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Useful Notes / The Arab Spring

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الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام‎ Romanization , Translation 
— The motto of the uprising

In December of 2010, a young merchant immolates himself to death in protest of the thuggish policies of the Tunisian dictatorship. This soon leads to protests and, eventually, the dictator's resignation and exile...and the beginnings of a revolutionary wave not seen since the end of the Cold War. The sheer size, importance, multitude of methods, and brutality of the unrest has made it a modern real life showcase of many tropes, listed below.


Unlike the revolutionary wave at the end of the Cold War, though, only one of the revolutions—the one in Tunisia—has successfully established a democracy. However, social changes are taking root across the Arab World as people begin to question, and some regimes have made changes to prevent damage; comparisons to Europe's Revolutions of 1848 have begun to appear in the literature.

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    The State of the Countries, as of Writing 
  • Algeria: One of the most delayed cases of this event in the list, protests actually began as early as the other ones in December 2010 against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who had been in power for 20 years. The implications of a regime change were particularly troublesome due to the Algerian Civil War that erupted in the 90s between the Algerian government and Islamist rebels for similar conditions as the Arab Spring. However, protests were quickly contained and reforms were enacted to placate the dissidents such as limiting the number of terms that an president would serve. Because of this, Algeria was considered for a time the exception while other countries in the MENA region descended into anarchy or repression... Until 2019 rolled around when Bouteflika announced his candidacy for another term despite his health issues (such as having suffered a stroke, being wheel-chair bound and no longer appearing in public) putting into question his ability to rule. The Algerian public had enough and via a series of peaceful demonstrations managed to pressure the military to make Bouteflika step down from power.
  • Bahrain: Opposition groups protested en masse in Bahrain, upset with the current regime. Many of the protesters were Shiites who feel repressed, as even though they are the majority of the native population, the royal family is Sunni. Beyond the sectarian disputes, King Hamad's rule has been fairly harsh and uncompromising. The protests gathered a lot of momentum and it seemed like the monarchy might be toppled, but Hamad hired foreign mercenary groups to come in and restore peace by any means necessary. Saudi Arabia and co. also sent support to the monarchy. Subsequent crackdowns have seen thousands jailed. Revolutionary fervor has significantly diminished since then, although protests against the regime have sporadically occured.
  • Egypt: Mass protests erupted in Tahrir Square early into 2011, with many inspired by the activists in Tunisia. The dictator Hosni Mubarak ended up resigning, handing the reigns over the military who, to their credit, did transition Egypt to democracy by holding democratic elections. Of course, the military very quickly reversed course when Mohammad Morsi, who was affiliated with the very divisive Muslim Brotherhood, won the election. It didn't take long for the military to overthrow Morsi's new government, replacing him with the director of military intelligence, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in a rigged election. Al-Sisi then massacred Islamist protesters who were demonstrating against the coup and has essentially become another President for Life, bringing the revolution in Egypt full circle.
  • Iraq: Still recovering from the damage done to chase Daesh out of the Sunni majority areas of Iraq. As of early 2019, all effort seems to be on the cautious recovery, with a constant fear that any one of Iraq's divides (religion, ethnicity, cultural loyalty, etc.) could destabilize things again.
  • Libya: Tunisia's neighbor to the east did not have it as easy. Muammar al-Gaddafi, Libya's dictator, did not follow Ben Ali's example and resign, instead choosing to fight. Rebels seized the city of Benghazi and the military unsuccessfully tried to retake it. After that, all hell broke loose, launching a full-scale civil war. The US and friends led a military intervention as well, providing the rebels with air support. This has caused a lot of contention in the West. After a few months, Gaddafi was captured and killed and his regime fell apart. However, the clean-up has not been so easy. The country was still wracked by civil unrest and violence as various factions tried to gain control. A nominally democratic government was set up, but in 2014 it was split again in a political squabble too complicated to handle here. One is better off looking at the Other Wiki instead.
  • Sudan: Following the same example as Algeria, uprisings also began at earnest because of the austerity policies caused by South Sudan's independence, which costed billions of dollars to Sudan losing three quarters of oil fields to their southern counterparts. The responses were considerably more violent and repressive, causing far more deaths than in Algeria, but the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir announced he wouldn't seek re-election in 2015 to calm the protesters down. Despite the promises, the protests continued though they were largely covered up by the Sudanese government and returned in full force on 2018 because of the rise of bread prices which escalated into a military coup that removed al-Bashir who had been in power since 1989.
  • Syria: Easily the worst off of the countries in the Arab Spring, which is saying something considering the state of most of the other countries on this list. The dictator of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, was not having any of this protesting business from day one, and ordered bloody crackdowns on civilian protesters. In response, a part of the military chose to defect rather than firing on their own citizens, and soon a civil war was underway.

    Participants in the war include the Free Syrian Army, which started out as a loose coalition led by the military defectors, but this coalition has largely fallen apart as many Syrians can't agree what kind of regime they want to replace the Assad one with. Many Islamic extremist groups like the Islamic State note , the Islamic Front, and al-Nusra, split off from this main force. The Kurds initially formed a loose alliance with the FSA, but they later terminated this alliance once it became clear that Turkey (FSA's main backer) will not see them as anything other than terrorists. They have instead been investing more resources to build an autonomous state called Rojava. Many countries have chosen one side or the other; in addition to Turkey supporting FSA, the West and their allies back Rojava, while Russia and Iran back al-Assad's regime. Before things started to turn in 2015, the FSA also had the backing of the West and their allies, too. The war also spilled over into Iraq, as IS started to conquer territory, and even threatened to take Baghdad at one point. They were eventually beaten back by the Iraqi Army note  and Peshmerganote . Gambit Pileup features prominently; as of 2019, with al-Assad having retaken most of his country's territory from the FSA and the US planning to withdraw forces, the Kurds have taken steps to reintegrate back into al-Assad's government, mostly so they can stop the FSA and Turkey from annihilating them into non-existence.

    The war has attracted international attention, especially in the media. This was mostly centered around the atrocities committed by the IS, which dominated headlines during its rapid emergence in 2014. However, another extensive point of coverage that has led to ceaseless political division in the west are the war refugees. Around half of the Syrian population have been displaced, and many of them have chosen to flee to Europe. It would be better to avoid discussing this issue here, as it is known to be incredibly divisive.
  • Tunisia: Where it all began. Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian merchant, had all his goods confiscated by the police. With little left to live for, he opted to self-immolate as a final act of protest to the regime. Mass demonstrations followed and President for Life Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled not long after. Tunisia is currently one of the few success stories of the Arab Spring, having managed to set up democratic government. It has still suffered a bit in the post-revolution world, having had some terror attacks and instability, but generally speaking it is in much better shape than most of its contemporaries.
  • Yemen: Protests started in Sana'a against the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. In 2011, he fled to Saudi Arabia after an assassination attempt, and the government was handed to his vice president Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi. Al-Hadi attempted to negotiate with the opposition, but he won some blatantly farcical elections in 2012 and set up a new government. The Shiite Houthis in Yemen -who had been one of the main drivers for revolution in the first place- began to protest al-Hadi's regime, and low intensity fighting occurred. This became high intensity fighting when, in 2015, al-Hadi was overthrown and the Houthis took control. Saudi Arabia and co. decided to intervene and are fighting a war against the Houthis, who are allegedly supported by Iran. To add yet another startling twist onto things, exiled president Saleh returned to Yemen and sided with the Houthi government against the Saudis, before turning against them in favor of the Saudis almost three years later, and then promptly getting killed.

