10 Reasons Why Arab Spring Happened and Continues a Year on

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July 14, 2012 00:25
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According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it is independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

bahrain sectarian fears

Tens of thousands of anti-government protestors march in Manama, Bahrain to denounce discrimination on sectarian lines. The signs read: "No Sunni, no Shia, we are all Bahraini" and "Down with the government". Tension between the two sects has peaked in recent weeks following a government crackdown and arrival of Saudi and Emirati police forces to quell the Shiite-led uprising in the country. Photo - Hasan Jamali/AP

Prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control of a group of people is known as oppression. Many governments around the world, for known or unknown reasons, engage in suppression of a political or religious group on the pretext of national security. The state apparatus argues that the voice of any specific group can harm the unity of the country, create unrest and stir tension among various groups. Though this can be true, not all forms of expression used by political or religious groups lead to disorder.

The civil war in Algeria is a prime example of how political or religious or both forms of oppression can lead a country to civil war. The Front for Islamic Salvation (FIS) won the first round of elections with a heavy mandate in December 1991. Then president Chadli Bendjedid invited the Algerian military to take control of the situation. The army removed the president from power and installed a military-backed government.

The FIS was banned and the army put a squeeze on religious activities across the country. A military operation was started against the armed supporters of the FIS, which then splintered into smaller militant groups that attacked the security forces, police and civilians. The army also staged bloody attacks against suspected Islamists, which ensued a full-fledged civil war, leaving at least 200,000 Algerians dead and approximately 15,000 forcibly disappeared.

The conflict continued till 2002 when the armed militants laid down the arms and accepted the new civilian government’s amnesty. By then the damage was done and the socio-economic fabric of the country was ripped apart.

The current situation in Bahrain has also sparked fears of a full-blown sectarian war between the majority Shiites and minority Sunnis. The Bahraini monarchy is Sunni and has historically discriminated against the Shiites by restricting jobs and housing opportunities. The ruling Al-Khalifa family has also helped Sunnis from neighbouring countries naturalise and granted Bahraini nationality as a measure to counter the Shiite majority.

Another prime example is Syria where President Bashar Al Assad and his clan from the minority Alawite sect rules over a Sunni majority which resents the prolonged totalitarian rule over the country since the 1963 Baathist revolution. There are fears that political tensions in the country can stoke a civil war that would be fought along sectarian lines as bulk of the opposition to Syrian Alawite-dominated regime coming from the majority Sunnis.

Flash points: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Libya.

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