Posts Tagged

Arab Spring

Protest in an age of globalization relies on performance. From Hong Kong to La Paz and Santiago to Khartoum, global attention is increasingly captured by mass movements of people, demonstrating strength in numbers against prevailing political and economic systems.  Modern protests, however, only work some of the time. Drawing on current events, scholars might consider a protest’s success hinging upon which audience they choose to target and the power of that audience to act. We see differences, for example, between Hong Kong — where protesters engaged the global community with limited effect thus far on Beijing — and protests in Sudan earlier this year — which targeted an old, autocratic leader’s military cadre, but did in fact precipitate a military coup.  Has globalization changed protesting? Today’s global stage is nothing new — consider the nationalist movements …

On 13 March 2017, the legal saga of the trial of Hosni Mubarak ended. The deposed autocrat, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his complicity in the killing of hundreds of demonstrators and embezzlement on a grander scale, was acquitted by Egypt’s Court of Cassation and freed from his detention. “The trial of the century”, as Egyptians have dubbed Mubarak’s prosecution, began soon after millions of Arabs took to the streets all over the Middle East, and it was concluded against the backdrop of the deep frustration of most from the results of the Arab Spring. This legal ordeal is but one prominent manifestation of the decisive role that the legal system played during the struggle …

Last week, three men were executed. Three men whose fate I had grown to care about from the shelter of a media centre in North London. Almost a year ago to the day, I began researching and producing a documentary that investigated the imprisonment of three men in a Bahraini jail: 21 year old Ali al-Singace, Abbas al-Samea, 27, and Sami Mushaima, 42. They were at the heart of a story that cried for diplomatic intervention, with overwhelming evidence that suggested they had been arrested, in reality, not for the killing of three policemen in a bomb blast in 2014, but for the crime of opposing their government. It was hard not to grimace at the pictures of the wounds …

Five years after Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia ignited the Arab Spring. Yet while it inspired hope for democratic transition across the Middle East and North Africa, the region continues to be embroiled in civil war, terrorist networks, and crises of political legitimacy. In Syria and Bahrain, dictators used violence to thwart protests, leading to a prolonged civil war in Syria. In Yemen, despite the dictator’s negotiated transfer of power, rival sectarians are vying for power. In Tunisia and Egypt, dictators stepped down without much bloodshed. Lastly, in Libya, rebels overthrew the dictator with foreign military aid, but soon succumbed to factional warfare. This article will explore the interlude of democratic or semi-democratic politics in Tunisia, Egypt and …

There is a tendency, even among scholars, to view civil wars as involving two actors—the “government” and “rebels.” This presumption likely arises because historical civil wars that have received the most attention—such as the American and Chinese civil wars—were generally fought between two recognized, organized combatants. Yet, many civil wars (both historical and modern) involve more than two actors. Take the current civil war in Syria. The Syrian government battles a series of rebel groups that generate a large number of acronyms—ISIS, SLA, SIF, and so on—and that frequently fight amongst themselves. These groups often seek to form coalitions to coordinate their opposition, but the coalitions are unstable and have difficulty controlling their constituent parts. The Syrian conflict also has a large level of external involvement, with the government receiving direct military support from Iran and Hezbollah plus a large number of additional external states and non-state actors seeking to turn the course of the war. The Syrian opposition’s fragmentation is extreme, but the multiparty nature of the conflict is by no means unique. In fact, many of the wars that have received the most international attention in recent decades—such as in Afghanistan, Columbia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, the Palestinian conflict in Israel, the Darfuri war in Sudan, and Somalia—have involved several rebel groups and significant external involvement.

The decision taken by France’s Credit Agricole and Japan’s Tokyo-Mitsubishi bank to leave Bahrain following the unrest in 2011 sparked widespread fears of a mass exodus of financial institutions and led to a slump in investor confidence, casting a shadow of doubt over the performance of Bahrain’s economy. However, three years later, these initial fears seem rather misplaced. Despite a drop in investor confidence, Bahrain’s financial sector has remained intact, and economic growth has rebounded to pre-2011 levels. In the 1980s, in the wake of the Lebanese Civil War, Bahrain established itself as a regional financial center. In recent years, Bahrain has faced intense competition from Dubai and increasingly Qatar, but it has proven resilient due to its solid regulatory …

In December 2010, a revolutionary spark in Tunisia initiated what is now referred to as the Arab Spring. Since then, many countries across the broader Middle East have been swept up in uprisings that have led to fundamental shifts in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. The same drive for change has also led to minor changes in Jordan, Morocco, and elsewhere. These events have drawn the attention of many regional and international observers, experts, and scholars. In many circles, there was a widespread optimism with respect to the nature and course of the Arab Spring, and some observers held to the domino theory, that is, if one revolution took hold, others would follow. Indeed, these expectations and interpretations have been proven true to some degree. First, the contemporary Arab uprisings were able to put an end to dictators and quasi-dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, such that the deposed presidents and parts of their cliques were arrested (e.g., Egypt), accused of state crimes and corruption (e.g., Tunisia), or caught and murdered (Libya). Second, these events put these countries on a path toward political transformation. In this way, we have seen in the major Spring-nations the establishment of new political parties and elections. Due to the modification of whole regimes, these states have completed successful transitions; a significant first step toward democratization.

Appealing to his Eurosceptic domestic constituents, Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent proposal for a UK-wide referendum on Britain’s membership to the European Union has been declaimed by EU supporters as an easy, if irresponsible, exit strategy. While the UK has a history of ambivalence towards European integration, Cameron’s official speech has placed the EU at a strategic inflection point in its development. Using his speech to ask ‘tough’ questions about the future of the European project, Cameron rejected the argument that a Europe in crisis ought to eschew such introspection. Instead, he declared that this is the moment to “examine thoroughly what the EU as a whole should do and should stop doing”, with nothing “off the table”. Although Cameron’s announcement raises anew the long-standing ‘widening versus deepening’ debate for some, the context of Cameron’s pronouncement ought to bring new scope to these questions.