    In General 
  • Apocalypse How: Of the Regional/Societal Collapse variety in Syria and Yemen in particular. Diseases long beaten back have started to return, for example, not to mention six million refugees unaccounted for in Syria.
  • Awesome by Analysis: It has been noted by observers that the protesters in Sudan and Algeria, which make up the second wave of the Arab Spring, seem to have learned from the mistakes of protesters from the original revolutionary wave. Specifically, they have gained a vivid wariness to Meet the New Boss and appreciation for The Revolution Will Not Be Villified respectively.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: Many throughout the Spring:
    • In Iraq, it was Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah with Mosul shaping up to be The Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
    • In Libya, it was Misrata, Tripoli, and Sirte.
    • In Syria, it is (thus far) Kobani, Aleppo, Homs, Raqqa...
    • In Yemen, it was Aden.
  • Balance of Power: While the protests and civil wars et al, are all due to local issues and economics, foreign involvement in these matters is only to possibly change the realities of this trope.
  • Back from the Brink: Iraq and Syria. Both were on the verge of collapsing under the threat of IS that it seemed all but certain that Baghdad and Damascus would be conquered by the terrorists. The intervention of outsider allies prevented this from happening and they quickly managed to turn the war on their favor.
  • Church Militant: One role that goes largely unnoticed in the fight against IS is the one played by Arab Christians. Groups such as the Syriacs, Assyrians and Armenians have formed self-defense militias in both Iraq and Syria to protect their communities and churches from terrorists. Notable examples include the Syriac Military Council, the Guardians of the Dawn and Dwekh Nawsha, the latter being the closest thing to the polar opposite to ISIS due to also being bolstered of Western volunteers though their aim is to defend civilians. The Lebanese Maronites backed by Hezbollah also succeeded in halting IS incursions and the war in Syria from spilling out into Lebanon.
  • Conflict Killer: The Islamic State terrorist organization emerged as a major threat while everyone in Syria and Iraq were too busy fighting each other, and lead several nations that otherwise don't like each other very much to fight against a common enemy.
  • Cool Car: The technicals involved in the fighting, due to the sheer length of the conflicts, have evolved over time from simple pick up trucks with heavy weaponry bolted to the bed to rudimentary tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. Comparisons to Mad Max have been made more than once in the media.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: In an Arab League summit in 2008, Muammar Gaddafi gave one of his famous rambling speeches criticising the other leaders (and himself) for standing at the sidelines instead of defending Saddam Hussein during the 2003 war. His speech was punctuated by a warning that Saddam's fate could soon be theirs. His audience, Bashar al-Assad among them, reacted with ridicule. It is safe to say he was remarkably prescient about the future.
  • Deadline News: The area is so violent and chaotic that only the hardiest of reporters can broadcast from the heart of the revolution, exposing themselves to severe danger (and the risk of death) in the process.
    • CNN's Anderson Cooper was repeatedly punched in the face in Cairo and once refused to reveal his exact location in the city for fear of being captured and killed.
    • NBC's Richard Engel was nearly killed by a mortar in rebel-held territory in Libya, and was later kidnapped and held for five days in Syria — an experience he was sure he wouldn't survive. Engel, a veteran of multiple military embeds and two decades in the Middle East, is considered the leading expert on the region by pretty much the entire rest of his profession.
    • Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times, seasoned journalist who was famous for her eyepatch (courtesy of catching RPG shrapnel to the face when she was covering the Sri Lankan Civil War), was killed in 2012 during the Siege of Homs in Syria. In 2016, her family sued the Syrian government for deliberately targetting her as a journalist.
  • Death-or-Glory Attack: The most common strategy among any of the fighting groups in the Arab Spring:
    • In Iraq, Daesh's victories in Anbar and Mosul were due to this trope.
    • In Libya, during the first civil war, the failure of this strategy kept eastern rebels bottled up.
    • In Syria, the government tried and failed with a massive offensive toward Raqqa in mid-2016. The rebels tried the same against Bashar al-Assad's home province the previous year, again to abject failure.
    • In Yemen, the Houthis launched a full scale invasion of Aden, the second largest city in the country and the biggest remaining stronghold of their enemies. Unlike other examples listed, they nearly succeeded until the combined militaries of the Gulf Cooperation Council came to the assistance of the beleagured defenders of the city. Sadly, they did not learn from the Houthi's failure and have tried several attempts at this against Sana'a, to no success.
  • Democracy Is Flawed: The argument of those who opposed the removal of the Arab world's dictators by their own people, using the negative effects of the Arab Spring as their proof.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: In both Syria and Yemen, this has become a common and well documented tactic. In the former, this is part of Bashar al-Assad's Kneel or Starve campaign that was instrumental in capturing cities like Aleppo and Homs. In the latter, both the Houthis and the Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi regime purposely intercept aid shipments meant for people under the control of their enemies so that they starve, which has led to widespread famine throughout Yemen.
  • Disaster Dominoes: As described above, it all started with a Tunisian self-immolating himself in protest. His countrymen revolted, and then the rest of North Africa, and then the Middle East...
  • Divide and Conquer: To counter the protests and unrest, some of the various governments and entrenched elites tried this tactic, to varying degrees of success:
    • In Syria, the government of Bashar al-Assad went about it by releasing all the Islamists they had imprisoned, in the hope that they would hijack the rebellion and help make manifest the propaganda that he had been spouting from the beginning: That there was no rebellion or uprising, that it was instead a terrorist incursion that sought to overthrow the modern and secular state system. The result was the likes of the Nusra Front and Daesh gaining the boost they needed in fighters and ideologues to push the initial rebellion to the sidelines, making Assad's straw man a reality. They finally stopped doing this after Russia entered the war.
    • Iraq did this between the Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani factions of the Kurds to stymie their attempt to secede in 2017. More broadly, the central government in Baghdad would tell minority groups like the Assyrians or Turkmen that they stood to lose in an independent Kurdish state.
    • The Kurds themselves have tried this in both Syria and Iraq, trying (in Syria) to gain the favor of Sunni Arab tribes that had historical emnity with either the tribes that joined Daesh or with Assad. In Iraq, they played on the fears of Sunni minorities fear of Shia persecution to gain their allegiance. In the case of Iraq, it did not work too well when they finally made their move to secede in 2017, but it has so far worked in Syria, at least enough that the SDF controls everything east of the Euphrates. Many Assyrians fight alongside the Kurds with their own militias.
    • In Libya, the tensions are due to strong tribal influences and high importance on places of origin – the country has largely balkanized along the lines of the old Ottoman provinces that now make up Libya while within each area the local tribe and town dynamics make things even more complicated. The fall of the post-colonial monarchy to the fall of the man who overthrew them were both due to these dynamics, as is the current tribal conflict between the east and west.
    • In Egypt, the Revolving Door Revolution is largely due to this, with the military raising the fear of political Islam hijacking the state through democracy to allow them to come back to power under Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
    • Yemen, meanwhile, has a Sunni/Shia split, a strong tribal split, and both are further complicated by the fact that Yemen was once two countries, the southern half of which wants to secede again. "Northern" Yemen, which is actually the west of the country, is the smaller but more fertile region in the coastal mountains along the Red Sea with a majority Shia population, "Southern" Yemen (the east of the country, bordering Oman) is the larger of the two but primarily inhospitable desert: it is mostly Sunni, but also has its own tribal separatist movements and, with the port of Aden, is slightly more cosmopolitian. Until his overthrow, Ali Abdullah Saleh would play the various tribes against one another and bribe the rest with aid money. After his overthrow, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi attempted the same, but simply could not pull it off. Now the situation has devolved to where you have the Houthis (Shia tribesmen) and Saleh (secularist former dictator) teaming up against Hadi (unionist puppet dictator) who is aligned with the Hirak (southern separatist Adenites and tribesmen), with both sides trying to enact this trope against the other. Saudi Arabia's attempt to try this between Saleh and the Houthis led to the former's death.
  • Eagle Squadron: In the Kurdish regions of Iraq and Syria, there have been reports of Americans and Western Europeans (some whom may have formerly served in the Iraq War) joining the fight against Daesh. In Libya, a lot of sub-Saharan Africans who has benefitted from Gaddafi's largesse joined Gaddafi's forces in a mixture of this and Private Military Contractors.
  • End of an Age:
    • No matter the final outcome of the Arab Spring, it has essentially become a given that the post-Ottoman order of the Middle East has been irrevocably changed.
    • The generation of Ba'ath-inspired Arab-Socialist Dictators of the Cold War also died out during the Spring, with Muammar Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Ali Abdullah Saleh having been the last such rulers. The system did snap-back in Egypt but Abdel Fattah el-Sisi no longer even pretends that he is anything but a military dictator focused on regime survival. And although Bashar al-Assad's Syria carries much of the same symbols and trappings of Ba'athism, what is likely to emerge when the war ends is vastly different than what existed before. The only other outlier, Algeria, is an isolationist socialist military state with pretensions of being a democracy and a head of state so old that it could feasibly be referred to as The Necrocracy.
      • And now even Algeria's old guard is being swept away, starting with the aforementioned head of state.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Whether it is Camp Bucca in Iraq or Saydnaya in Syria, the leaders of all the big jihadist groups have all been imprisoned together at some point. This was instrumental in how quickly they were able to mobilise and network once they were freed.
    • Special mention goes to Nusra leader al-Jolani who is confirmed to have been in Bucca and is believed to have spent some time in Saydnaya, though his Shrouded in Myth history makes that hard to determine.
  • The Evils of Free Will: A common refrain by the Better the Devil You Know (be they local or international) crowd is that free will in the Arab World inevitably leads to, at best, uncontrollable anarchy and, at worst, ISIS.
  • Foil: Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad, in the media and in their respective conflicts. The former was a Large Ham, was in power for decades, dressed strangely, and was almost funny if not for the very real consequences of his actions. The latter is The Quiet One, had only been in power ten years when the uprising began, dressed in impeccable suits, and comes off as somewhat frightening in interviews. Similarly, Gaddafi fell in less than a year, while Assad is still around almost eight years on. Because of how close both of their uprisings were in media coverage, the contrast is even more stark.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: In cases where the revolution wasn't settled peacefully and ended up in civil wars resulted in the rise of authoritarianism and extremism - which was the exact opposite of the protest's aims to make their countries more democractic and liberal. This phenomena is referred to by scholars as the "Arab Winter".
