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Aarti Panchal asked: Why Syria’s membership was suspended by the Arab League? What were the specific reasons that led to it?

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  • Md. Muddassir Quamar replies: After the Arab Spring protests started in Syria in February 2011, first in the southwestern town of Dara’a but soon spreading to major cities like Homs, Hamaa and Damascus, the Syrian regime used force to control the situation. The crackdown and arrests further infuriated the already alienated youth who were leading the protests. This led to serious escalation as the government called in the army to stabilise the situation. The armed opposition decided to fight back causing serious surge in casualties. Members of the Arab League who were also facing similar situation at home were wary of the problems in Syria spreading to other parts and called for resolution, urging the Bashar al-Assad regime to show restraint and shun violence. The situation, however, continued to deteriorate leading to increased calls from major Arab countries, especially the Gulf States, for finding a solution. On November 02, 2011, the Arab League passed a Peace Plan for Syria and asked the Syrian Government to implement the plan calling for immediate halt of violence and release of political prisoners.

    On November 11, 2011, in a meeting of Arab League ministers, the resolution to suspend Syria’s membership from the League was passed by a majority vote. Of the 22 member countries that participated in the deliberations, 19 voted in favour of the suspension, while two, Yemen and Lebanon, voted against, and Iraq chose to abstain. Syria at the time insisted that it has been implementing the proposed peace plan and that the crackdown on opposition groups has been halted while 500 political prisoners have also been released. However, the Syrian argument did not cut much ice with the Arab leaders who had been contemplating action under growing international pressure and appeals from opposition groups in Syria. The unabated violence leading to the killing of nearly 125 people in the first 10 days of November 2011, especially after the signing of the League’s peace plan, led to the resolution for suspension of Syria from the Arab League.

    For details, please see the following IDSA publication:

    Prasanta Kumar Pradhan, Arab Spring and Sectarian Faultlines in West Asia: Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, Pentagon Press,New Delhi, pp. 21-24 and 101-102.

    Posted on June 22, 2018