Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program

Government and Legal Studies

First Advisor

Ericka Albaugh


This honors thesis analyzes human rights campaigns to end the practice of state-sponsored torture in Syria during the presidency of Bashar al-Assad. It compares the 2000 Damascus Spring and the 2011 Arab Spring using the concept of the “contentious spiral model.” The model is based on the elements of the original “spiral model” introduced in The Power of Human Rights (1999) and the factors of contentious politics discussed in Dynamics of Contention (2001). It suggests that human rights movements that emerge from uprisings need effective mobilization by domestic and international actors. Sustained pressure from both sources should gradually force the state to make concessions until there is an absence of human rights violations. The study uses research on social movements and international politics in Syria, in addition to data on the practice of torture, to suggest that human rights campaigns to end state-sponsored torture in Syria have been unsuccessful because of the interference of Assad’s foreign alliances. These countries have helped the regime backlash against the opposition during uprisings, which has led to the fracturing of the movement. During the Damascus Spring, this interference took the form of shifting the world’s focus to other regional issues, and during the Arab Spring, Syria’s allies directly supported the Assad regime militarily, financially, and legally.