    • Egypt is probably the most shining example of this trope, with Hosni Mubarak stepping down and allowing free elections where the population elected Islamist candidate Mohammed Morsi, who proceeded to grant himself emergence powers and seemingly aimed to establish an fundamentalist state. The revolution went full circle when the army stepped in and deposed him, placing Abdel Fatah al-Sisi as its president much like Mubarak himself was.
    • In Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh handed over power to his deputy Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who was unable to fix many of Yemen's problems which led to the rise of the Houthis, a anti-Western Shia militia backed by Iran, to taking control of key areas in Yemen including the capital city and ousting Hadi. Not to mention the activity of groups like al-Qaeda controlling huge swathes of land...
    • Iraq and Syria are unique cases where their local governments weren't necessarily overthrown, but the protests resulted in the rise of the Islamic State, a Salafi militant group that ended up being more violent, brutal and even more despotic than either regimes and would have certainly overthrown them if not for outside help.
  • Hereditary Republic: Syria has been this since the current president's father, Hafez al-Assad, took power in 1970. It was fear of this happening in Egypt that was one of several reasons the Egyptian people wanted Hosni Mubarak gone, and likewise the Yemenis with Ali Abdullah Saleh.
  • Hufflepuff House: Despite having all the ingredients for a popular uprising like a dictator-for-life, poverty, unemployement and several other problems, Algeria is noted by the media for managing to avoid the same path as its neighbors. This has to do with the civil war the country suffered in the 90s which in some ways, foreshadowed the events in Syria with Islamist fundamentalists presenting themselves as the better alternative for the ailing and corrupt government which prevented them from taking power by cancelling the elections at the last minute, triggering a war that caused tens of thousand deads. With horrors of the conflict still fresh, the Algerian government took steps to fix some of their problems and not let it happen again, though considering the current president is past 80, wheel-chair bound and suffering from a stroke, time will tell if Algeria will remain the exception.
  • I Have Many Names: As the conflicts dragged on, a number of groups have renamed or re-branded themselves to attract more followers or better reflect their goals.
    • The self-proclaimed caliphate based in Raqqa officially goes by the name the Islamic State. However, most refer it to the name it had prior to declaring the caliphate, which is translated from Arabic as either the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Before the war it was Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Outside of the English-speaking world however, most refer to it by the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, transliterated as either Daesh, Da'ish, or DAIISH. note 
    • Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria went through a similar process: It started off as Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra Front). Upon deciding that distancing themselves from the brand of al-Qaeda and becoming a Syria-centric organisation was better for drawing support, it re-branded itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Conquest of the Greater Syria Front). This didn't draw them the support needed and made them more visible. So they re-branded once more, merging with a number of other groups to form Hayy'at Tahrir al-Sham (Committee for the Liberation of Greater Syria).
      • Detractors of the group are keenly aware of the re-branding effort and try to invert this trope by calling it "Nusra" regardless of actual name at the time.
  • Improvised Weapon: In addition to the modified vehicles described above, a number of rebel groups have come up with heavy weapons made from commercial or industrial ingredients available to everyday civilians.
    • The most infamous is the Hell Cannon which is effectively a metal tube that launches re-purposed gas cylinders filled with explosives and shrapnel to devastating effect. First created by the Free Syrian Army, they were subsequently adopted by the Islamic State and deployed in Iraq as well.
    • The Barrel Bombs used by the Syrian Government are an example too, as they were created from readily-available material to compensate for the Syrian Army's low supply of precision bombs, which depleted quickly during the first months of the war.
  • Insistent Appellation: In their propaganda, the Islamic State refers to all Christians (hostile or not) as "Crusaders" and this extends to Westerners in general regardless if they are religious or not, to Shia Muslims as Safawi (Safavid, referencing the Persian dynasty responsible for turning Shia Islam the state religion of their country) again regardless if they are Iranian or not, and generally speaking all Muslims not on their support as "apostates".
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Although the conflict in Syria is referred to as the Syrian Civil War among most international sources and observers, the government and the rebels both refuse to refer to it as such, as it would imply that the other side has "civil" (grassroots) support. The government refers to the conflict as "Anti-terrorist operations" against "foreign-backed mercenaries" (or other, similarly-clinical variants) while the rebels refer to it as the "Syrian Revolution". Also expect news sources from both sides to refer to the opposing side as "terrorists" regardless of actual affiliation.
    • IS itself is very insistent on being referred to as ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah or, the Islamic State, since it sees itself as representing Muslims worldwide. Among their Arabic-speaking detractors, they are referred to as "Daesh" (an acronym for their full name in Arabic), which they find it offensive for a number of reasons: 1) it sounds very similar to "Daes" (one who tramples down something underfoot) or "Dahis" (discord sowers) both of which have negative connotations, 2) Daesh has no specific meaning in its own, which undermines their entire claims because they stand for nothing. They hate it so much that for this very reason, many Westerners (both governments and journalist media) have referred to them this way, though most refer to them as IS in their respective languages because it's more convenient through their acronyms.
  • Legion of Doom: The (primarily Arab and Iraqi/Syrian) Islamic State has received over 40,000 foreign fighters from Muslim populations all around the world, ranging from other Arabs in countries like Saudi Arabia, to Turkic people from Xinjiang and Kazakhstan, to Iranic people from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, to Chechens and Dagestanis from the Caucasus, to the primarily Berber population of Tunisia.
  • Mêlée à Trois: The wars in Libya, Syria and Yemen have all devolved into this on some level.
    • In Libya, there are the warring governments in Tobruk and Tripoli and the local councils that run smaller cities, mostly in the south. Even within the Tripoli government, there is plenty of rivalry between the government and clans/street gangs. Until recently, there was also the Islamists who rule over Derna and Sirte, although both had been liberated by the Tobruk government.
    • In Syria, there are at least five main sides. The Syrian Government and its allies (Iran, Russia, Hezbollah), the very loosely associated Syrian Opposition (which include a broad swathe of groups, possibly hundreds in total) and its allies (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar), the Tahrir al-Sham organization (led by Al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda affiliate), Rojava (consisting mostly of Kurds but also other ethnic groups under the 'Syrian Democratic Forces' banner) and its allies (the United States, various NATO countries), and lastly the Islamic State on its own. The Syrian Government and the SDF are on-again off-again enemies who often cooperate and the rest just loathe each other. Islamic State has mostly been defeated and the rebels have been reduced to controlling parts of Northwest Syria. Conflicts still persist, though, particularly in the Aleppo countryside where everyone (sans Islamic State) have their own piece of territory.
    • In Yemen, there is the Saudi-backed Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi loyalists in Aden, the Iran-backed Houthis in Sana'a and splinters of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda occasionally popping around to cause trouble to all other sides.
  • Man on Fire:
    • Mohamed Bouazizi, the man who started the chain of events, was a self-inflicted version of this trope. Several other protestors in different countries followed his example too.
    • The Islamic State has executed people this manner and released videos of their deaths into the internet with the purpose to spread terror and make an example of those that opposes them. The most notorious victim was Jordanian pilot Muath Al-Kasasbeh who was horrifically burned alive inside a cage and whose death provoked outrage in Jordan and even some radical groups themselves condemned IS for this.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Many foreign countries have been backing different sides of the wars. However, special mention goes to Iran, who invests heavily in Shia militias that prop up (or at least support) regimes ruling Iraq, Syria and Yemen without participating in their conflicts directly.
  • Monumental Damage: In the countries that descended to war, heritage sites and ancient monuments fared particularly badly, either due to being caught in the crossfire, looting or the deliberate iconoclasm of IS.
    • In Aleppo, the Grand Mosque of Aleppo was used as a rebel base while the Citadel of Aleppo was used as a loyalist base. Both suffered extensive damage.
    • The Armenian Genocide Memorial Church in Deir ez-Zour was partially blown up by IS. The iconic Deir ez-Zour Suspension Bridge collapsed during clashes between loyalists and rebels before then, though nobody can agree who caused it.
    • IS blew up many old temples and tombs in Palmyra City. The iconic Lion of al-Lat was damaged but survived and the Grand Theatre survived, though IS turned it into an execution spot.
    • Many monuments in Mosul including the Shrine of Prophet Jonas were blown up by IS. The Nuri Mosque, where IS announced the establishment of the Caliphate, was also blown up by the militants as a final "screw you" during their last stand.
    • Al-Manar Royal Palace in Benghazi, where the founding of the Kingdom of Libya was announced suffered heavy damage during fighting in the city.
  • Multinational Team:
    • One of the most alarming things about IS is that despite them being denounced by the international community, over 40,000 fighters that joined them to fight in Iraq and Syria were foreign volunteers from all around the world. They include Tunisians, Chinese, Russians and Saudi Arabs, but also Westerners from France, UK, Sweden and Belgium too. In fact, the infamous terrorist "Jihadi John" that made the whole world aware of the Islamic State when he beheaded two journalists, was in fact a British national. It got to a point that representatives from local anti-IS forces have stated they weren't fighting a local threat anymore, but an occupying force.
    • Naturally, the major Western coalition established specifically to bring IS down was the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) that had included several Western nations and allied nations on their side.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: Despite being considered an proto-state unrecognized by no other legitimate nation in the world, the IS was considered an superpower at its peak with hundred thousand fighters, 8 million citizens and their capital area stretched over an area the size of the Eastern Balkans. Though they were centered in the Levant, they also spread their influence beyond through other terrorist groups that pledged their allegiance to them as a caliphate and ruled as provinces such as the insurgents in Sinai, Yemen, Libya and other areas not affected by the Arab Spring like Nigeria, the Northern Caucasus and the Philippines. A coalition between Iraq, Syria, United States, France, Russia, Turkey and many others was necessary to crush them and preventing them from conquering anymore territory or causing the collapse of the local governments.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Virtually nothing is unchanged in countries that experienced uprisings and even a few that did not. Syria, in particular, has a quarter of its population gone in a different country. Convincing (let alone reintegrating) them to return is a dim, if not impossible, prospect.
  • Neutrality Backlash: The West (and the US in particular) had collectively made an effort to stay out of the Spring when it first began. However, as the effects of the Spring have spread further and further throughout the world, the West is starting to suffer from this trope.
