The Arab Spring: How Long Will It Last?
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 27th July, 2011
Last night I spoke to the South Somerset Peace Group in Ilminster about the so-called Arab Spring, highlighting in particular what has been happening in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen — each of which is quite unique, even if certain common threads can be ascertained. One of those is the importance of youth unemployment and economic exclusion, as well as the feeling amongst many ordinary Arabs that for too long they have simply been ruled rather than having any meaningful say in their own destiny. Of course, Tunisia and Egypt (historically) have some experience with democratic politics, whereas in large parts of the Arab world government is top-down, with varying degres of benevolence or malevolence. Western-style democracy is by no means necessarily the most appropriate or relevant model for some states at present. The key country to watch is Egypt, though it is far from clear whether the transition to a democratic government after elections in November will go smoothly and there is generally a feeling of a revolution only half-completed. Most worrying, I feel, is Syria. The government of Bashar al-Assad has made some minor concessions, but repression has not ceased. Whether a meaningful dialogue with opposition groups — both inside and outside the country — can be organised, leading to true reform, remains to be seen. But there is always the danger that the regime could provoke a regional crisis, drawing in Israel, which would be downright disastrous. What is certain is that events will kep evolving way beyond the end of 2011: this new Arab Awakening is not a matter of a short season but of an epoch.