Syria is a fabled land. Its capital, Damascus, is among the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, once the seat of the great Umayyad empire that stretched to Andalusia. Many consider Syria the heart of the Arab nation; it certainly has been in the forefront of struggle in the modern Middle East—in the fight for Arab independence, against Israel, for control of Lebanon, and even toward the dream of a Greater Syria.
Today, as Nader Hashemi argues in the lead essay of this edition of the Cairo Review, it is impossible to ignore a conflict in Syria that has now taken more than 150,000 lives since it began three years ago. In “Why Syria Matters,” Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver and co-editor of the 2013 book The Syria Dilemma, makes a powerful case for humanitarian, political, and military intervention against the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad.
In this issue’s Cairo Review Interview, the Syrian poet Adonis offers another view: what is needed is not merely a change of regime, but a true revolution that secularizes the Arab world. Heartbroken by the bloody course the Arab Spring has taken, he nonetheless remains hopeful it will “create something new.”
Exploring what that might be is indeed one of the aims of our Special Report: Struggle in the Middle East. In “Arabs, Engage!,” Rami G. Khouri notes that while the future is difficult to predict, what is clear is the birth of a new Arab citizen. In “Egyptian Dreams,” Tarek Osman assesses the prospects for democracy in Egypt after the stunning removal of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last year. In “The Tunisian Experience,” Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi relates the relative success of his country’s political transition thus far, and explains why he believes democracy and Islam are compatible.
Three years after the start of uprisings across the region, Marwan Muasher, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, outlines a vital argument in “The Call of Pluralism”: the goal is not merely removing dictators from office, but also advancing political, cultural, and religious diversity. Our sincere thanks go to Yale University Press for permission to publish the essay, which is an extract from Muasher’s new book, The Second Arab Awakening: And the Battle for Pluralism.
Read more essays by Carnegie experts in Tahrir Forum: A Blog on Middle East Transformation, on our website at www.thecairoreview.com.