The debate over how governments deal with peaceful and violent protests is a never-ending one. Now, after the Arab spring, the topic has become ever more relevant. During the uprisings, governments and dictators used a variety of methods to stop protests. Many governments used violence against the protesters in a bid to crush them instantly. In some cases such as Syria and Libya, protesters became stronger and the conflicts developed into a civil war. But, what are the correct procedures governments should use when dealing with protests? The United Nations recommends “peaceful and political solutions to all conflict” and believe that “dialogue and compromise are a better alternative to violence”. Extreme examples of violent protests have occurred throughout the Middle East in recent years, with Syria being one of the most impacted. Although protests in Syria began peacefully, many citizens became frustrated that the government was not listening. Inevitably, this caused a resort to violence. At nearly every demonstration, police and secret police were on hand to disperse crowds. In some instances, protesters were beaten by police and arrested. As these demonstrations continued and became more frequent, so did the violence. Police used new methods such as tear gas to disband protesters. Eventually, in a series of protests that saw tens of thousands of people take to the streets across Syria, the Syrian army fired live ammunition at the demonstrators. Hundreds were killed. Since the conflict began in 2011, it has escalated into a civil war which is still taking place today. The Syrian government chose to counteract protesters with extreme violence. Of course this has had an extremely negative effect on the country and its people, but also the government. Perhaps if the government stopped its violent methods, the conflict would be resolved today. Libya is another example of governments using violence to deal with protesters. There were many reasons for the protests, one of which was delays of housing units. At first the Libyan government responded peacefully by investing 20 billion euros in housing and development, however this did not settle protesters who wanted more freedom in the country as well as demanding the release of Jamal al- Hajji who first organised protests. Photo By: Sharif and Maysam The protests became more frequent with the military eventually intervening, shooting into crowds of peaceful protesters. Like Syria, war in Libya became inevitable. The anti-governmental rebels became more powerful and the country erupted into civil war. In both cases, Libya and Syria, the government used extreme force in an attempt to stop protesters. Both ended in civil war. It isn’t just Arab countries that have seen protests in recent years. In the United States a movement named: “Occupy Wall Street” began in September of 2011. The main goal of the movement was to pressure the government to balance peoples’ income fairly and provide better jobs for the country’s citizens. The organizers of “Occupy Wall Street” made it clear that the protest was to be entirely peaceful. Although this promise was mostly kept to by demonstrators, there were a few incidents of arrest. In one case, protesters set out to walk across Brooklyn Bridge. Permission was given as long as they kept to the pavement. When it came to the march, however, many strayed into the road, resulting in over 700 arrests. From the uprisings in Syria and Libya it is clear that governments using violence against protesters only makes situations worse. The United Nations still recommends peaceful negotiations as opposed to violence.
By: Toby Gould
Photos by: Maysam Al Ani and Sharif