Ten years ago, anti-government protests in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain nurtured hope, in the region and without, that a pro-democracy Arab movement finally full bloom. But with the exception of Tunisia, the Arab Spring revolts all failed. And even Tunisia’s success was a qualified one: The country’s economy was in turmoil and its democratic experimentation was fragile.
In 2011, many Western observers misinterpreted the nature of the protests. Ten years later, sadly, still too much.
The main myth to be erased is the notion that the Arab Spring is a far-reaching, unifying movement when in fact it is a set of discrete insurgencies. Economic and political grievances piled up across borders, but these were local, organic protests against the local regime.
Apart from the inspiration that what could happen in one place could be successful elsewhere, nothing unites the protesters in Tunis, where the first protests happened, with those in Cairo, Damascus. or elsewhere. There is no common theme, as the wave of protests that swept through Eastern Europe two decades earlier.
Furthermore, there is nothing clearly “Arabic” about the protests. The notion that the revolts were reported by some common sense of “Arabism” is false. Disappointingly, many Westerners – as well as many Arabs and Arab regimes – continue to see the area through the false end of the telescope, treating its inhabitants as a co-“Arab bloc”. most, while it’s the exact opposite.
The so-called “Arab world” is in fact an area of 22 states, home to about 400 million outstandingly diverse individuals whose nations and identities have been created by the media. Genealogy, political, social, cultural, commercial, religious and linguistic in stark contrast. .
One final misconception needs to be overcome: the notion that the Arab Spring has – or will have – a date of certain end. Higher social and economic equity requirements represent moments in a continuum. Getting out of the grip of the authoritarian will require a series of steps forward, followed by retreat or repression, followed by steps forward. This struggle – and really should be – a messy repetitive process.
Still, there is reason for cautious optimism. The good news is that the genie, as the saying goes, is out of the jar. Yes, the regional dictatorships, especially Egypt, have succeeded in cramming it back now, but the genie, slightly transformed after each confrontation, continues to emerge, equal to The second wave of the Arab Spring protests began. in 2018 in Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon and Algeria.
While Algeria replaced its ruler but failed to change its regime, and Lebanon’s corrupt power-sharing agreements persistently persist, the protesters show no signs of stopping in action. process for justice.
But it’s not just the West who has to reassess its perceptions of the revolts. When and if regional residents demand further democratization, they must take into account their own internal contradictions. How, for example, do protesters demand the extension of economic and political freedoms to all to reconcile why they continue to support restrictions on individual liberties over an number of people – especially women, religious minorities and LGBTQ citizens?
Residents of the area must see the elimination of an oppressor as just the first step of a long journey – not a destination. The tougher work, as the Tunisians know well, will be transitioning to and maintaining democracy afterward. And this will require societies to transform from within – not from above. An emerging generation of younger, more global-minded Arabs must challenge both classicalized orthodoxy themselves and increase civil society engagement to advocate for change. .
This would not be easy, because in the post-colonial Arab world, conscious dictators were about to paralyze the minds of their citizens, propagating them with super-nationalist propaganda. , exorcisms and doctrinal discourses. This form of intellectual autocracy has led generations of Arabs to not only be deprived of a good education, but also taught to be intolerant, disregard for power, and inadequate to deliver. thrive in a democratic, globalized world.
If democracy begins to take root, the citizens of the region have to start reprogramming and reprogramming their minds and learn to coexist with different perspectives and ways of life, lest they turn their backs on This will pave the way for the return of dictators. .
Ten years after the first uprising, many in both East and West want to believe that there is still hope for democratization. But if that is successful, Western awareness of Arabs, and Arab awareness of themselves, must develop.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.