the world scrambled in July to come to grips with a drastically changed political reality in Egypt. Mohammad Morsi, the former president, was ousted in a military coup after granting himself broad powers and upsetting the opposition. Now, deadly clashes between the military and protesters have rocked the country. A bloody civil war continues in Syria, seemingly at a standstill, and will likely result in long-lasting violence. Many ‘Noles are indirectly involved in the conflicts through their heritage and family ties.

All this turmoil springs from a common ground: the Arab Spring. In December 2010, one Tunisian man grew so dissatisfied with his inability to make a living under the government that he set himself on fire in a dramatic suicide. Just one month later, the Tunisian government was overthrown, setting off similar protests across the Arab world. Today, successful overthrow has taken place in Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, and Egypt. A civil war developed in Syria and continues to rage on. Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, Jordan, and Bahrain have all faced large protest movements—often with deadly consequences. And though Iran and Israel are not Arab-majority countries, protest movements that developed in those countries are thought to have been inspired by the Arab Spring.

The US provides Egypt with around $1.2 billion in yearly military aid in order to maintain stability in the region. A series of diplomatic cables released in the Wikileaks “Cablegate” scandal describes the reasons that the US feels the continued aid is important: it keeps Egypt at peace with Israel, which allows the US to maneuver more freely in the region. In addition, the aid allows the US to depend on and strengthen the Egyptian military to weaken the role of extremist groups.

However, the removal of a democratically elected president like Morsi is problematic for the US. Current law prohibits the US government from aiding any other government “whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree,” the law reads. The Obama administration has resorted to some awkward beating around the bush in order to avoid calling the recent events a coup—even though a clear majority of news outlets agree that a coup is what occurred.

Much of the revolution in the Arab Spring poses another tough question to the US’s policy makers: are elected (and possibly anti-American) Islamists better than the dictators they replaced? Historically, the country has had difficulty remaining faithful to its lofty rhetoric about spreading democracy: many governments have been toppled with direct or indirect US support, despite the fact that they were put into power by free and fair elections.

Though Morsi’s removal by the military was supported by a significant portion of the Egyptian populace, the State Department has been careful to appear neutral so as not to inflame further anti-American sentiment or encourage similar destabilizing moves in other countries.

Just as the nation of Egypt is divided, so are the ‘Noles whose families come from that country. Senior Nora Ghobashy falls solidly on the pro-Morsi side, and wishes that democracy was given more of a chance in Egypt.

“[Morsi was] basically the first elected president where the people had the chance to voice their opinion for a change. Honestly a year isn’t enough time to judge a president who took over a country with many issues,” Ghobashy said.

Ghobashy, like other supporters of Morsi, feels that the unpopular presidential decrees that the former president made were required in order to fight corruption. Having Mubarak, the previous leader, in control for over 30 years led to the kind of embedded corruption that could only be fought by a strong reformer, she said.

Senior Kirolos Hakim took great issue, though, with the way that the rise of Morsi affected Coptic Christians like him in Egypt.

“It was devastating. Many Christians, including priests, were killed. Churches were burned. Christians feared just leaving their house. It was happening already, but when Morsi took power he not only didn’t try to stop their actions, but he encouraged it and gave them protection,” Hakim said.

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