The Arab Spring,10 Years On…

I believe that one of the most important political/cultural/social movements of the last ten years was the Arab Spring. Therefore, I thought it deserved the initial post here at the relaunch of STL. But as I tried to put something together as a coherent argument on something about it, I realized that I am at a loss. The way in which it did not substantially work for the better leaves me lost even after ten years. I have no sure feelings, beliefs, or convictions on the period, or what is now called the “Arab Winter.” I can say I was so hopeful at the time that it almost lent itself to elation, but now I feel nothing but such dense disappointment; almost hopelessness. I have read books, articles, and saw many documentaries and news pieces on this most important set of events, yet I cannot put my finger on any argument to be made. Maybe it’s because I am a Westerner; a Roman Catholic. Maybe it’s because I was not there on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, or the destroyed streets of Aleppo, or at the Libyan storm drain where Qaddafi was found and killed. Maybe it is because I do not want to believe something negative. I don’t know. But below is a strategy, something I hope that can salvage the movement using the stories of the those times. Maybe something to look to inspire the future.

Simply put, What happened between the end of 2010 and the end of 2020? My thoughts are scattered below: 

Up until December 2010, the North African country of Tunisia was as typical of an Arab state as it gets: a history of empire and colonialism; a hopeful independence; a state-centered, socialist economy; a slide into dictatorship implemented through secret police (Feldman, 2020). This small, coastal nation on the Mediterranean Sea did not seem out of the ordinary in any way compared to its’ neighbors..

Then on December 17, 2010, a young Tunisian named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself afire to protest against police harassment. He died on January 4, 2011, but not before his gesture went viral, sparking protests against the country’s authoritarian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the people’s poor economic situation. Ben Ali’s 23-year-rule ended 10 days later when he fled to Saudi Arabia, becoming the first leader of an Arab nation to be pushed out by popular protests. What happened next across the Arab world, what we now refer to the as the “Arab Spring,” followed something like this:

On January 25, 2011, thousands of Egyptians marched in Cairo, Alexandria, and other cities, demanding the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power for 30 years.  Then on February 11, as more than a million took to the streets, Mubarak resigned and handed control to the military.

The Muslim Brotherhood-linked government of Mohammed Morsi was then elected in 2012, but was overthrown the following year by the military led by the general, now president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

On February 15, in Bahrain, protesters took over the Pearl Square roundabout in the capital which they renamed “Tahrir Square”, and demanded a constitutional monarchy among other reforms. But their camp was stormed by riot police three days later, killing three people and injuring many.

The same day the Bahrain protests started, the Libyan police used force to break up a sit-in against the government in the second city, Benghazi. The country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi pledged to hunt down the “rats” opposing him. The uprising turned into a civil war with French, British and American air forces intervening against Gaddafi. On October 20, 2011, Gaddafi was captured and killed in his home region of Sirte by rebels who found him hiding in a storm drain. The country is now split between rival eastern and western-based administrations.

On March 6, a dozen teenagers tagged the wall of their school in southern Syria with “Your turn, doctor”, referring to President Bashar al-Assad, a trained ophthalmologist. The torture of the youths sparked mainly peaceful protests at first, and calls for democratic reform. But with violent repression by the government, the revolt turned into civil war. Syria’s war also contributed to the rise of the ISIL (ISIS) group and renewed conflict in neighboring Iraq, culminating in a genocidal attack on minorities in the north of the country.

On October 23, 2011, Tunisians streamed to the polls for their first free election, in which members of the Ennahdha movement triumph.

On February 27, 2012, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled for 33 years, handed power to his deputy Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, after a year of protests. The Arab world’s poorest country, Yemen also descended into violence following initial protests.

Russia, who with Iran is al-Assad’s biggest ally, started air attacks against Syrian rebels on September 30, 2015, changing the course of the war. After 10 years of fighting, which left 380,000 dead, al-Assad was able to claim significant victories.

Ten years after Tunisia, It all seems for nothing when put together like that, does it not? All those aspirations for a more liberal-democratic pan-Arab region. A Guardian-YouGov poll published on December 17 even finds that a majority of populations of nine countries across the Arab world feel they are living in significantly more unequal society today than before the Arab Spring. And read here about Bouazizi’s legacy in his own country.