  • Patriotic Fervor: In the initial protests, it was this trope that drove people into the streets to fight for change (since the alternative and often only choice before the Spring was to give up on the country and leave for greener pastures), and it was this trope that was used by the more resistant governments in order to discredit any changes asked of them, leading to both poles of the trope.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: The biggest underlying reason why the Spring happened at all was due to the collective underestimation by the various ruling governments of the middle east about just how close to the end of their collective tether the people of the middle east were getting with regards to issues that had their beginnings since at least the 1970s and in some cases even before.
  • Private Military Contractors: Used liberally by the Saudis in Yemen (mostly Colombian), and there are reports of some in Syria fighting on behalf of Bashar al-Assad (mostly Russian before Moscow formally intervened).
    • A truly bizarre case (and perhaps a sign of the times) has emerged in Syria in the form of Malhama Tactical, a "Jihadist PMC". A small band of Chechen jihadi fighters decided that instead of squandering their skills (which they say they earned in the Russian Military) on the battlefield, they could train the rebels of the highest-bidding groups. They have good relations with al-Qaeda affiliates and have a pretty robust social media presence with a very corporate look and feel.
  • Proxy War: Saudi Arabia vs Iran rivalry reached a new stage when the Arab Spring erupted. In some places, they support opposing sides of the conflicts without actually coming face to face. Syria is where it becomes painfully obvious. Saudi Arabia supports the rebels, while Iran supports the government. Yemen, too, except flipped; the government is supported by Saudi Arabia, while the rebels are supported by Iran.
  • Regime Change: The ultimate objective of the Arab Spring everywhere, in one trope. Whether that means the people change the regime or the regime enacts needed changes, depended on the country in question....
  • The Remnant: In many parts where Daesh lost the open war, it has resorted to melding into the population and becoming an insurgency just like its predecessor did after 2006. Such developments have already taken place in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and Iraqi officials have expressed concern it can take place there too.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Given the intense propaganda warfare between sides, not to mention the reliance of citizen journalists who may not always have accurate information, many well known figures have been reported dead numerous times, only to turn out to be alive.
    • In Iraq, this happened most commonly with Abu Azrael, an Iraqi soldier known for his size and passion. Every time IS reported his death, he would post a video with a timestamp to prove he is alive, then perform some ridiculous stunt.
    • Similarly, many renowned IS leaders such as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, Abu Omar al-Shishani and Denis Cuspert were repeatedly reported to have been killed at various points. As of 2019, all have been Killed Off for Real except for Baghdadi who is still alive, having released an 18-minute long video in the aftermath of the fall of ISIS on the battlefield, the Sri Lankan Easter bombings and the downfall of Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Omar al-Bashir.
    • Among the pro-government side in Syria, President Assad, General Hassan, General Zahreddine were either reported to have died or in ill health. As of 2019, only Zahreddine has been Killed Off for Real, but there is a persistent conspiracy theory about Hassan having been killed and been subsequently replaced by an impostor to keep morale levels high.
    • Among the rebels in Syria, HTS (and formerly, Nusra) leader Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, jihadist ideologue Muhaysini and Jaish al-Islam leader Zahran Alloush were frequently reported killed. Alloush was Killed Off for Real in 2016. The rest are alive but had some close calls.
  • Resurgent Empire: The Islamic State revived the caliphate institution and demanded the pledge of Muslims around the world to join them so they can reconquer all lands they feel rightfully belongs to Islam (any territory that was controlled by them in history that is no longer under them such as Spain, Greece, Israel and the Philippines) and then challenge the West next. Their claims were considered dubious even by other Islamist fanatics like al-Qaeda that shares the same goal as them.
  • Screw the Rules, It's the Apocalypse!:
    • Traditionally, Yazidis don't accept converts and ostracize those who abandon their faith by marrying with outsiders. However, following their genocide at the hands of IS, Yazidi clerics have since allowed former captives (such as women and children) that were forcibly converted to Islam to be re-baptized and welcomed back to their original faith, since their group is already an minority in Iraq and they wouldn't be able to survive their losses.
    • Oddly inverted in many parts of Syria despite the scale of devastation experienced. Even under ISIS-held areas, the Syrian state maintained a vague presence due to the understanding that state employees are the only ones with the know-how to keep things like dams and power plants working. It was not uncommon to see buses running through front-lines, officials pretending to be The Quisling for whoever is in charge at the time or citizens to receive state summons while living under siege. Journalists noted that pro-state TV maintained an odd sense of normality even at the worst times and described traffic cops stopping cars for speeding even as missiles between warring factions flew overhead.
  • Secret Police: IS-controlled territories employed hisbah patrols that were even more orthodox and murderous than the most conservative countries and aimed to subjugate every aspect of their citizens' lives with their ideology. They were organized into paramiitary units under local emirs and perpetrate exceptionally excessive punishments to the smallest infractions like men shaving, women wearing colorful abayas or make up, going out without male companions, etc. And whatever punishment applied to women was also given to their male relatives for allowing them to go "astray".
  • Spreading Disaster Map Graphic: Has become extremely common since the beginning of the Spring, mostly in areas where the protests devolved into open war.
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: In the beginning, when the Arab Spring was a lot more optimistic, revolution-themed videos of this type started popping up on YouTube. The videos would all follow the same general pattern: Taking a speech of the dictator being targetted by revolution, take out key words and phrases, and restringing them into statements calling for their own overthrow, set to popular music. The most famous of them is Zenga Zenga, by Israeli musician Noy Alooshe, aping the dictator Muammar Gaddafi's speech denouncing the revolt in Benghazi.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: This has happened thrice so far in the Spring as of this entry:
    • The first was in Libya, as Muammar Gaddafi's forces marched on Libya's second city of Benghazi, with the Colonel himself boasting on national television his intent to level the city for daring to resist him. Soon after, NATO received UN authorization to intervene to protect the city from massacre, eventually leading to a more comprehensive no-fly zone being established over Libya as a whole.
    • Second time, in Yemen, when the GCC started sending their own military to directly assist the laughably overmatched Hadi loyalists, whom the GCC was backing to defeat the Houthis and reestablish order and who, sadly for the GCC, were only able to be a Curb Stomp Cushion at best. Naturally, since their direct involvement began, the battlefield has become more balanced.
    • The third instance was the direct intervention of Russian forces (particularly air power) on behalf of Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria. By all accounts, Assad's plan worked; the war is turning in his favor with the IS mostly gone, the rebels hunched over, and the Kurds slowly warming up to a reintegration with him.
  • Spark of the Rebellion: The Arab Spring as a whole was sparked by the successful ouster of Tunisia's dictator. However, most of the countries involved had their own individual spark as well:
    • In Algeria, it was the ailing Bouteflika's announcement that he would seek yet another term, despite being essentially an invalid due to a stroke.
    • In Sudan, the removal of food and fuel subsidies sent an already reeling population past the brink into open revolt against President Omar al-Bashir.
    • In Syria, an overreaction by the Syrian State Sec against a gaggle of school children tagging walls with pro-Arab Spring graffiti ("You're Next, Doctor", referring to Assad's ophthalmologist training) led to their parents and neighbors to begin protesting en masse against Assad.
    • In Bahrain, Egypt, and Yemen, their protests kicked off in direct response to the success of the Tunisian Revolution.
    • In Tunisia itself, it was the self-immolation of a fruit vendor who was pushed over the edge one too many times.
  • Spring Is Late: A good summation of the overall effect of the Spring on the region, with only Tunisia coming out better for it thus far.
  • The Stateless: Many foreigners who went to Iraq and Syria to fight on behalf of Daesh are now this as a way for their (former) governments to not have to deal with them or at least not have them risk coming back and causing problems for them.
  • Take Over the World: As cliched as it sounds, the Islamic State was very serious about their goal of establishing an "worldwide caliphate" demanding the allegiance of all Muslims to wage war against Christians, Jews and "apostates" (Muslims that don't pledge their fealty to them - including other radical groups) until the entire Earth was under their banner. Though their plan seemed unrealistic and they were crushed in the battlefield by The Alliance before even managing to collapse the governments of the areas they operated, their members were very enthusiastic about killing millions of people who agreed with democracy and didn't subscribe to their religious beliefs.
  • Team Switzerland:
    • As always, Oman serves this role among the Arab countries. They stubbornly take a neutral stance and indeed never wavers in it: they do not condemn the Syrian government for what they've done and decline to intervene in Yemen's civil war, becoming the only Gulf Cooperation Council member not to. At times, their attitude borders into either the Only Sane Man or Surrounded by Idiots. However, they do take in a few Yemeni refugees and the wounded.
  • Tunnel Network: Sophisticated and widespread tunnel networks were used by nearly all factions engaged in urban warfare resulting from the Arab Spring.
    • The Islamic State creates massive networks of tunnels in the cities it controls in order to avoid airstrikes by the US-led coalition or the Syrian and Iraqi airforces.
    • In northern Syria, the Kurdish factions use tunnels primarily to move around enemy positions and perform ambushes and retreats more effectively. Kurdish tunnel networks are deployed preemptively to avoid a situation like Kobani where the Kurds were forced into open battle in an urban environment with their backs against the wall, something that did not suit well with their skills in mountain-guerrilla tactics.
    • Syrian rebels use such networks to avoid government airstrikes and slow down ground offensives. They have also been known to dig tunnels underneath government positions and bases so that they can infiltrate them or blow them up.
    • Auxiliaries and paramilitaries supporting the Syrian and Iraqi armies use these mostly to get around entrenched snipers and gun nests, as they do not have access to reliable airstrikes.
    • Although much rarer, the Houthis and al-Qaeda in Yemen have been known to use tunnels to compensate for their lack of anti-air capabilities.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Faida Hamdi feels this way about herself. When she confronted Bouazizi and confiscated his cart, she could not have imagined how far reaching the consequences of her actions would be.
  • Urban Warfare: The Spring in general has become one of the primary examples of this type of conflict, running the gamut from riots and protests to running street battles with police and paramilitary units to WWII style sieges. Some of the longest sieges in modern military history have occured during this revolutionary wave.
  • Vehicular Turnabout: In the beginning, the rebels, whatever the country, started out with mere AK-47s and petrol bombs. Now? They drive the government's looted tanks and APCs....
  • Velvet Revolution: Despite the bad press the Arab Spring gets these days, most of the time, the protests actually resulted in this trope. Indeed, in places like Lebanon (with their garbage protests) and Iraq (with their anti-corruption protests) in 2015, that is still the case.

