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Rateb Shabo

A review of the Arab Spring

The revolutions in the Arab Spring brought together a wide range of voices [Pacific Press]

Date of publication: 30 March, 2015

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Comment: Four years after the first peaceful demonstrations of the Arab Spring, and the Middle East has reverted to inertia, violence, oppression, and apathy.

More than four years have passed since the Arab Spring revolutions began, which is sufficient time to reflect and review the events that have followed.

In countries such as Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco - with the exception of Bahrain - the threat of revolution was successfully contained by the hereditary monarchies.

Popular revolt

Algeria was also overlooked, which was probably due to the North African country's "Black Decade" during the 1990s.

Memories of the brutal civil war between Islamists and the army that exhausted the country and terrorised the population is still fresh in Algerian memory.

The fall of Western-allied regimes - Tunisia and Egypt - was faster, and with less blood than the challenges to the "resistance" regimes - in Syria, for example.

The further down the road we go from the Tunisian revolution, the harder and more painful things have become - until we reach the Syrian catastrophe that has become a deterrent against popular revolt elsewhere in the Arab world.

This deterrent chimes in Arab minds with the echoes of similar Western promises, such as the manner of the democracy the United States attempted to export to Iraq, with blood, chaos and violence as its hallmarks.

The US promised that Iraq would become a centre of democratic principles, but instead the invasion and occupation spread sectarianism, becoming a hub for extremism, such as the development of the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as Isis).

The path that the deposed leaders took varied: the Tunisian president escaped, the Egyptian president stepped down and was tried, the Libyan president was pursued and dramatically killed after foreign military intervention.

The Yemeni president stepped down after much resistance - but conceded only when he received guarantees that he would not stand trial for past crimes.

The results of the revolutions were similarly varied. In Libya, the political process disintegrated and led to a bloody conflict over who held power. This led to the growth of strong radical Islamist currents and the loss of the revolution's political goals, not to mention the division of the country.

In Yemen, the weakness of the state allowed the Houthis to seize the capital, Sanaa, through an alleged alliance with the deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and suspected assistance from Iran.

President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, Saleh's one-time deputy, escaped Houthi house arrest and fled to Aden. The conflict's sectarian overtones only deepened thereafter.

Lessons in democracy

Egypt went back to how it was before, as if no revolution took place. Hosni Mubarak, his two sons and his interior minister, were all acquitted - despite the fact that 850 people were killed during weeks of peaceful protests.

Egypt's death toll exceeded the number of people killed during the first month of the Syrian uprising.

In Tunisia, there is a cautious circulation of power. Faces of the old regime have come back to dominate the new political scene - only this time through the ballot box.

     In Tunisia, the faces of the old regime have come back to dominate the new political scene.


All the expectations and predictions about Syria have been proven false. The regime's early bet that the Arab Spring would not affect Syria - the country of "resistance" [to Israel], were incorrect.

The regime failed to convince the population that the "crisis is over" and that "Syria is alright".

The opposition's prediction of an early fall of the Syrian regime, within a few weeks, just as in Tunisia and Egypt, also failed to materialise.

When this became startingly obvious, the opposition later attempted to replicate the Libyan model of an armed rebellion, but also failed.

Burning down the country

There were also those Syrians who expected a positive response from the regime, but it soon became obvious that the regime was unwilling to concede any powers.

Instead, Damascus proved its willingness not only to lie and deceive people, but also to burn the country down when it believed its grip on power was loosening.

The Syrian people who hoped that that a strong, credible and unified opposition would take form were also left disapointed.

Turkey's then-prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was also mistaken in his belief that Damascus would not allow another Hama massacre.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia failed in their adversarial advance against the Syrian regime and their belief that the seat of power could be easily toppled.

Even Russia, Iran and Hizballah did not take into account that defending the Syrian regime would require a level of direct involvement.

During the Arab Spring, communal concerns took precedence over national or sectarian concerns, and all the regimes that were affected by these revolutions responded with repression and disregard for the rule of law.

They humiliated the people, and treated the population with extreme prejudice - according to their tribe, sect, perceived loyalties or wealth.

It was notable that national sensitivities towards Israel and the United States were weak during the Arab revolutions, which confirms that Arab tyranny, which is accompanied by various forms of corruption and a lack of accountability, is a natural ally of the occupation.     

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.
  

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.    

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