arab spring

December 1, 2013

Egyptian security forces clashed with student demonstrators in central Cairo on Sunday after thousands rallied in anger at the death of a young engineering student. Mohamed Reda was shot Thursday by riot police after joining anti-regime protests at Cairo University. The young man’s fate has fueled defiance across the nation’s campuses, which since July have been experiencing their most violent period following the 2011 revolution.

On a warm October night in suburban Manama, the capital of Bahrain, families gathered at a revamped office block. They were there to tour the labyrinth of simulated explosions, wax corpses, and interactive torture chambers in the so-called "Museum of Revolution"—an exhibition set up by members of the opposition to showcase the nastier realities of an uprising and crackdown that's consumed the island for more than two and a half years.

Two years ago, I argued in a Washington Post opinion piece that Turkey was pivoting toward the United States ["A blossoming friendship; Obama, Erdogan are restoring their countries' bond," Nov. 13, 2011]. This policy has not ushered in what Ankara wanted: American firepower to oust the Assad regime in Syria. And feeling alone, Turkey has started to seek other allies, including Beijing. When the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish officials toyed with the idea of being a stand-alone actor in the Middle East.

In a large tent shrouded in dust, Safia Lansar’s family gathers to drink tea. The 85-year-old’s grandson-in-law, Mohamed, rhythmically pours the steaming liquid back and forth from cup to cup. Mohamed's infant son lies sleeping on the ground, wrapped in a cloth swarming with flies. They sit on the land where Mohamed was born. His son was born here, too. But not Safia.

Arab women played a central role in the Arab Spring, but their hopes the revolts would bring greater freedom and expanded rights for women have been thwarted by entrenched patriarchal structures and the rise of Islamists, gender experts in the countries say.

Getting a Russian bureaucrat to do what you want can be about as easy as budging a mountain — a surly, misanthropic mountain. So some Russians, in their quest for basic social services, have turned to the ultimate desperate measure: self-immolation. On Oct. 16, a man in his early forties walked into the local government headquarters in the industrial town of Pervouralsk and demanded officials turn on the central heating in his apartment block, where he has been freezing along with his wife and daughter since fall turned to winter weeks ago.

The background of the Syrian conflict can seem obscure to outsiders, but the spark that started it all is often traced back to the city of Dara'a, in February of 2011. A group of young people writing Arab Spring protest slogans on a wall are arrested and beaten. "When that news broke there was a massive demonstration on the street, and that was the first spark one can call of the Syrian uprising," Nayan Chanda tells NPR's Jacki Lyden.

Syria warned the United States against any military action over a suspected chemical weapons attack in its civil war, saying it would "create a ball of fire that will inflame the Middle East". President Bashar al-Assad's closest ally Iran also said Washington should not cross the "red line" on Syria, where doctors accused his forces of a poison gas attack that killed hundreds last week.