From Arab Spring to Civil War: What Went Wrong in Syria?

GAZIANTEP, TURKEY — To get rid of one bad man, you open the door to many.

That is a rough translation of the slogan Wael Ibrahim had written on the banner he was preparing for the next anti-government demonstration he and his fellow democracy activists were planning in the Syrian city of Aleppo. It was February 2013, and Ibrahim, a truck driver who had become a leader in the protests against President Bashar al-Assad, was trying, as diplomatically as possible, to sustain the spirit of the original revolt without offending the newly ascendant and increasingly extremist Islamists.

He failed. A man who had thrown himself into a struggle against a dictatorial government was threatened, harassed and eventually detained six months later by the Islamic State. He has not been seen or heard from since.

Ibrahim — who had won renown in Aleppo under his nom de guerre, Abu Mariam — had become yet another victim of the ill-fated attempt to bring democracy to the Middle East that was christened, so prematurely, the Arab Spring.

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