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Cover Politics in the Developing World

21. The Onset of the Syrian Uprising and the Origins of Violence  

Reinoud Leenders

This chapter examines the early stages of mass mobilization in Syria that sparked the Arab uprisings. Starting from December 2010 in Tunisia, Arabs from various walks of life took to the streets in protest against decades-long authoritarian rule, repression, and corruption in what came to be known as the Arab uprisings, or Arab Spring. These waves of protest reached Syria in March 2011. While Syria’s protests initially were largely peaceful, they soon gave way to violence, which culminated in an armed insurgency by the end of 2011 and, combined with regime brutality, a civil war. Before explaining how, when, and why the uprisings happened, the chapter provides a short history of growing popular discontent that resulted in the onset of the Syrian uprisings. It then analyses the roots of the uprising’s militarization and the ensuing popular mobilization and concludes with an assessment of the Syrian civil war.