  • Delayed Reaction: When the Arab Spring first started in the middle east, Algeria was not unaffected. There had been protests. But the memory of the Algerian Civil War a decade before was quite fresh and no one wanted to tip things into chaos, so the protests remained civil, as did (relatively speaking) the government's reaction to them. It helped that Abdelaziz Bouteflika was essentially a figure of consensus among the various elites rather than someone who had a cult of personality (like Gaddafi) or represented and protected a specific minority (like Assad). He was also already quite elderly by then, so they figured he would quietly die or retire when his then-current term ended in 2014, a notion furthered by the stroke he had in 2013. When he ran and won again, people were not happy, but that was the same year neighboring Libya had fallen back into Civil War and they were once again reminded of the possible chaos that awaited them. They also continued to figure that Bouteflika would simply die from the stroke's complications or old age before the next election in 2019. 2019 then rolls around, and he again stands for election. This time, the people had enough, and the Spring came in to full force. In a matter of weeks, they forced him to renege on the promise to stand for yet another term. However, he also promised a constitutional convention with a vague timeline, prompting more protests, out of fear that the convention was meant to undermine the protesters somehow. In the face of continued protests, he finally stepped down with immediate effect two weeks later.
  • Vetinari Job Security: One of the biggest reasons the Spring initially passed over Algeria was due to this; there simply was no obvious successor to Bouteflika waiting in the wings, and there was a fear that the generals and other elites would create chaos in the ensuing power vacuum. This was an issue in 2010 and remains an issue in 2019, but with no obvious solutions cropping up in the intervening time.

