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Dispatches from the Arab Spring

Dispatches from the Arab Spring: Understanding the New Middle East

Paul Amar
Vijay Prashad
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Dispatches from the Arab Spring
    Book Description:

    The Arab Spring unleashed forces of liberation and social justice that swept across North Africa and the Middle East with unprecedented speed, ferocity, and excitement. Although the future of the democratic uprisings against oppressive authoritarian regimes remains uncertain in many places, the revolutionary wave that started in Tunisia in December 2010 has transformed how the world sees Arab peoples and politics. Bringing together the knowledge of activists, scholars, journalists, and policy experts uniquely attuned to the pulse of the region,Dispatches from the Arab Springoffers an urgent and engaged analysis of a remarkable ongoing world-historical event that is widely misinterpreted in the West.

    Tracing the flows of protest, resistance, and counterrevolution in every one of the countries affected by this epochal change-from Morocco to Iraq and Syria to Sudan-the contributors provide ground-level reports and new ways of teaching about and understanding the Middle East in general, and contextualizing the social upheavals and political transitions that defined the Arab Spring in particular. Rejecting outdated and invalid (yet highly influential) paradigms to analyze the region-from depictions of the "Arab street" as a mindless, reactive mob to the belief that Arab culture was "unfit" for democratic politics-this book offers fresh insights into the region's dynamics, drawing from social history, political geography, cultural creativity, and global power politics.Dispatches from the Arab Springis an unparalleled introduction to the changing Middle East and offers the most comprehensive and accurate account to date of the uprisings that profoundly reshaped North Africa and the Middle East.

    Contributors: Sheila Carapico, U of Richmond; Nouri Gana, UCLA; Toufic Haddad; Adam Hanieh, SOAS/U of London; Toby C. Jones, Rutgers U; Anjali Kamat; Khalid Medani, McGill U; Merouan Mekouar; Maya Mikdashi, NYU; Paulo Gabriel Hilu Pinto, U Federal Fluminense, Brazil; Jillian Schwedler, Hunter College, CUNY; Ahmad Shokr; Susan Slyomovics, UCLA; Haifa Zangana.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4060-1
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction Revolutionizing the Middle East
    (pp. vii-xiv)

    It is time to rethink how we all apprehend the Arab world. The myriad revolts and revolutions of the so-called Arab Spring unleashed forces of emancipation and spirits of social justice that swept across the region with unprecedented speed, ferocity, and joy. As these epochal movements faced violent devolutions and frustrating detours, horizons of transformation remained in question. But there is no doubt that the ways we in the region and around the world learn about, report on, and appreciate Arab peoples and politics were definitively revolutionized. In this light, this volume reintroduces global publics to the Arab world and...

  4. Tunisia
    (pp. 1-23)

    On february 4, 2011, British television personality and journalist Piers Morgan interviewed the former prime minister of Tunisia, Mohamed Ghannouchi, on his CNN showPiers Morgan Tonight.¹ Here is an excerpt of the short interview:

    Piers morgan: Mr. Prime Minister, can I ask you, have you been surprised by the events in Egypt and do you believe that President Mubarak should now go immediately?

    Mohamed ghannouchi: We are worrying about our own country. Our revolution is unique. It was caused by the young. Facebook and Twitter were the levers. It’s been held in a peaceful way. Today we were able...

  5. Egypt
    (pp. 24-62)

    What kind of large-scale political and social changes were initiated by the mass uprisings in Tahrir Square and throughout Egypt in 2011 and by the continuing waves of protests and mobilizations during the two years that followed? Given the persistence of forms of repression, exclusion, and sociopolitical paralysis that characterized the aftermath of the uprisings, should we call this a failed revolution, or a stolen revolution, or a revolution in progress? Or perhaps it never was a revolution at all?

    With its large population and its cultural and geographic centrality, Egypt is likely to make or break Arab regional trends...

  6. Bahrain
    (pp. 63-88)

    In awashington timesopinion piece published on April 19, 2011, Bahrain’s ruling monarch, King Hamad, proudly recounted his government’s response to the demonstrations that had spread throughout the country in February (Khalifa 2011). Noting that the people’s “grievances about civil and political rights for all Bahrainis are legitimate,” the king claimed that “demands for well-paying jobs, transparency in economic affairs and access to better social services were received with good will.” In answer to these demands, the king stated that he had “offered an unconditional dialogue with the opposition so as to maintain the stability of our country and...

  7. Saudi Arabia
    (pp. 89-100)

    Saudi arabia’s aging leaders were deeply shaken by the revolutionary ferment that swept through the Middle East in early 2011. They watched in frustration as Egyptian and Tunisian publics threw their longtime dictators from power. Anxiety turned to horror as opposition movements mobilized closer to home, especially in the small kingdom of Bahrain. There, just off Saudi Arabia’s eastern shore, tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters launched an ill-fated campaign to end authoritarian rule in one of the Al Saud’s longtime vassal states in February. Riyadh’s sense of urgency regarding the regional upheaval was on full display by mid-March, when...

  8. Yemen
    (pp. 101-121)

    In february 2011, Tawakkol Karman stood on a stage outside Sanaa University. A microphone in one hand and the other clenched defiantly above her head, reading from a list of demands, she led tens of thousands of cheering, flag-waving demonstrators in calls for peaceful political change. She was to become not so much the leader as the figurehead of Yemen’s uprising. On other days and in other cities, other citizens led the chants: men and women and sometimes, for effect, little children. These mass public performances enacted a veritable civic revolution in a poverty-stricken country where previous activist surges never...

