World Press Photo 2011, presents his photographs as the starting point for a conversation with bloggers and experts on the situation #afterthespring

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“In Syria, calls for political freedom are mixed with calls for religious equality”

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Though it’s not one of the four countries portrayed by Samuel Aranda, in #desprésdelprimavera we also look at Syria and its Arab Spring, the people’s revolution that sparked today’s bloody armed conflict. Syria’s protests are inspired by the Arab Spring of 2010, when the Syrian population followed the example of the revolutions in other countries that brought down apparently eternal regimes. “But in Syria the demonstrations were completely peaceful, even more peaceful than the ones in Tunisia or Egypt, since they were only asking Assad for political freedom and reforms, not a change of regime”, explains Joan Roura in his analysis. Though the demands were coherent, the regime’s response was so brutal that “the opposition had to choose between going home and moving to a higher level: take arms”. This was the start of an armed conflict that has produced 40,000 deaths, approximately the same number of disappeared and almost a million refugees. But why hasn’t the Syrian dictator fallen, like in Egypt? According to Roura, unlike Mubarak’s regime, the Syrian dictatorship hasn’t fallen “because it is based on 12-13% of the population, the Alawites”. “Most of the rest of the population, approximately 75%, are Sunni Muslims, a people who have been systematically marginalized from senior office, the civil service and public positions.” There is, then, a religious minority imposed on the majority, “and that means that the Alawites are very much aware that the fall of the regime means their slaughter—this is a deadly struggle”. The current war between two different sects of Islam means we are dealing with “an Arab Spring mixed with sectarianism”, explains Roura. “Here, we have calls for political freedom mixed with calls for religious equality, and when you mix politics and religion, you get an explosive cocktail”, he concludes.

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Joan Roura >

Catalan Journalist
Joan Roura, Assistant International News Director at TV3, is a writer and Middle East specialist. Since 1982, he has covered the Arab-Israeli conflict, the wars in Iraq and Lebanon, the Egyptian revolution of 2011 and the current conflict in Syria, among others.