Middle East Scholar Dr. Bassam Haddad Shares New Insights on 2011 Syrian Uprising

240325 GUQ Talk by Bassam Haddad-11

Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) hosted leading scholar Dr. Bassam Haddad for a series of engaging exchanges on lessons emerging from the Syrian conflict, the war on terrorism, and sociopolitical issues currently shaping the Middle East region. 

Dr. Haddad, the Founding Director of the Middle East and Islamic Studies Program and Associate Professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, shared ongoing research from his new book, Understanding The Syrian Tragedy: Regime, Opposition, Outsiders.

He examined the transformation of the Syrian revolution from a legitimate civil uprising in 2011, to a complex political stalemate. “Almost thirteen years after the start of the Syrian uprising, Syria finds itself embattled, divided, and impoverished with no positive end in sight,” he said, referring to the situation as a persisting “calamity” with a heavy humanitarian toll for Syrians across the political spectrum. “More than any other case of mass uprisings in the region, [it] continues to be shrouded in political power plays and contradictions at the local, regional, and international levels.”

Syria’s various external supporters and allies in subsequent years contributed to the confusion, he said, pointing out that the disparate interests of these state and non-state actors, and the transactional nature of their support often prioritized a specific balance of power over the underlying principles of the revolution.

“During the first three to five years after 2011, the uprising in Syria was transformed from a democratic protest against dictatorship to a regional and international proxy war with multiple attempts to redraw the political and territorial map of the entire region, not just Syria,” explained Dr. Haddad.

An unintended outcome has been the militarization and radicalization of the conflict, as well as the disillusionment of the original activists and revolutionaries. Despite protests in select cities like Sweida, he reasoned that the Syrian protesters lack the strength to improve conditions, and even external actors such as Russia, Iran, and the US are unable or unwilling to intervene any longer. “The situation is quite bleak, and the best option is for the Syrian economy to improve, which we can see signs of here and there, but it’s likely to take a long time,” he concluded. 

Dr. Haddad’s week-long engagement with the GU-Q community has included a screening of his seminal 2007 documentary Arabs and Terrorism and a discussion of contemporary themes with faculty and students, moderated by Abdullah Al-Arian, Associate Professor of History. Students are benefiting from his scholarly work on the region during classroom visits and a workshop on Media, Knowledge Production, and the Middle East: The Case of Palestine, jointly presented with visiting professor Noura Erakat.