  9. Algeria
    (pp. 122-134)

    Postindependence algeria combines a valiant history of revolutionary struggle for national liberation with a militarized authoritarian structure. Although established through a war of independence (1954–62) with the promise of political transformation, Algeria under military rule became a political failure whose military successes lie in the realm of internal armed interventions, police actions, and offensive campaigns directed against the nation’s own populace. Beginning in 1830, when France invaded and incorporated the region as an overseas colonial possession, Algeria inherited and maintained the structure and bureaucracies of French military and colonial rule even after independence. Beginning in 1848, the colony was...

  10. Morocco
    (pp. 135-156)

    In december 2011, Kenza, a young Moroccan pro-democracy activist whose family lives in one of the capital’s poorest suburbs shared her puzzlement with me: “Look around you,” she said. “We Moroccans have every reason to rebel, yet nothing is happening!” (personal interview 2011a). Kenza, a twenty-nine-year-old hospital worker, was referring to the inability of the February 20 movement (a broad coalition of pro-democracy activists calling for more freedom, dignity, and social justice that coalesced in the country following the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions in early 2011) to exploit widespread popular frustrations and precipitate mass mobilization against the Moroccan regime.¹ In...

  11. Libya
    (pp. 157-203)

    After nearly three decades, the gates of Abu Salim were wide open. For Libyans, the very name of the prison still evokes nightmares, visions of a purgatory from which one might never return. A symbol of the terror that came to define Muammar Qaddafi’s forty-two-year rule, Abu Salim was where even the regime’s mildest critics feared they would end up if they aired their grievances too loudly, or to the wrong person. But in September 2011 the grim compound was flooded with visitors: former prisoners showing their families the insides of the small windowless cells where they lost so much...

  12. Syria
    (pp. 204-242)

    Protests against Bashar al-Assad’s rule in Syria started in the aftermath of the ousting of Ben Ali’s dictatorship by the Tunisian revolution. In January 2011, civil disobedience and demonstrations of dissatisfaction with the Baathist regime, which included self-immolations, started to occupy the Syrian public arena.¹ Despite these early signs of unrest, Assad affirmed in an interview with theWall Street Journal(2011) that Syria was and would remain unaffected by the wave of revolts and protests spreading throughout the Arab world. Explaining his views on the phenomenon, he described the situation as follows:

    It means if you have stagnant water,...

  13. Jordan
    (pp. 243-265)

    On march 24, 2011, hundreds of Jordanians calling themselves the March 24 Youth began what they intended as an indefinite sit-in outside the Ministry of the Interior in the capital city of Amman. As one member stated prior to the event:

    We are a mixture of free Jordanian young men and women, who are tired of delays and the promise of reform, who see the spread of corruption, the deterioration of the economic situation, the regression of political life, the erasure of freedoms, and the dissolution of the social fabric. (Jadaliyya 2011)

    The police were mostly peaceful on the first...

  14. Lebanon
    (pp. 266-281)

    On february 27, 2011, a group of Lebanese citizens working toward changing the Lebanese political system came together under the slogan “For the fall of the sectarian regime in Lebanon: toward a secular, civil, and democratic regime.” Soon their enthusiasm spilled over the movement’s Facebook page and onto the streets of Beirut. Thousands of people walked through the city demanding an overhaul of political sectarianism in Lebanon and its replacement with a meritocratic and civil state (Ya Libnan 2011). Convinced that the system of political sectarianism breeds corruption, sexism, and weak state institutions, activists conflated civil reforms with secularization in...

  15. Palestine
    (pp. 282-307)

    May 15 is a special day for Palestinians because it commemorates the displacement of eight hundred thousand fellow countrymen at the hands of Zionist militias during the 1948 War and the declaration of Israeli independence. One might expect that these events, known throughout the Arab world as the Nakba (Arabic for “catastrophe”), would have faded in importance after more than sixty years. In fact, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, explicitly noted such an expectation when he infamously stated, “The old [generation of refugees] will die, and the young will forget.” But history has proven otherwise. Generation after generation of...

  16. Iraq
    (pp. 308-324)

    At the heart of most Arab capital cities there is a Tahrir Square. Baghdad is no exception. Following February 25, 2011, demonstrations and vigils were taking place in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square as well as in similar squares in other Iraqi cities—Basra, Kut, and Karbala in the south, Mosul in the north, and Ramadi in the west. Those taking place in Erbil and Sulaimaniya in the Kurdistan region extended the definition of the Arab Spring, since Kurds as well as Arabs were taking part. The question was whether the characteristics of the protests in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria...

  17. Sudan
    (pp. 325-354)

    The protests in the Middle East and North Africa that began in late 2010 highlighted a number of issues that had been obscured by long-standing ahistorical understandings of Middle Eastern and Islamic societies and Western-centered fallacies. Specifically, they demonstrated the crucial importance of bringing both political economy and identity-based politics “back in” as parts of a key framework of analysis. The conventional thesis privileging the idea of a “durable authoritarianism” (Schlumberger 2007) in the region had been undermined by a transregional civil society confronting the power of the combined forces of international capital, domestic commercial interests, and the formidable security...

  18. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 355-356)
  19. Contributors
    (pp. 357-362)
  20. Index
    (pp. 363-391)