  • Anti-Climax: The very prospect of having a chaotic revolution in a Persian Gulf country was a thing to behold and the world anxiously watched what would happen. In response, Hamad ibn Isa al Khalifa called his old friend Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz al Saud to help restore order. And then the revolution just sort of petered out.
  • Voluntary Vassal: Because of the demographic makeup of the island and the relatively small Bahraini Defense Forces not being equipped or experienced to deal with the uprising going on there, essentially became this for Saudi Arabia in order to safeguard the royal family's rule. Bear in mind, it was already this economically before the Spring, due to the lack of its own oil resources, but the uprising tightened the relationship.

  • Military Coup: Two of them. The first against President Mubarak leading to almost immediate elections that put in power President Morsi, and then the second one, which led to military rule.
  • Revolving Door Revolution: Started under a military dictatorship, then went under an Islamist government, now it's back under a military dictatorship.
  • Uniqueness Value:
    • Egypt is actually rather special among the Arab nations for being a non-tribal society. And even though there is a large religious minority in the form of the Coptic Christians, their long history and Egypt's cosmopolitan nature has mostly smoothed over relations between them and the majority Sunni adherents. However, even though they were immune to the usual Divide and Conquer techniques used on their fellow Arab societies, the people of Egypt still had stark political differences between one another, born out of the very same uniqueness. You see, Egypt views itself as the great lynchpin of Arab civilization, and indeed many have long observed "As goes Egypt, so goes the Middle East". It is no surprise, therefore, that the Arab Spring only began in earnest region-wide when Egypt caught the revolutionary wave started in Tunisia.
    • Speaking of their political differences, this sense of Egyptian exceptionalism led their intelligentsia to look toward Turkey, their rival and former imperial overlord with whom they viewed as their intellectual equal. Just as in Turkey, the military in Egypt became the guardian of the same ethnicity-centered, secularist ideology that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk espoused (incidentally, this is what led to the rise of Baathism in the rest of the Arab World throughout the Cold War). However, Egypt was also the heart of Sunni Islamic theology since the medieval era, at al-Azhar. Just as the military saw themselves as the guardian of one path for Egypt, so did devout Egyptians see themselves as guardians of the idea that Egypt was second only to Mecca in importance for Islam, and also looked to Turkey for guidance by example...but of the Ottoman era, not Atatürk. In short, these polar opposite paths for Egypt's future, having already mostly overcome the same social issues as other Arab states, have increased tension against each other for decades, leading to the above trope.

  • Big Damn Heroes: A combination of US airstrikes and YPG ground troops was instrumental in rescuing a large number of Yazidis who were stranded on Mount Sinjar and facing extermination by the Islamic State.
  • Darkest Hour: The Islamic State’s offensive in the summer of 2014 which saw mass executions across their territories, the expulsion of Mosul’s Christians, the Yazidi genocide, the end of the Kurdish economic boom, and a real possibility that Iraq would collapse.
  • The Dreaded: The Hashd al-Shaabi are seen as this by the Sunni-populated areas. Likewise, Daesh for the Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad, the Christians in Mosul and the Yazidis of Mount Sinjar.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In 2014, many outside observers had written Iraq off as a failed state, going as far as to suggest that Iraq had effectively ceased to exist. By the end of 2017, the Iraqi Government has taken back nearly all its lands from IS and has even managed to assert authority over disputed cities such as Kirkuk. The sense of national unity among Iraqis (sans many Kurds who remain bitter over the events in Kirkuk) also seems to be stronger than it was in 2014. Admittedly it is a Bittersweet Ending due to lingering issues of reconstruction, reconciliation and corruption. However, even a Bittersweet Ending can be deemed a high-point compared to the Darkest Hour that was 2014.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Mosul used to be one of the most tolerant areas in Iraq where Sunnis, Shias, Yazidis and Christians lived side by side. When Daesh arrived, the non-Sunnis were horrified to see their own neighbors assisting them and even after Mosul has been liberated by the Iraqi government, they still nurture resentment of them (regardless if they legitimately intended to exterminate them or were strong armed into doing it).
  • Final Solution: The Islamic State aimed to erase the identities of the territories they operated by suplanting it with their radical version of Salafi Islam via ethnic cleansing and forced conversions of "infidels" like Assyrian Christians, Shia Muslims and the Yazidis (whom they have singled out as their most hated victim).
  • Former Regime Personnel: A great number of high-ranking Islamic State members were former members of Saddam Hussein's government. Lots of speculation abounds on whether they have become "true believers" or are just out to get their lost power back.
  • Kangaroo Court: The Iraqi government has engaged in very swift trials to captured prisoners, which were described as 10-minute hearings without any chance of leniency, with the concerns that many of them were forced or strong armed to join the terrorists such as jihadi brides, medical staff and other members. There are worries that these show trials could further stigmatize the Iraq Sunnis in the region.
  • Mark of Shame: When Mosul was seized by the Islamic State, their members painted Christians and Shiite Muslims houses with the letters "N" and "R" in Arabic respectively. The former means Nassarah or "Nazarene", an historical term applied not only to Christians but Westerners in general which IS uses as a slur, and the latter stands for Rafidah or "Rejecter", an slur directed at Shiites because they regard the first Sunni caliphs as usurpers.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: The reason why the Islamic State became as powerful as it did in Iraq. The Sunni Muslims whom they ruled over were sick of being marginalized by the majority Shia-government in Baghdad since Saddam Hussein's fall and wanted anything that did not involve them.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the senior-most Shi'a Muslim cleric in Iraq, has always avoided politics and generally preached for reconciliation. His call to arms (which resulted with the formation of the Hashd al-Shaabi) was a sign for many Iraqis that the situation had gotten really bad.
  • Propaganda Machine: A major feature of IS which surprised a number of Western media outlets was their modern propaganda apparatus, with slickly produced viral videos to recruit foreign Muslims to come join them.
    • The Islamic State was engaged in a charm offensive around Anbar and Ninevah for at least a full year before their 2014 offensive, going to great lengths to earn the regions’ support. It is telling that prior to 2014; even some of the Christians in Mosul had a good opinion of them compared to the government in Baghdad.
    • Once the violent executions and sexual slavery advertisement became part of their recruitment tool, the support for them plummeted and even some of their own members argued online that such practices like enslaving Yazidis were not real, only to be rebuked by their propagandists.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: The Sunni protesters on the 2011 movement went to great lengths to avoid antagonizing the government, lest they invite accusations of Ba'athism or Jihadism. The government accused them of such anyway. More extreme groups used this to justify an insurgency. And this trope was soon replaced by another one.
  • Revolving Door Revolution: The locals of Anbar and Ninevah supported the Islamic State in hopes that it would protect them from a government they felt was corrupt and sectarian. They probably did not imagine how bad things would get.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Sunnis, Shias, Kurds and Turkmen don’t get along. And among the Shia, Da'wa, ISCI and the Sadrists have many differences in opinion. But until the Islamic State is gone, they need to work with each other.

  • Balkanize Me: As of 2019, Libya is divided into two rival governments: the western, internationally-recognized but unelected Tripoli government (run by the Government of National Accord) and the unrecognized but elected eastern Tobruk government (run by the House of Representatives). Despite being unrecognized, Tobruk rules over the most territory and commands the greatest loyalty, thanks initially to it's relative legitimacy as the last elected government of Libya before the current civil war, and nowadays to Khalifa Haftar being a no-nonsense general who takes no shit from anyone, while Tripoli has to deal with various gangs and small town councils who see the government as mere figurehead of the UN but also gets more revenue due to their international recognition.
  • Calling Your Attacks: What eventually got Muammar Gaddafi overthrown, when he announced to Libya and the world that he would massacre any who stood against him in Benghazi and everywhere else. That had acted as the catalyst the UN needed to authorize a no fly zone and have NATO carry out an aerial intervention.
  • Civil War: The first one of the several that have resulted from the Arab Spring. As of 2019, the conflict between the biggest players is de facto put on hold, with attention now paid to defeating the gangs who control small cities across Western and Southern Libya.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Gaddafi was so notoriously daffy (his one and only appearance at the UN a few years before he was overthrown needs to be seen to be believed) as a persona that the observers in the west actually found his reactions to the protests funny. Then came a speech made famous by Youtube, when NATO in particular took his threats to sack Benghazi seriously. However, in the years after the war, many of his loyalists (or those who simply don't like the current situation in Libya) have started to say that The Cuckoolander Was Right.
  • Confusion Fu: At the onset of the civil war when the protest was showing signs of becoming an insurgency, the Libyan Armed Forces made sound, strategic calculations on what assets to protect and where the rebels were likely to be operating. Unfortunately for them, the rebels were a disorganized, chaotic mess attacking targets that made no sense to attack and just being generally unpredictable. This ended up working to their advantage, preventing the armed forces from predicting their movements and crushing them long enough for the rebellion to gain momentum.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: During the initial war against Muammar Gaddafi, as well as the civil conflict that broke out between rival sides thereafter, there wasn't much difference between them in practice. Without his air force, grounded by NATO, Gaddafi's troops only had their green flag to distinguish them from the rebels, who flew the flag of the old monarchy. At present, the rival regimes in Libya differ only in that one is based in Tripoli and the other is based in Benghazi.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Muammar Gaddafi, when he was finally captured and already injured from an airstrike just moments before, was beaten and yelled at by the rebels and forced to plea for his life before he was executed with his own gun without trial. He was then put on display for days in a meat locker.
  • Elite Mooks: Besides Muammar Gaddafi's female bodyguards, there's also the infamous "Khamis Brigade" named after one of his sons.
  • Emergency Presidential Address: The famous "Zenga Zenga" speech he issued in response to the initial protests.
  • "Get Back Here!" Boss: After the fall of Tripoli when Muammar Gaddafi fled, the war effort to sweep up the remaining resistance from that point on was just as importantly an effort to chase down Gaddafi before he escaped/regrouped.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The rest of the world really got physically involved in the 2011 uprising after Muammar Gaddafi started threatening to blow passenger jets out of the sky if the UN didn't butt out, resulting other countries actively helping the rebels' attempt to bring him down.
    • Doubly so, since Libya has been accused of this before.
    • He was reportedly fearful of military coups against him and deliberately kept his army weak to prevent this.
  • Just the First Citizen: Muammar Gaddafi's excuse for not leaving power when the protests first started.
  • Kill It with Fire: During the war he rounded up several dozen of his opponents in a cell and executed them with grenades.
  • Large Ham: Muammar Gaddafi. It was sort of his calling card.
  • Last Disrespects: Once the rebels killed Muammar Gaddafi, they did not immediately bury him, per Islamic tradition. Instead they laid his body out in the middle of a meat freezer (alongside one of his sons who had been killed with him), without bothering to remove his blood stained clothes or clean him up. Then they invited journalists and random onlookers from around the world to take as many photos as they wished.
  • Last Stand: Benghazi, just before the NATO intervention.
  • Last Villain Stand: After the brigade in charge of defending Tripoli surrendered without a fight, Muammar Gaddafi was considered an Anticlimax Boss for a time, until his remnant made their stand in his hometown of Sirte, where they resisted the rebels for nearly a month. He was killed as the city fell.
    • The loyalists sure put up one helluva fight - according to That Other Wiki, the total number of rebel casualties is six times higher than that of the loyalists. And the loyalists were greatly outnumbered, too (1,000-5,000 vs. 16,000 rebels).
  • Mouth of Sauron: Moussa Ibrahim was Muammar Gaddafi's chief spokesman, and often briefed the international media during most of the conflict, only disappearing when Tripoli itself fell, leaving those same reporters he used to brief every day at the mercy of the loyalist guards at the hotel, who held them hostage for days until the Red Cross negotiated their collective release.
  • Near-Villain Victory: His forces were at the outskirts of Benghazi before the NATO airforce showed up.
  • Path of Most Resistance/Revealing Cover Up: Making headways into Sirte with no sign of Muammar Gaddafi, the rebels begun speculating that he might have already left the country. And then they stumbled on a loyalist safehouse that put up a much tougher fight.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Bureaucratized: After Muammar Gaddafi's fall, the National Transitional Council (consisting mostly of dissidents and intellectuals and ex-bureaucrats) tried to stabilize the situation, with only limited and distant support from the very nations that brought it to power, and even less support from the rebel groups distrustful of any authority. The result was this, leading to Libya's current situation.
  • Small Town Rivalry: The post-Gaddafi era of Libya has, broadly, been defined by the rivalry between the cities of Tripoli (Libya's capital and largest city, located in the west) and Benghazi (birthplace of the revolution and largest city in the east). The city of Misrata, third largest in Libya, is sometimes counted as a seperate player, as are the non-Arab tribal towns in the far south of the country. It is this rivalry that has led to the resumption of hostilities within Libya as Tripoli seeks to reimpose its will while Benghazi fights for local automony and federalization of the country and Misrata fights merely for its own interests, usually teaming up with Tripoli when it suits them.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: In order to prevent this, Muammar Gaddafi's body was not buried in his home town of Sirte, as per the family's wishes, but at a random location in the desert somewhere.
  • The Siege: The city of Misrata, third largest in Libya, was under siege by Muammar Gaddafi's forces for most of the war. Not only was it one of the most iconic events of the war itself (with many comparisons to the likes of Stalingrad at the time), but the rebels breaking of that siege was the turning point of the whole war, with Gaddafi on the retreat from then on.
  • Sanity Slippage: Just when the world thought the guy couldn't get any crazier, Muammar Gaddafi started ranting about the uprising against him by his own people being fueled by Zionist agents, imperialist foreign powers and LSD, note while accusing the Western countries of orchestrating the whole thing in an insidious plot to destroy Libya's air conditioners.
    • This was just the tip of the iceberg for this trope. The more his power slipped, the more his sanity devolved. Many dictators get hit by this pretty hard when their power is threatened, and Gaddafi just fell significantly faster than most.
    • Of particular interest is the speech he gave while sitting in a broken car in a blown up building holding an umbrella, a large part of which was him commenting on the rain. No, we don't get it either.
    • After being deposed, he issued an epic rant which just screams this trope. In it he made three very conflicting points at once, including basically saying "fuck you" to Libya while encouraging them to rise up and rebel against the, well, rebels.