But maybe not all is lost. Let’s look at some social movement theory from Han and Wuk Ahn (2020) that may pick up the Arab Spring up from the canvas someday:

“Studies of social movements have benefited from the examination of narratives. Social movements are defined as networks of informal interactions between a plurality of individual, groups, and/or organizations engaged in political or cultural conflicts, on the basis of shared collective identities. Activists use stories to make sense of the reality surrounding them, motivate collective action by forging collective policymaking. Narratives unite participants in social movements and are utilized as tools. To be effective…social movements should not just mobilize financial and human resources, utilize political opportunities, and present solid transition plans but should also adopt effective frames. Narratives provide actors with tools to turn themselves into heroes with a powerfully mobilizing identity when they lack established organizations or coherent ideologies [38]. Narratives translate feelings of shame and individual responsibility into feelings of empowerment, efficacy, and entitlement.”

So maybe the people of the Mid-East will someday be able to launch a new uprising, one taken from the stories of the those contentious politics that have occurred over the last decade. At this point, I admit I really do not know. I feel as if I’m just clinching at straws to pull something positive out of it all, something positive in this Arab Winter.

What do you think? Leave comments below. 

Here is a good video piece from Al-Jazeera I find particularly moving that centers on the professional and amateur reporters who documented the movement. Maybe those reports and films will serve to inspire those of the next Arab Spring, if it ever occurs. 

Pakistan and The Violence Against Women

96a17fab-e51a-46e8-9b95-0b688f95f715-460x276I have been particularly troubled with the recent death of Farzana Parveen, a woman bludgeoned to death in Pakistan by her own family for marrying a man against the family’s wishes.

Now I’ve been hearing about this story all over the web/Twitter, NPR, cable news, and the print media outlets online and I just cannot grasp the fact that this still happens in any part of the World. And she’s not the only one.

When I hear of one incident, I hear another reported in Sudan, Iran, and what appears to be mainly the Muslim world, but I will not say that they only occur in these regions for I have no on-hand evidence to support it or to contradict it.

But more than just shocking me, it sickens me and I cannot get over the fact that latelythese actions still take place among family members. How can you bludgeon, beat to death, or stone a sister/mother/cousin/daughter? What kind of father/husband/brother/cousin are you? I do not to split hairs over evil acts here but it’s not like it’s a stranger.

I found a really powerful piece in The Guardian’s Observer section online by Shaista Aziz, an Observer commentator and stand-up comic, who knew one of the victims of so-called “honor” killings in Kashmir Pakistan. It also has some good stats and is an important read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Upcoming Protests Sunday May Clash in Egypt

Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi protestAn article in The Guardian relates that both Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi’s supporters and liberal anti-Morsi protesters may clash in huge protests tomorrow in Alexandria. On Friday, two protester’s were killed (one an American) and 70 were injured with large numbers on both sides being reported that even larger protests will be held on Sunday.

The anti-Morsi protesters are critical of the Muslim Brotherhood’s religious fundamentalism. They say that Morsi himself is becoming too authoritarian and has exerted too much control over the nation’s media institutions. But on the other side, Morsi supporters say that the president was democratically elected and the Brotherhood’s religious bent is good for Egypt.

But what I’m concerned with is that the media is blowing these events out of proportion. They need to be reported on but I do not like the rhetoric I am hearing stating that change in Egypt is over and the hope for democracy is waning. What we need to remember, though, is that democracy needs time to develop. There needs to be time for the building of institutions, for the holding of fair elections, and a strong government not held hostage by political uprisings in Tahrir Square and the streets of Alexandria.

Democracy is not dead in Egypt, in my opinion, for there are a lot of similarities between the events in Egypt and those that occurred in France between 1789 and 1898. There was Napoleon, Louis Bonaparte, the manning of the barricades, and the Paris Commune. These anti-democratic actions in France all took place until a true democracy was created over a 100 years later. The creation of a democracy does not usually run as smoothly as the one that was created here in the United States.

Read Here.

Special Report: Witnesses tell of organized killings of Myanmar Muslims | Reuters

Special Report: Witnesses tell of organized killings of Myanmar Muslims | Reuters.

Horrific story of religious violence taking place in Myanmar.  It is awful that people who were bonded while trying to win rights under a dictatorship become enemies so quickly after winning some of their freedom because of the impact and social power of extremist religious leaders.  In this case, Buddhists are oppressing and killing Muslims with no true justification as we see another case where extremist religious followers breed more and more hatred and violence instead of the peace they claim to be a proponent of.