A Region Turned Upside Down
By Matt Ward
It was a mere fruit seller who was destined to change the world forever, one man, in 2010, who reached breaking point and decided that enough was enough. Despairing at his lack of economic prospects, and disgusted by his humiliation at the hands of a female police officer — she had slapped him in the face in public — he took the dramatic step of setting himself alight. Engulfed in flames, he writhed in agony in front of horrified market holders before finally succumbing to unconsciousness.
Tarek el-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi would later die of his terrible injuries in hospital with no knowledge of the profound impact his death would have on the Middle East and the world. This one act of desperate rebellion was to be the trigger for mass protests within Tunisia, and there began what is now widely referred to as the “Arab Spring.”
The Arab Spring has been a genuine watershed moment. It has been a catalyst for the most fundamental and unimaginable change. In the seven years since the Arab Spring began, there has been a seismic shift in the relationship between traditional Middle Eastern ruling Arab elites and the people they govern. The natural cultural affinity Arab’s feel for each other meant that the revolution that began on the streets of Tunisia quickly spread like wildfire throughout the rest of the Middle East. It is a revolution that has turned the region upside down.
The consequences of the Arab Spring are immense. The first is the end to the traditional perception of Arab exceptionalism. Ruling Arab elites, who for generations have oppressed their domestic populations, have now come to realize that they are no different from any Western nation when it comes to facing truly mass protest movements. They are just as vulnerable, no matter how big the walls they surround themselves with are, or how vicious their “security apparatus” is.
The traditional belief in the Arab world that “societies are weak, but the state is strong,” has been proved dead wrong. It was to become the ultimate paradox that the tactics of intimidation Arab State’s always previously employed became, to the masses, the final demonstration of the State’s ultimate weakness. The violence merely spurred the masses on.
Mass protest groups, initiated by middle classes using social media to push them on towards real political activism, sparked huge and widespread protests in streets and city centers of many Middle Eastern states. Like dominos quickly falling, these protests brought established regimes rapidly to their knees.
It was the sheer synergy of the masses that in the end brought down even the most entrenched Middle Eastern dictators. There was a feeling of Al shaab yuird, or “the people want,” that spread like wildfire across the region. It has left chaos, death and destruction in its wake.
The Arab Spring caused the downfall of some of the region’s most firmly established and brutal strongmen. Men like Colonel Muammar Gadhafi, the despotic ruler of Libya; Hosni Mubarak, long-time President of Egypt; and Ben Ali of Tunisia. All have lost power and come to ignominious ends. This is especially so of Libya’s Gadhafi, who was literally butchered with sharp knives and then executed by his own people in the streets near to where he was captured— all before he could even be taken into any form of official custody and within minutes of his capture.
The removal of these strongmen, and the subsequent dismantling of the apparatus they used to maintain personal control, led in turn to vast power vacuums across the Middle East, culminating in widespread lawlessness. That lawlessness today stretches from Libya, through Syria and deep into Iraq. Even in Egypt, one of the oldest functioning nation states in the world, the state system completely collapsed with the removal of Hosni Mubarak; for a period, total chaos ruled even there.
The West has only now learned the very bitter lesson that the removal of traditional authoritarian regimes in the Arab world does not necessarily lead to the immediate establishment of democracy thereafter, no matter how much money, effort or lives are poured into these countries. Instead, the removal of these “strongmen” led, in every case and with no exception, to the complete and systemic collapse of once functioning nation states. Popular resistance can force dictators from power, but it does not seem to be enough to bring the power to the people.
This swift collapse led in turn to the rapid and frenzied de-Christianization of vast areas of the Middle East. It is no exaggeration to say that Christianity in the Middle East has suffered more in the seven years since the Arab Spring began than it has in the last one thousand years of Middle Eastern history. This is because the Arab Spring itself has not really been a “spring,” so much as it has been an Islamic awakening; and Islam has shown over the last seven years that, in the heartland of all major religions, it will accept no rivals. Christianity has borne the brunt of this serious and sustained attempt at religious and ethnic genocide.
Once traditional authoritarian rulerships were removed, the Christian communities became vulnerable overnight. They were quickly subject to a severe deterioration in their positions within their Islamic-ally dominated societies and they were massacred while the West looked on, largely indifferently.
The power vacuum left when these despots were removed from office was then filled exclusively by Islamic Fundamentalists and criminal gangs. Anti-Christian sentiment increased; and very quickly both the traditional Christian communities and those new Christian converts, who originated from Muslim backgrounds, found themselves dead center of a second wave of sustained and vicious persecution, this time originating not from unorganized mobs, but from the corridors of new power itself.
