BEIRUT – The violence unleashed in Arab countries in the last four years may turn out to be just a first taste of what is to come. Escalating brutality and the actions of governments have put Arab citizens under immense pressure. Without a change of course, the outcome could easily be further conflict and a new wave of uprisings – this time not peaceful.
Not since the end of World War I have Arab countries undergone such a momentous upheaval. Conflict has broken out in no fewer than nine Arab countries, and the carnage has reached unimaginable levels of inhumanity. Tensions are mounting even in countries that are nominally at peace. Long-standing value systems are weakening, and once-solid societal foundations are crumbling.
Fighting in Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen has torn apart entire communities. Ethnic cleansing perpetuated by the Islamic State has reversed centuries of religious, ethnic, and cultural intermingling, and pushed close to two million people from their homes.
Indeed, although the Middle East and North Africa is home to just 5% of the world’s population, it has produced more than one-third of its refugees. In Syria alone, 11 million people have been forcibly displaced within and outside the country.