Syrian Ismailis and the Arab Spring

21st May 2018


The effects of the Arab Spring on Syrian Ismailis is described by Wadham tutor and lecturer Dr Otared Haidar in a new book Middle Eastern Minorities and the Arab Spring: Identity and Community in the Twenty-First Century.

  • Dr Otared Haidar

    Dr Otared Haidar

Her chapter, Syrian Ismailis and the Arab Spring: Seasons of Death and White Carnations, provides an internal and comprehensive view of the Syrian Ismailis during the events of ‘Arab Spring’ that influenced and transformed their lives, and explores the challenges and prospects for them in particular and for Syria in general.

Dr Haidar describes the initial celebration of early demonstrations at Salamiya, which gave a civil, peaceful and secularized edge to the overall picture of the Arab Spring mobilization, in order to present a narrative for Western media and politicians.

These portrayals were soon edited out from media stories when the uprising started to consolidate itself as an Islamic uprising.

“The three years that followed subjected the Syrian Ismailis to a great deal of suffering and horror and turned their localities into daily targets for offences and atrocities,” commented Dr Haidar.

In the middle of the ongoing war, Salamiya and the Ismailis showed that what appeared to many as standing silent on the side-lines was a conscious divergence from standardized patterns of political activism.

“This cultural model could provide an inspirational source for civic education and national peace-building in the post-war period,” added Dr Haidar.

Edited by K. Scott Parker & Tony E. Nasrallah, Middle Eastern Minorities and the Arab Spring: Identity and Community in the Twenty-First Century examines eleven minority groups in the early years of the so-called Arab Spring. Wide-ranging in scope, minorities of diverse religious and ethno-linguistic backgrounds are included from North Africa, the Levant, and the Arabian Peninsula. Each has experienced the Arab Spring differently and uniquely depending upon their context. Of particular concern to the international team of scholars involved in this volume, is the interaction and reaction of minorities to the protest movements across the Arab World that called for greater democratic rights and end to respective autocratic regimes.

While some minorities participated in the Arab Spring, others were wary of instability and the unintended effects of regime change – notably the rise of violent Islamism. The full effects of the Arab Spring will not be known for years to come, but for the minorities of the Middle East, the immediate future seems certainly tenuous at best.