There followed an empowerment of radical Islamist groups, especially by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria and Salafism in general across the region. This has devastated Christian communities throughout the whole Middle East.
This was only exacerbated by the trumped-up protests, fueled very publicly by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012, after they knowingly and falsely claimed that an anti-Islam film had been the main cause of the rebellion in Benghazi, resulting in the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and a number of other US personnel.
Such an obviously false narrative, given by the President of the United States and his Secretary of State, effectively gave carte blanche to Islamic communities around the Middle East, who responded by mercilessly persecuting and wiping out the Christian communities in their midst. Some of these Christian communities had existed for nearly a thousand years. They were annihilated in a matter of weeks.
Today, as 2018 dawns, the situation for Christians in the Middle East remains extremely tenuous. While it is true to say that in some countries the Islamists have either been removed by the military or lost their positions of power through elections, the influence they wield in the corridors of power, in the military, and amongst the masses remains highly significant. In Egypt, attacks on Christians are still frequent and often deadly. There is no guarantee anymore for the rights of any Christian individual in Egypt in 2018.
Libya, at this point, seems to have slipped into outright lawlessness and has witnessed the whole scale, unrestrained persecution of Christians wherever they have been found. Libya in 2018 is a ruined land, a safe haven for all kinds of terrorism and terrorist groups. It has degenerated into the real “Wild West” of the Middle East, a no-man’s land of insurgency, criminality and anarchy.
It seems to me that the hand of God is recognizable as being all over the events of the Arab Spring. Sometimes events occur in a single day that change the world forever, like 9/11. At other times, as with the Arab Spring, events unfold more gradually over an extended period of time, making their long-term impacts less clear; yet its global and prophetic importance is no less significant for it.
The Arab Spring has changed the geopolitical and prophetic landscape irrevocably. The potential for the fulfillment of significant portions of Bible prophecy has lurched forward because of it.
The Arab Spring has seen the emergence of the Kurds, those ancient Medes, and their formidable Peshmerga as a force to be genuinely reckoned with in the Middle Eastern theatre. It is my belief that one day soon the Kurds will come to play a pivotal part in another end-times Bible prophecy involving the destruction of Babylon itself, as is described in numerous places in Bible prophecy, (Isaiah 13:17; Jeremiah 51:11; 51:28-29).
The Arab Spring has made the fulfillment of the infamous Burden of Damascus prophecy (Isaiah 17:1) an immediate and imminent potential reality. Since the Arab Spring, and the Syrian Civil War it has triggered, Damascus has been flooded not only with weaponry, but with the most entrenched and hardened Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East.
Located today right underneath Damascus is what is considered by many Western intelligence agencies, including Israel’s, to be the single largest chemical and biological weapons storage facilities on the face of this earth. They sit underneath schools, hospitals and apartment blocks. Bible prophecy seems to indicate that one day soon, some of this arsenal will be used against Israel; and when it does, the Jewish State’s response will be as clinical as it will be devastating.
“Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap… And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not” (Isaiah 17).
The Arab Spring has brought a civilization that once used to lead the world to utter ruin. It is a civilization that is now being superceded by a coalition of nations that was predicted over 2,500 years ago by the prophet Ezekiel regarding Gomer, Beth Togarmah, Magog, Persia, Put and Cush. Today, 2,500 years later, these strange-sounding nations are known by other names: Turkey, Russia, Iran, Libya and Ethiopia.
The Arab Spring, and the upheaval it has caused, has crushed nation states and torn down long- established borders in the Middle East. This has allowed Russia, Iran, Turkey and their proxies to flood into Syria using the civil war as cover. In effect they have now succeeded in transforming Syria into one huge, forward-operating base, bringing a plethora of sophisticated weaponry, aircraft and men with them, all of whom will one day soon be used against little Israel.
Syria is now firmly in Russian-Iranian-Turkish hands, and they won’t be giving it back any time soon. Iran, for their part, continues to actively demonstrate their own intentions by setting up camp mere miles away from their real target, Israel.
It would seem to me that “hooks” have already pierced the jaws of Russia and her allies, drawing them inexorably, more and more deeply into Syria and towards the borders of the “beautiful land.” The revolution that began in 2010 with Tarek el-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi setting himself alight in a market place in Tunisia will soon end on the mountains of Israel in almost complete annihilation.
One day very soon Gog and all his hordes will sweep down against Israel to “take a spoil.” When they do, they will meet their doom, because mighty is the God who will judge them.
“Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4).
“Therefore, thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: And I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel:
“And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand. Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured.
“Thou shalt fall upon the open field: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God. And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the Lord. So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel” (Ezekiel 39: 1-7).