Has the Arab Spring failed? And if so Why?

September 14, 2013 10:15 pm

Qatar Chronicle - Arab Spring


It has been two and a half years since a wave of uprisings and demonstrations hit the Arab world calling for freedom. Rulers have been forced from power in different countries. Many Arab Spring demonstrations have been facing violent responses from authorities.

Has the bloody ‘Arab Spring’ been a success?

Sadly, we are nowhere near such a result.

Last month violence in Syria intensified again with new alleged chemical attack. The Syria crisis is certainly more than just another Arab Spring conflict and it is not the only case of the Arab Spring gone wrong.

In Lebanon no single group constituted a majority. But it has gone through a series of sectarian wars ever since. In Iraq, we are seeing car bombs and mass jailbreaks. Minority groups exercised dictatorial rule over the majorities in Iraq.

Tunisia, the country where it all began has also experienced significant violence and instability over the past year which includes the murder of opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi last month.

Violence between rival militias is on the increase in Libiya. The overthrow of the Gadaffi regime almost exactly two years ago has not produced a stable let alone democratic country there. The government’s control of the country is restricted and militias remain in charge of several key areas in Libiya.

Egyptian history seems to have finished a bloody full circle. It appeared to have reached a turning point in 2011. But it ended up turning 360 degrees. Two years ago, they demanded the end of a military supported dictatorship. But now they are calling for the reestablishment of the military supported dictatorship.

Neither side in Egypt shows the slightest understanding of compromise. Political rivals are considered as enemies there, not as co-citizens.  The crisis in Egypt that began to engulf Egypt following democratic elections led to ever more intense violence and split supporters and opponents of Morsi.

While Mohamed Mursi did serve as Eg­ypt’s first democratically elected President, his government was unsatisfactory in terms of economic performance and domestic priorities. Mursi was influential in international means. But he became more and more unpopular at home. He was noted for rehabilitating members of the Brotherhood in different public institutions.

Only Turkey made an achievement out of all the post-Ottoman states. There was a downside that minorities felt ignored, and there was occasional unrest in Kurdish areas – though the present Turkish government has, to its credit, done much to ease the controversy.

A Saudi intervention and continuing repressive policies by the incumbent regime have left little room for transformation in Bahrain.

Now an uneasy stability persists only in the wealthy monarchies of the Gulf, which depends heavily on the high price of oil. Depends highly on the huge price of oil, it permits the various royal rulers to bribe their citizens into docility.

 What has gone wrong with Arab spring?

Democracy is not a short-term process that can be taken from outside. Civil society and its habits of give and take is the building block of democracy.

The protests that were labeled “the Arab Spring” exposed multiple clashes between different overlapping groups. At first it was conflicts around economic issues and political freedoms. Youth unemployment, high cost of food and uncontrolled corruption were the complaints that led to the overthrow of the dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.  Many of the same arguments were used against Morsi in Egypt as had already been used against Hosni Mubarak.

The division of people first revolves around identity. Here the gap is between those who would give priority to Arab national identity and those who seek an Islamic religious identity.  There are subdivisions even within these groups including liberals, socialists, and unabashed militarists. Some will prefer strict separation of church and state; others would allow religious leaders and institutions some control.

The second divide is urban versus rural. People in the region’s cities are likely to be less religious and more Western-oriented. The third division is between the Islam’s  Sunni and Shi’ite groups.

It is a mixture of internal and external elements that can best explain why the Arab Spring did not live up to the hopes and ambitions of the citizens who put their lives on the line to overthrow the rulers that had suppressed them for so long.

Why the Arab spring did not meet the expectations of democracy and human rights campaigners outside the MENA region.

Within the countries of the Arab Spring, the forces unleashed by the sudden opening of political spaces were largely inexperienced, remain afraid and intolerant of each other, and were easily resulted in regional and global proxy conflicts. Egypt is a very good example of hopes of people for improved living conditions disappointed, for individual civil and political rights, including those of minorities, respected and protected, and powerful and long-entrenched interests taking an opportunity to re-assert themselves. Less violent than in Egypt, an identical situation is developing in Tunisia and Yemen.

 As regional and global players go after their own narrow self-interests — from the Western war on terrorism, to Russia’s desperate attempts to remain influential and relevant in the region, to Saudi Arabia’s and the Gulf States’ policy of containing and pushing back Iranian impact — local leaders have failed to rise above the sectarian, regional, ethnic, religious and other differences that now pit them against each other and make them such useful pawns for outsiders. Unless and until these differences are beaten by moderation and mutual accommodation, the region and its people have little hope of avoiding the long and hard winter of violence, destruction and socio-economic decline that the current unraveling of the Arab Spring seems to foreshadow.

Qatar Chronicle - Arab Spring2

Has Arab spring made any changes?

The Arab Spring may appear to have failed. But it has changed the Arab world in many aspects.

First, individuals within a tribe or clan have developed other loyalties and can challenge traditional forms of authority in ways that were unimaginable a generation ago.  Second, the appeal of radical Islam is beginning to fall. Third, the approaches towards the West have changed by the influence of globalization. Arabs are now physically and virtually connected to Europe and the United States as never before. Fourth Women, religious minorities and even homosexuals, who were vulnerable in the Middle East and North Africa, are now acquiring strength through organization. Finally, the attitudes of Americans and Europeans towards the region have changed a lot.

 Is constitutional monarchy a better option?

Look at Arab countries that have constitutional monarchies. Absolute power is granted on the rulers. But they have inspiring welfare packages and favorable environment for living. We can link those stable monarchies with  peaceful and tourist cities there like Mecca, Dubai, Amman, Kuwait, Jiddah, Doha, Rabat which observe large influx of foreign investors and immigrants. The economies of those countries are more balanced and better than most countries in Africa and Asia that practice democracy.

Monarch is permanent and provides the country a sense of continuity and links to it’s culture and heritage. A well constructed constitutional monarchy is actually the best way to guarantee a productive system of checks and balance among the different organs of government. It prevents the conflict between two different elected bodies and is a better solution for the current crisis in many of the Arab countries.


About the Author

Aani Fatimah Khatoon is the Associate editor of Qatar Chronicle. She is a graduate of Bard College and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. A passionate feminist and ardent writer. She pens articles on public interest issues and happenings across the world.

2 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. jennifer September 22, 2013 at 6:59 AM - Reply

    Easy to understand,I like it!

  2. Goldie October 2, 2013 at 11:29 PM - Reply

    Thank you a lot for sharing this with all people.

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