  • Military Coup: How Bashir was eventually ousted was through a classic step by step approach of a military coup: The army took over the streets, the ministers and the president himself were arrested, and then they put in place a junta to run things for the next two years. The public were happy to see the back of Bashir but were otherwise unimpressed out of fear of seeing a Full-Circle Revolution, and continued protesting.
  • Dystopian Edict: Any coverage by any journalist (Sudanese or not) of the protests was punishable by life imprisonment. This made reporting on the situation initially scarce, but over time various major news agencies, particularly from the outside (since they at least had the option of their respective governments coming to rescue them diplomatically) imbedded themselves among the protesters and the picture became clearer and clearer right up until Omar al-Bashir was ousted by the military.

  • Aggressive Negotiations: In what was known as "Kneel Or Starve", Bashar al-Assad would surround a rebellious neighborhood or town, pummel them with artillery, and prevent any food from getting in or any people from getting out...until the rebels in question, starving and no longer able to fight, surrendered. Sometimes the rebels (without weapons) would be allowed to leave, and sometimes they'd be locked up instead. This tactic was later used by the rebels themselves, whenever they'd takeover a loyalist or IS-held town. The UN has since declared the practice a war crime.
  • The Alliance: One involving Iran and Russia and Assad on the government's side, Turkey on the rebels' side, and the West on the Kurds. Each view the other as actually being the makings of The Empire instead.
  • Amazon Brigade:
    • The Syrian Kurdish militias have made it a point to show that a LOT of their fighters are women. They fight in their own units as well as with the men. Female Yazidis and Assyrian Christians have also taken up arms to avenge the abuse endured by their people - specially women and girls - committed by IS. To make this even sweeter, IS soldiers are terrified of being killed by any female soldiers because they believe they won't get to paradise.
    • Surprisingly, IS themselves employed their own with the Al-Khansaa Brigade, which was all-female morality police that operated in their capital Raqqa to enforce their version of Islamic law and punish those that break it very brutally. According to former members interviewed by journalists, they were formed by IS give something useful for jihadi brides to do. They were rather unique for an Islamic terrorist organization, since they employed and trained women that were completely indocrinated into their ideology and having a level of independence that women normally don't have in such territories, like being allowed to drive and carry weapons.
  • And Then What?: What led to the Free Syrian Army's downfall. They were a loose coalition of several different ideologies that were united by their opposition to Assad, just like the Afghan mujhadeen against the Soviet Union. They never truly thought out what kind of government should take place in the case Assad was overthrow and with the rise of the Islamic State, more radical elements in the FSA ended up defecting to it since they viewed it as a more palatable to their Sunni interests, and as a result the FSA entered in decline.
  • Balkanize Me:
    • During the height of the war (2014), Syria was carved into no less than four territories controlled by separate governments. The Assad government was the most unified and was based to the south and west; the Kurds, who rallied around a common ethnicity, was based to the north; the rebels, who never had a common ground and frequently fought each other, control disunited territories to the north and south; and IS, who was comparatively unified but hated by everyone else.
    • Even in 2019, with the war having entered its final stages, Syria still suffers this, albeit not as severe. The rebels are reduced to a territory in the northwestern border with Turkey, encompassing parts of Aleppo, Idlib (including the titular city), Hama, and Latakia governorates, but they also vie their control with the Islamist Tahrir al-Sham. They also have a refugee enclave near the border with Jordan and Iraq in Homs governorate. The Kurds administer parts of Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor, and Hasakah governorates (the former two albeit without the titular cities). The rest is controlled by the Assad government.
  • Better the Devil You Know: Ethnic and religious minorities of Syria put up with Bashar al-Assad not because they have any love for him, but because they fear they will be systematically persecuted by a Sunni-majority regime. It helps that Assad is technically also a part of them (he is an Alawite). This is increasingly the attitude of the international community towards Assad. Eventually, even the Kurds, who were once a major opponent of the government, have started to rethink their position about them, mostly in the face of Turkey.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: The small pro-Opposition group Harakat al-Qiyam should be impossible to take seriously, what with their tendency to post in all-caps, their ridiculous videos featuring crude photoshop art and western pop music and their You No Take Candle style statements. But they have been incredibly effective against the SDF at times, have a tendency to return Back from the Dead, are incredibly violent and are commonly viewed as being backed by Turkish intelligence. Might be a case of Obfuscating Stupidity.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: When Bashar al-Assad took over his father Hafez's role as Syria's president, everyone thought he'd reform the government and make it democratic. At first he did. He also was a lot less antagonistic toward his own people, so it was assumed when the Spring began there, that'd he'd buckle immediately (he was popular enough that people weren't calling for his ouster initially, just reform) and Syria would go the path of Algeria. Sadly, he proved that just because he wasn't a Large Ham like Muammar Gaddafi, who had fallen around the time the revolt in Syria began in earnest, didn't mean he wasn't as (and, as history has shown, more) dangerous than the Libyan dictator.
    • Syria itself was viewed as something of a Hufflepuff House in the region before the war. It certainly was involved in regional politics and had a colourful history of its own but its affairs were often overshadowed by the politics of Iraq, Turkey, Israel/Palestine or Iran. Few people expected the war to have such a massive international impact.
  • Burn Baby Burn: In an effort to hide exactly how many bodies they've accumulated from their activities in Sednaya Prison, the regime has constructed a giant crematorium to dispose of them.
  • Civil War: And one of the most brutal ones in recent memory, with at least 300,000 dead and 11 million chased out of their homes (and half of THEM are now refugees elsewhere).
  • Colonel Badass: All sides have invoked this trope to some extent, attempting to portray well-known military figures as paragons of military virtue. Loyalist General Suheil al-Hassan seems to play to this most consciously though, mixing it with Good-Looking Privates and Rated M for Manly.
  • Curse: The so-called "Assad Curse", borne out of Memetic Mutation, is viewed as one by Assad supporters. The idea is that any public figure who says "Assad must go" will suffer some sort of calamity unrelated (directly) to Assad but costing them their career or even life.
    • Among the examples are David Cameron and Ahmet Davutoğlu, both of whom resigned as a result of political machinations backfiring while Hilary Clinton ended up losing the 2016 election. And although King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died of old age, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi suffered a far grislier death.
    • They also count politicians whose terms ended naturally but found the parties they represent suffer political defeats, as is the case with Barack Obama and the Democratic Party and François Hollande and the Socialist Party.
    • Erdoğan, so far, remains the only notable outlier, but he too had some close calls on his career and his life.
    • The most infamous example of this was US senator John McCain who declared in 2011 that Assad would be the next to die after Qadafi's death, only to be diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017 and would die an year later.
  • Deadly Gas: The war has seen the use of sophisticated chemical weapons on a scale unseen since perhaps the Iran-Iraq War.
    • An unknown party used deadly Sarin nerve gas in August of 2013, prompting the international community to force Bashar al-Assad (the prime suspect as to who perpetrated the attack) to relinquish his chemical arsenal. This, unfortunately, hasn't stopped most factions from creating and using simpler and cruder chemical weapons, like chlorine and mustard gas.
    • It happened again in April 2017 when a Sarin attack took place in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib. Once again, Assad was held as the prime culprit and yet again, conflicting evidence by all sides muddied the waters as to who really was responsible.
  • Depopulation Bomb:
    • Non-fatal example. 6 million Syriansnote  have emigrated from the country, bringing the population down from the 2011 high of 24 million to the current (as of 2019) 18 million. Many urban centers, particularly those that frequently changed hands, are now virtual ghost cities, since most of the emigrating population came from these places.
    • Within the country itself, both the government and rebels move when their areas fall to the other side, bringing their families with them. After Russia entered the war, there has been a steady trickle of rebels entering Idlib governorate, the last safe bastion of rebels. Before the war, the governorate had 1.4 million people. Now there are 2.9 million.
  • Desert Warfare: Unlike the verdant coast, much of central and eastern Syria is made of deserts, collectively called the Syrian Desert (Badia al-Sham). This actually came to bite the government forces in the ass: After training in the Mediterranean climate for years due to expecting a war with Israel, it did not have any Home Field Advantage in the vast deserts of the inland.
  • Elite Mooks: Hezbollah and the Iranian Quds Force for Bashar al-Assad, former Saddam Hussein-era Iraqi military and Chechen militants for IS, and Al-Qaeda for most of the rest of the rebels.
  • Enemy Mine: All parties involved in the conflict have been accused of collaborating with each other at one time or another. Sometimes this meant ganging up on a third party, other times, it was to trade for basic necessities like food and electricity. Usually ended with You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.
    • This is what brought the Daesh to power in Raqqa. First it teamed up with all rebel groups to oust the government forces. Then it teamed with Jihadi factions to oust the moderates. Then it turned on the other Jihadi factions.
    • Some rebel factions have been known to team up with others to launch attacks on the government or Daesh forces, only to split from the offensive and leave the others to their mercy. This has taken place often in Hama and Damascus' Ghouta District.
    • Eastern Qalamoun Mountains were the only region where the FSA and the Syrian Government forces cooperated against Daesh. In early 2017, the FSA made large gains against the Daesh in the region, threatening to link up with the rebels in the Syrian Desert. Realising the balance of power had shifted, government forces went on the offensive against the FSA.
  • Exploding Barrels: One notable tactic of the war has been the Syrian Air Force's use of metal drums packed to the brim with explosives and shrapnel and then dropped on a populated area as a poor man's unguided bomb.
  • Game Changer:
    • Russia, period. Put it simply, in 2015, the government was still fiercely resisting IS in the desert, leaving the rebels and the Kurds to mind their own business. Then Russia entered the war and suddenly IS is gone, the rebels are beaten to submission or forced to head northwest, and the Kurds are reorganizing and flirting with the idea to rejoin the government.
    • On a lesser case, Turkey is this. After Russia changed the war landscape, the revolution is bound to go down swiftly, but they intervened and managed to stave off the rebels somewhat, albeit it's uncertain for how long they are willing to do it.
  • Gambit Pileup: On the geopolitical side, every major power involved has stubbornly followed its own strategy in the war to the exclusion of the rest, leading to this trope, with the further possibility (even if still remote) of escalating into something worse.
  • Genghis Gambit: Assad has repeatedly tried this. His first attempts were by opening up his prisons holding suspected jihadis in the beginning stages of the civil war, in the hope they would form their own group. That it had Gone Horribly Right is an understatement here. Once Daesh (and a stronger Al Qaeda) were around, Assad would then deliberately ignore them so that they would get stronger, hoping the rebels would fight them instead. This was only partly successful. Once the Russians became involved, this practice ended.
  • Government in Exile: Technically has one, called the Syrian National Council, but no one has really paid them any heed since it became clear early on that negotiations would be fruitless and the SNC had no connection to (or loyalty of) any rebel forces in the field.
  • Graffiti of the Resistance: The start of the Spring in Syria is attributed to a brutal overreaction of Assad's security forces to a bunch schoolkids spraying pro-Spring graffiti in Daraa, and the resulting ire of the public. They became the collective icons of the uprising that followed, which soon devolved into the brutal civil war it is today.
  • Hellhole Prison: Sednaya Prison, located in a suburb of Damascus. In February 2017, Amnesty International estimated that anywhere between 5000 and 13,000 people were executed there between 2011 and 2015. The description of the conditions there reads almost word for word like the trope's description.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: General Suheil al-Hassan is widely considered to be The Ace of the Syrian Army and has been credited with turning the tide of many battles even though he wields little political power compared to the likes of Maher al-Assad. There are signs that this is changing.
  • Mexican Standoff: The Siege of Aleppo in 2016 devolved into this when the government and rebel forces simultaneously besieged each-others' holdouts in the city. Some analysts have actually referred to the trope by name.
  • Name's the Same: Given the sheer abundance of factions across the region, this sometimes happens.
    • In late-2017, a Sunni Jihadist rebel group by the name of Ansar al-Furqan announced its formation. Much confusion ensued not only because nothing else was known about the group but also because the group bore the same name as a Sunni Jihadist rebel group in Iran. Eventually, the Iranian group issued a statement claiming that it has no links whatsoever to the Syrian one.
    • There are two La Résistance GroupsNote  in Syria calling themselves "Popular Resistance". One is a pro-Opposition group in Daraa that cropped up after the loyalists took control of the area and has already conducted numerous attacks, the other is a pro-Government group that popped up in Kurdish areas and is mostly a nuisance than a genuine threat. They are often referred as "Popular Resistance in Daraa/Houran" and "Popular Resistance in the Eastern Regions" for conveniance.
    • Both Syria and Libya have a faction acronymised as SDF: The Syrian Democratic Forces and the Special Deterrence Force. The former is a full on faction while the latter is a counter-terror unit, so it is not too easy to get them mixed up. But it still causes confusion for those watching both countries.
    • Lets not get into all the rebel small rebel factions, especially jihadists. Any group calling itself something generic like Ansar al-Jihad will likely have a similarly-named counterpart elsewhere.
  • The Power of Friendship: In a very twisted way, this is what kept the Syrian government from collapsing through years of conflict. Despite ongoing detente, the West was quick to jump ship from Syria when the war broke out (as they had done with Libya prior). On the other hand, Russia and Iran have supported the government even at times when pulling away would have proven more beneficial for them. As a result, Vladimir Putin has become very popular among government's supporters in recent times. As recent events showed, this friendship has paid off; Bashar al-Assad is currently the biggest domestic power player in the war.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Because the war in Syria has gone on the longest of the Arab Spring conflicts, several personalities have made themselves well known to observers of this conflict, particularly in the pro-Assad and Kurdish camps, but the other factions have them as well. Generals Suheil al-Hassan and Issam Zahreddine for the Syrian Aran Army, Commander Abu Layla for the Syrian Kurds, and Abu Mohammad al-Julani of Jabhat al-Nusra (now renamed Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) among them. In Julani's case, this was deliberately invoked, appearing in videos with his face covered and his appearance unknown to all but his closest associates. This was likely done to avoid being tracked but it did make him a borderline-mythical figure.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: While the actions of Russia and the United States are based on important calculations and objectives and are quite serious (and deadly) in their effect on the situation on the Middle East in general and Syria in particular, the media in both countries has, with varying levels of glee, taken to depicting the Obama-Putin relationship in this manner because of the Syrian conflict.
  • Sixth Ranger: Turkey, consciously playing both sides, hating on Assad, but having a rocky relationship with the U.S. They initially opposed Russia, too, but after the July 2016 coup, they had warmed with them considerably. As of 2019, they are also the only major power supporting the rebels, the West having switched to backing the Kurds (and the US planning to get out entirely) and Russia loyally backing the government as ever.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Bashar al-Assad is notoriously softspoken and comes off as very cold in interviews, especially given the direction of the war these last few years.
  • Storming the Beaches: The Kurdish-led SDF, with the help of US special forces, made an amphibious landing across Lake Assad to pincer attack the Daesh-held Tabqa Dam that held back said lake.
  • Taking You with Me: A popular slogan among Bashar al-Assad's supporters is "Assad, or we burn the country". The implication being that should Assad fall from power, his followers will enact a scorched earth policy that denies the rebels even the most pyrrhic of victories. They have definitely shown themselves willing to follow through with this threat, with the relentless bombardment and starvation of anywhere that fell out of their influence regardless of the human cost.
  • Volcano Lair: Believe it or not, IS has one of these. Admittedly it is a dead volcano and isn't much to look at but the militants who took shelter there took full advantage of the cavernous and near-inhospitable terrain of the surrounding area to keep their enemies out.
  • War Refugees: Refugees of the Syrian Civil War are probably the most famous case today. While foreign media consistently reports them to seek a living in the West (and led to stubborn debates to put it charitably), most of them never actually leave the Middle East; Turkey hosts 3.5 million refugees, more than half of total, with the rest being hosted by either Lebanon or Jordan. Those hosted by Europe do not reach more than a million. The United States hosts less people (16,000) than Canada does (40,000).
  • We ARE Struggling Together:
    • The rebels, oh god the rebels. They actually had a reasonable chance to win very early in the war, as they had the support of the entire world at that point (save Bashar al-Assad and his allies of course). But they are horribly, horribly disunited: they have no common goal other than toppling Assad and no common ideology other than a vague "power at the hands of the majority" (i.e. the Sunni Arabs), which repulses the minorities and eventually the foreign governments backing them. Fast forward to eight years later and what's left of the rebels are huddling in a corner of Northwest Syria, their former territories having been plucked by the government and/or Kurds under the threat of death and their leaders and army becoming puppets of Turkey, who treats them as a pawn for their own interests.
    • Daesh's case is almost the same as the rebels, although their cause is clearer: to create a religious utopia. Nevertheless, it didn't stop them from falling from grace in a short period of time. To wit: despite the group's appeal for a pan-Islamic unity erasing any racial lines and that all members are equal, tensions rose between foreign volunteers and locals due to disputes over military status and war spoils such as women, cars, houses and food. Western members were often given high positions or greater rewards by the leaderships, while Syrians/Iraqi members resented the outsiders for co-opting their personal struggle and inability or unwillingness to cooperate with them. The locals initially believed the foreigners were true believers, highly educated and experienced, but it soon became clear to them that they were only fighting for their own glory and this lead to their unity to splinter and being exploited by their enemies.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Before the war, Bashar al-Assad and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were not just fellow heads of state but close friends, leading to the emergence of the affectionate meme "My Brother Bashar" that highlights the mild bromance the two leaders had. Five years on, the two are the among bitterest enemies of the war. It is hard to tell how Erdoğan feels about this but Assad's bitterness is obvious. Among the foreign backers of the rebellion, Erdoğan is the only person Assad labels a "psychopath" and a "maniac". One could make the World War II analogy that if Assad is Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Putin is Benito Mussolini on steroids, and Ali Khamenei/Hassan Rouhani are Hirohito and Hideki Tojo, then Erdoğan is Joseph Stalin (despite not killing, but jailing his opponents).
  • Whole Plot Reference: Many in the media are taking note of the increasing similarities between the proxy nature of this conflict and the one from the Spanish Civil War.
    • This may result in considerable Fridge Horror when we consider that the war in Spain was a testing ground for weapons used in World War II. If you follow that thread of logic, Syria may as well be a testing ground for...
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Pulled on the Syrian Democratic Forces (AKA the Kurds) by the United States under Trump at the end of 2018, within hours of the SDF seizing Daesh's last physical stronghold in Hajin on the Syria-Iraqi border, through an announcement that the US would pull out all their forces immediately. Due to the SDF being a target of neighboring Turkey (they are primarily led by the Kurdish PYD, an ally of the banned PKK seperatist group operating in Turkey just across the border), the only thing keeping the Turkish Army at bay was the US military contingent located there. With their withdrawal, in many peoples eyes (but especially the Kurds who had done the majority of the fighting and dying there), the announcement was tantamount to not only this trope, but also Betrayal by Inaction, and Cavalry Refusal. The decision, which shocked everyone, including most of the US government, led directly to the resignation of the US Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis. It also led to the Kurds attempting to directly open negotiations to reintegrate back into Bashar-Assad's government, after having only previously flirted with the idea.

