The Washington Times, Dec. 27, 2011
When Mohamed Bouazizi, a young Tunisian vegetable seller, set fire to himself in protest over harassment by officials last December, he unleashed a wave of long-simmering resentment across the Arab world that swept away longtime leaders in Tunisia and Egypt over the next two months.
The Arab Spring set in with the hope that a huge democratic change finally was within reach for the region. Now, 12 months later, that initial euphoria largely has subsided.
Syria launched a brutal crackdown on dissent. Yemen is still in a suspended state of chaos, while Libya struggles to unite after overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi. Even in Egypt, the continuing role of the army has led to doubts over its revolution transforming into a representative democracy.
“The sense of disappointment comes from the fact that expectations were raised so quickly and these were impossible to fulfill,” said Christian Koch of the Gulf Research Center, a Dubai-based think tank.
“One has to be realistic that the switch over to a different type of government is something that will simply take time.”
Other analysts agree that change is going to be much slower than the rapid pace of events earlier this year may have seemed to promise at first.
“It will take the Arab world at least between 10 and 20 years to be able to transition from political authoritarianism to pluralism,” said Fawaz A. Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics. Continue reading
Washington Times, 16 June, 2011
Known for their generosity to strangers, Tunisians are starting to crack under the weight of caring for hundreds of thousands of refugees from the civil war in neighboring Libya.
About 2,000 refugees cross into Tunisia every day, adding to more than 200,000 who have sought shelter there since the Libyan conflict broke out in February.
“The Tunisians have been so generous since Day One,” said Firas Kayal, spokesman in Tunisia for the U.N. refugee agency. “But, of course, you cannot take that for granted.”
Tunisia is struggling with a fractious government and crippled economy five months after its January revolution that overthrew longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked the so-called “Arab Spring.” Continue reading
Washington Times, May 9, 2011
A cold rain is falling on the Arab Spring, as autocrats violently cling to power; but many pro-democracy advocates still hope for the change inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia that toppled long-term rulers.
Western observers of the region remain worried about the civil war in Libya and the brutal crackdowns on peaceful protests in Syria and Yemen.
“It’s just not clear yet how it is going to turn out,” said Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American professor of Arab studies at New York’s Columbia University. “It’s early … I wouldn’t say that it’s not necessarily going to be successful in Yemen, or Syria.”
In spite of the see-saw pattern of most of the protest movements, some observers say there is a good chance that the seeds from the Arab Spring eventually will put down deep roots in the entire region.
“I think it’s a matter of time,” said Maha Azzam, an Egyptian-born Middle East specialist at London’s Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House.
“While each country has its own circumstances, the grievances of protesters are very similar – the demands for greater accountability and greater participation are not going to diminish.” Continue reading