The "Arab Spring" five years on

Posted by Caabu on 17 Dec 2015

The "Arab Spring" five years on

The 17th December 2015 is the fifth anniversary of the self-immolation of Muhamad Bouazizi in Tunisia. This is seen as the spark for all the uprisings in numerous Arab states that followed, and eventually led to the removal of four dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

This article in the Daily Telegraph by Caabu Director, Chris Doyle, argues that we still have much to learn about the dynamics of the region where there are no definites and certainties.  These huge transformative events are still very much in play and the final outcome of what Bouazizi set in train is yet to be determined.

Vital lessons are still be learnt about what many call the “Arab Spring” – and what today, in a region beset by wars, is occasionally termed the “Arab Winter”. Yet for Mohammad Bouazizi in Tunisia, and other young people, it had been winter all their lives. Far more than half the Arab World had never known another ruler of Egypt except Hosni Mubarak.”

The conflicts in the region have occurred not because the majority of the population do not want more inclusive and effective governance but because of its absence. In Syria, hundreds of thousands joined peaceful protests to seek transformation as they had in so many other countries.  However, there are powerful counter-revolutionary forces which opposed moves towards democracy and away from the status quo.  Extremist Islamist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaida sought successfully to profit from the weakened states that the uprisings created.

Those that cherish change in the region are still there. The Syrians who were at the heart of the protests are now running incredible civil society projects in the toughest of conditions. Whether it is in Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen or Libya, the UK should demonstrate its support and enthusiasm for civil society projects and activists at every level.

This is why Caabu works for a British Middle East policy that puts at its heart conflict resolution, support for human rights and civil society.  Without an end to wars, positive political and economic transformation cannot occur.  Adherence to human rights standards is vital to ensure that the peoples of the region are treated with respect and dignity unlike Muhamad Bouazizi.   A strong independent civil society was the missing component in many countries of the region that were undergoing political transition.   This was particularly noticeable in Egypt.  In contrast, it was the remarkable efforts of Tunisian civil society groups, recognised in winning the Nobel Peace Prize that allowed the North African state to move forward.