  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Tunisia is thus far the only nation that went as far as to overthrow its pre-Spring government to actually come out okay without devolving into Civil War like Libya, Syria, or Yemen or going into Revolving Door Revolution like Egypt.
  • Icon of Rebellion: The death of one young merchant became the signal that started the revolt in Tunisia and then across the region.

  • Anarchy Is Chaos: The revolt against President Saleh distracted the military enough that there is now a four way war between Al-Qaeda, the Houthis, the Southern separatists, and the government.
  • Ash Face: Early in the uprising when Ali Abdullah Saleh was still president, someone tried to assassinate him with an explosion. It failed, but not before injuring him in such a way that many noted this trope when the first images of him post explosion came out. Before and after. Though it earned a chuckle from his enemies and neutral observers, it did require him months of therapy to heal.
  • Balkanize Me: As of 2019, Yemen is still partitioned into three separately-administered territories. The Houthi rebels control most major urban centers (including the capital Sana'a and port city Al Hudaydah) and mountainous regions in the west. The internationally-recognized Hadi government administers the south (including Aden, the country's second largest city) and eastern desert. Fundamentalists such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State rule over parts of Hadhramaut Governorate (although it's mostly just desert). Even within these territories, there are still divisions: the various fundamentalists obviously work separately, while the government is split between those supporting Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and Aidarus al-Zoubaidi, which represents the longtime division between North Yemen and South Yemen.
  • Book-Ends: Some thirty years ago, Ali Abdullah Saleh found himself elevated to political power thanks to the assassination of his predecessor and his ability to change allegiances with minimal repercussions. In 2017, he was assassinated by the Houthis after his latest scheme to shift his support from the Houthis to the Saudis backfired spectacularly.
  • Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards: Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi himself and his ministers are guarded by Emirati troops rather than his own army.
  • Defiant to the End: If you are a northerner in the south or a southerner in the north, do not expect to win over the locals unless you already agree with them. As a national cliche as well, Yemenis are known to be this to any outsider in general, which has made the Saudi strategy of trying to bomb them into submission backfire horribly.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: Due to the Saudi blockade of Yemen, both literal and economic, Yemen's banking system has seized up and therefore can no longer pay for food...or receive them even if they could. This has led to 19 of the 22 governorates food insecure and 10 of those at the brink of outright famine.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had a well known reputation in the region as a wild card who routinely betrayed any erstwhile ally who no longer suited his purpose, had decided to play that same card again with the Houthis who he had allied with at the start of the Yemeni Civil War. Unlike every other time he has tried that in the previous four or five decades of his political career however, the Houthis were on to him from the start, eventually leading to Saleh being Hoist by His Own Petard by getting himself executed for treason once he publically broke with the Houthi ranks and tried to join up with the Saudi coalition. His faction, afterwards, was too stunned for words beyond that of his sons vowing revenge.
  • Enemy Mine: Before his ouster from power Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthis had been at each others throats. After he lost the Presidency he allied with them, and brought the military units still loyal to him to fight for them, the results were their rapid advance across the country. The same can be described for Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi's loyalists and the southern seperatists, with the former only being able to stay on the battlefield because of the latter's willingness to fight, while the latter was only able to hold out because of the former's supplies and money.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Prime Minister (and Vice President) Khaled Bahah, from most reports, was considered more popular, more respected, and more competant than Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, his superior. Indeed, most saw him as a worthy successor to lead Yemen should the war ever conclude with the government still standing. Naturally, this irritated Hadi and led to a tense relationship between the two until Hadi finally and unceremoniously sacked Bahah in favor of a nameless pencil pusher as prime minister and Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar as vice president. The trope tends to apply to Mohsen as well, who is now more powerful than Hadi himself in practice. Former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, for his part, saw himself this way vis a vis the Houthis, but for once, he ended up being wrong, to fatal results for himself.
  • Middle Eastern Coalition: The Gulf Cooperation Council (consisting of the Gulf monarchies) created a Multinational Team of the regional militaries to assist the Hadi government and local anti-Houthi militias in the civil war. This task force numbers anything from 4,000 to 10,000 strong and, if successful, may lead to the formalization of this force to protect the Arabian Peninsula. Only Oman has opted out (while non-GCC members Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan have opted in).
  • The Plague: Though it is not uncommon for long-suppressed diseases to make a return to war torn regions, Yemen is unique among the nations affected by the Arab Spring in that it is, as of the summer of 2017, dealing with a cholera epidemic of a scale never seen in the world before, affecting (as of this writing) 200,000 people, with about 5,000 new cases a day and 1,200 confirmed deaths, a quarter of them children. With Yemen's medical system considered ramshackle at best before the war, it is now utterly non-existant, and as such the epidemic is unlikey to stop until the war (itself currently in stalemate) ends.
  • Puppet State: The Hadi gov't, even after Aden was liberated by the Saudis, still operates in exile from Riyadh. Indeed, one of the primary reasons the Houthis give for their rebellion (the others being anti-terrorism and anti-corruption) is that the government is this.
  • Revolving Door Revolution: The people overthrow Ali Abdullah Saleh and appoint Abdrabuuh Mansur Hadi. The Houthis then overthrow Hadi and appoint themselves. Then the Saudis attempt to displace the Houthis to reappoint Hadi again. And that's not even getting into the intentions of the southern seperatists or Al Qaeda.
  • The Rival: Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi's attempts to eliminate this possibility ended up either creating them or making the situation worse. First was the attempt to sideline General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, at the time the head of the First Military District that included all of former North Yemen. This led to Mohsen resigning and going into self-exile, allowing the army's loyalties (never really with Hadi) to wander toward their former boss, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and his new allies the Houthis. Second happened when Aden was secured by his Saudi backers. Within a few months, he fired his more popular and able prime minister, Khaled Bahah, appointing Mohsen in his place, leading to a further sinking to his popularity among the local populace. Thirdly was in 2017, when he fired Aidirous al-Zubaidi, the governor of Aden, whom he himself had appointed. Al-Zubaidi then proceeded to promptly turn around and declare his allegiance to the Southern seperatist movement, which he soon became leader of on account of promising to recreate South Yemen....and denouncing Hadi.
  • Rock Beats Laser: The Houthis in particular have managed to pull this off for years, even before the Spring, but they really showcased this when they managed (with help from Ali Abdullah Saleh, their former foe) to continue a massive advance into hostile southern Yemen while Saudi Arabia was bombarding almost no effect. It was only when the Saudis and Emiratis sent in their own troops into the fray that any headway was made at all.
  • The Quisling: What many, if not most, Yemenis view President Hadi as, especially since the Saudi intervention began.
    • Even his own supporters are only using him for resources (since he's the one getting money from the Saudis)
  • We ARE Struggling Together: What are normally called "pro-Hadi" or "loyalist" forces by the media actually comprise of several factions whose intentions are blatantly at cross purposes with one another. The representative faction, those loyal to President Hadi, have been mostly wiped out by the Houthis. The main local force involved with the "loyalists" are actually southern separatists. The tribes in the east and center are barely involved in the fighting at all, and are only considered loyalist because they have not taken an active side on the conflict...and those who have are now with AQAP. The Coalition of mostly foreigner militaries are the only faction keeping the "loyalists" in the fight. The tension between these entities is a major reason why they continue to lose against the more isolated Houthis. The Houthis themselves had to deal with this with regards to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his faction, eventually leading to their formal split and Saleh dead.

The Arab Spring in fiction:

    open/close all folders 

    Live-Action TV 
  • NCIS: Los Angeles:
    • The episode "Deadline" featured the team trying to track down a Libyan nationalist who was broadcasting pro-rebel television spots. Ironically, by the time the episode aired (October 11, 2011), Gaddafi had been overthrown two months earlier, and was killed a little more than a week later (October 20).
    • Another episode featured industrial espionage in the form of Turkey attempting to steal tech for communications satellites, apparently spurred on by fears the Arab Spring could spread to Turkey (they were hoping to derail such grassroots movements by interfering with communications).
  • The Castle episode "Pandora" states that Dr. Nelson Blakely's used his "linchpin theory" (finding a small event that will set dominoes falling on a larger one) to start the Arab Spring.
  • Madam Secretary references both sides of it repeatedly.
    • "Another Benghazi" deals with an uprising outside the US embassy in Yemen ending in a bombing, similar to the Benghazi attack except the ambassador is successfully extracted by Private Military Contractors hired by Liz.
    • "Catch and Release" prominently features an American-born member of Daesh, inspired by British-born Mohammed Emwazi.
    • "Sea Change" has the Tunisian ambassador guilt-trip Liz regarding the fact that the Tunisian revolution actually succeeded and the US is neglecting them; Liz and Dalton ultimately make plans to replace a storm-damaged naval base in Bahrain with one in Tunisia.

    Web Original 
  • An as-of-yet unpublished prequel to the YouTube series The Road Gypsy stars an inexperienced Francis Easton and Cecil Banning as they travel to Egypt just before the uprising, then find themselves trying to get out before they are killed.

Alternative Title(s): Middle East Uprising 2011, Arab Spring


Example of: