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Voices of the Arab Spring

Voices of the Arab Spring: Personal Stories from the Arab Revolutions

Asaad Al-Saleh
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/al-s16318
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  • Book Info
    Voices of the Arab Spring
    Book Description:

    Narrated by dozens of activists and everyday individuals, this book documents the unprecedented events that led to the collapse of dictatorial regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. Beginning in 2011, these stories offer unique access to the message that inspired citizens to act, their experiences during revolt, and the lessons they learned from some of the most dramatic changes and appalling events to occur in the history of the Arab world. The riveting, revealing, and sometimes heartbreaking stories in this volume also include voices from Syria.

    Featuring participants from a variety of social and educational backgrounds and political commitments, these personal stories of action represent the Arab Spring's united and broad social movements, collective identities, and youthful character. For years, the volume's participants lived under regimes that brutally suppressed free expression and protest. Their testimony speaks to the multifaceted emotional, psychological, and cultural factors that motivated citizens to join together to struggle against their oppressors.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53858-9
    Subjects: Political Science, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. FOREWORD: UNDERSTANDING RECENT SOCIAL AND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA: A PERSONAL ODYSSEY
    (pp. xiii-xxii)
    Peter Sluglett

    For most of my adult lifetime, the news from the Middle East has been almost uniformly gloomy. Until quite recently, it seemed that the Arab world was unable to leave behind its postcolonial trauma. There were some exceptions: for a while in the 1950s and early 1960s, Arabs now in their sixties and seventies had a window of hope. Nasser and his Free Officer colleagues took Egypt out of British control and set it on a path that seemed to be moving toward the recovery of national dignity and independence, overthrowing the monarchy in July 1952 and nationalizing the Suez...

  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    This book tells the personal stories of individuals who participated in the Arab Spring, written by the activists and participants themselves. These stories offer readers a deeper understanding of the motives, activities, and lessons learned from the revolutions that swept across the Arab world in late 2010 and toppled dictatorial regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. The forty-six narratives reveal the multifaceted dynamics that brought about dramatic and appalling changes in the history of the modern Arab world. Written mostly by young Arabs, these accounts give voices to the people who lived under regimes that long oppressed them and...

  6. 1. TUNISIA

    • [1. Introduction]
      (pp. 19-21)

      The events of the Arab Spring started in Tunisia on December 17, 2010. A twenty-six-year-old Tunisian, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in front of a municipal building in Sidi Bouzid, a rural town two hundred miles south of Tunis, the capital. His act was understood by many as a protest against the confiscation of his cart, which he used to sell fruits and vegetables, and the dismissal of his complaint. While the specific circumstances are unknown—how much humiliation and frustration he felt because of official harassment, before acting so desperately—many understood and felt his grievance and even...

    • TUNISIAN REVOLUTION: GAINING OUR FREEDOM AND DIGNITY
      (pp. 21-24)
      Abes Hamid

      On December 17, 2010, the Tunisian people’s revolution began after flames engulfed the body of Mohammed Bouazizi, the young man who could not take any more of the injustice that President Ben Ali had sown throughout the country during the twenty-three years of his rule. Ben Ali was a dictator whose authoritarian regime was enforced with the help of a gang, which is his wife’s family. They transformed the country into private property, which they plundered and whose institutions they exploited for personal gain. Their wealth reached unimaginable amounts; it was obtained under the guise of electoral legitimacy and the...

    • THE DEATH OF MY COUSIN AND THE BIRTH OF A NEW TUNISIA
      (pp. 25-30)
      Ahlem Yazidi

      It would be impossible for me to fully describe, to accurately put into words, what happened in Tunisia and what I witnessed personally, on the fateful days of January 11, 12, and 13, 2011. It would be impossible, even if I were given unlimited time to do the task. And it would be unfair to summarize it in a few lines, because the uprisings I witnessed undoubtedly changed not only the history of the Arab nations but also the way the world perceived them. I personally consider the Tunisian revolution as anintifada, the justified uprising of an oppressed and...

    • TUNISIANS BREAKING THE SILENCE
      (pp. 30-33)
      Marwen Jemili

      As a Tunisian I think it is very important to convey the situation of the Tunisian people before January 14 when the president cowardly left the country. January 13 has been disregarded because there were not a lot of demonstrations, but I believe both days were really exceptional.

      During the few days before January 14 I was extremely nervous—I felt the country was collapsing because of the instability. I remember people were saying on Facebook that they heard shooting outside or that somebody was shot during a demonstration. I questioned their honesty sometimes, and I thought that they just...

    • REVOLUTION FROM THE OUTSIDE
      (pp. 34-37)
      Noureddine Cherif

      I left Tunis on August 10, 2010, to go to the United States as a Fulbright student. During winter break, I hung out with my fellow Fulbrighters having fun, traveling from one city to another, exploring the East Coast from New York to Miami while my home country was burning. The Tunisian revolution started in December 2010 when Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire. I felt ashamed that I was out of the country. While my fellow Tunisian Fulbrighters and I were on our trip, we heard that Sidi Bouzid was on fire, but I did not think for a...

    • THE TORMENTS OF THE REVOLUTION
      (pp. 38-41)
      Marwa Hermassi

      Before telling my story, I would like to say that my testimony is not a sufficient representation of the years and years of sacrifices and activism by many young people of my generation and the generations before. Even if some of my friends and family liked the militant side of my personality, I think I did not give to my country what many gave, what I should have given. I have always been interested in the political and social situation in my country. I think the reason was my father. He had many troubles in Bourguiba’s era as an opponent...

    • TUNISIA’S HARD TIMES AND ITS BEST TIMES
      (pp. 41-45)
      Yesmina Khedhir

      More than one year has passed since the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution. Tunisia, the country that started what we now call the “Arab Spring,” actually marked a shift in the history of the Arab world. As a Tunisian citizen, both a witness and a participant, I really want to record my experience so that readers know more about what happened. Officially, the Tunisian revolution started in December 2010, but in fact, the seeds for the people’s revolt were there before that. Tunisian people lived for more than twenty years under the control of a president who governed with an...

    • THE SMELL OF JASMINE: THE TUNISIAN REVOLUTION FROM THE OUTSIDE
      (pp. 46-50)
      Nada Maalmi

      January 14, 2012, one year after Ben Ali fled the country. What is left? While browsing on Facebook, I noticed a picture shared by a current opposition personality. It was a screenshot of live streaming on the national television channel: Alwatanyia 1. This was the official ceremony to commemorate the Tunisian revolution. I asked myself, “What does the January 14 revolution remind me of? How do I relate to it after one year?” Young people, men and women, intellectuals, uneducated, and unemployed citizens together all took to the streets to protest against repression, unemployment, and corruption. But there are two...

  7. 2. EGYPT

    • [2. Introduction]
      (pp. 51-54)

      Thawrat 25 Yanayir, or the January 25 Revolution, is what many Egyptians call the popular uprisings to overthrow Mubarak’s regime in 2011. This term filled the pages of the most widely circulating newspaper,al-Ahram, on January 25, 2012. On a full page with the headline “25 January: First Year of Revolution,” the newspaper states that the revolution was launched “so that the Egyptian person regains his or her dignity, Egypt’s democracy will be born, social justice will prevail, and jobs and opportunities will be available for all Egyptians, particularly the youth,” but it also says that after all the sacrifices...

    • THE MOMENT THE BARRIER OF FEAR BROKE DOWN
      (pp. 55-59)
      Adel Abdel Ghafar

      The place is Tahrir Square, in front of the American University in Cairo. The date is January 25, 2011. The time is approximately 4:00 p.m. The acrid stench of tear gas surrounds me. The sounds of bullets, screams, and sirens are deafening. A squad of Central Security riot police charge toward us, shields raised and batons drawn. Several protesters have fallen to the ground and are being brutally beaten by the riot police. I run, with a group of others, trying to scramble away from the carnage and escape the riot police. As I am running, I see a dying...

    • FUNNY BEGINNINGS AND HAPPY ENDINGS
      (pp. 60-63)
      Mona Prince

      After the Tunisians toppled their president, I called my family and friends to offer congratulations on the Tunisian revolution as if it were our own. Of course we wondered, “Would the Egyptian people revolt?” But we concluded, “Not during our lifetimes.” Few Egyptians resorted to self-immolation, following the example of Tunisia’s Mohamed Bouazizi, the trigger of the Tunisian revolution. Even though a very small number of injuries were caused by first-degree burns, they led to a barrage of jokes by Egyptians. For example, “A call to all Egyptians! Do not set yourself on fire, because if the revolution begins, there...

    • THE EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION: A PERSONAL ACCOUNT
      (pp. 64-67)
      Jordan Fitzgerald Smith

      As my roommate and I watched the revolution unfold in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria on January 28, 2011, I said, “We had better get out of this café now and get some groceries. This doesn’t look good at all!” This was perhaps the most intense day for me, as an American woman living in Alexandria, Egypt, during the Egyptian revolution, which had begun three days earlier. In 2009, I had come to Egypt in order to teach English and to learn Arabic, and with the hope of helping bridge the gap between the Egyptian and American cultures.

      Before...

    • IT IS JUST . . . THE BEGINNING
      (pp. 67-70)
      Sara Hany

      Egypt is not Tunisia and Tunisia is not Egypt. That was what almost everyone said after the Tunisian uprising. No one thought that the tide of the Arab Spring would come to Egypt as well.

      A few days before January 25 when my friends and I heard the announcement of the revolution, we reacted sarcastically. Not because we liked the regime but because we thought, “How can you organize a revolution and give it a date?! A revolution just bursts out with no date. Giving it a date will make the police and the regime ready to crush it.” We...

    • WELCOME TO UTOPIA!
      (pp. 71-75)
      Amor Eletrebi

      “Welcome to Utopia!” read the sign. It was the myth, the people’s existence, walking around with a harsh grin on their faces—a grin that told you that these people had something to say. You followed the grin and checked the sign a man was holding. You could tell these words were probably the only words this man could write. You could tell he’d asked his friend at the coffee shop, after a game of backgammon and a shared Cleopatra cigarette, to teach him how to write the words. You could tell that he wrote them with the help of...

    • MY EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION
      (pp. 75-78)
      Maha Hindawy

      On one night, long before January 25, I saw pictures of Khaled Said on Facebook—I could not sleep at all that night. I joined his support group “We are all Khaled Said” on Facebook. The group started organizing events for which we dressed in black and faced the Nile or the sea for an hour (and in silence) from wherever we were standing. I loved the idea because it allowed me to demonstrate my anger at and condemnation of Khaled’s murder in a very civilized way. I could also express my fear of becoming the next victim of the...

    • THE BULLETS ARE STILL IN MY LEG
      (pp. 78-83)
      Al-Mutazbellah Ahmad Ali al-Abd

      It was almost 2:00 p.m. on January 25, 2011, in the metropolitan Muhandisin District on the western bank of the Nile River, when shadows of silence were cast over the area. Anxiously, I walked down Arab League Street, hoping to arrive at the given meeting point without being stopped or questioned. When I got about a hundred meters away, I sat down inside a gazebo, monitored the situation, and waited for some friends to start what we were there for. The time was approaching. I trembled as I picked up my cell phone to call my friends, speaking English as...

    • IT HAPPENED IN EGYPT!
      (pp. 83-88)
      Aly Hassan Amin Rabea

      I was not one of those political activists or those who join demonstrations with angry faces and fiery chants. I barely made it to some of the demonstrations scheduled in advance and announced through social networking sites. Yet when I started going to the demonstrations in Egypt, my main purpose was to document what was happening by taking some pictures and uploading them on Facebook. But what happened on January 25, 2011, was quite different and changed my attitude. The day before, I had arranged to meet with my friend Abdullah Sharkas, a director and photographer from Alexandria. We wanted...

    • DIARY TO DEMOCRACY (INSHALLAH [GOD WILLING])
      (pp. 88-93)
      Claudia Wiens

      You might ask why a foreigner is writing here about her experiences during the revolution in Egypt. And no, I’m not part of the foreign conspiracy that the regime claimed was supposedly instigating the revolution. To illustrate the farcical nature of these claims, the Egyptian satirical online newspaper,el-Koshary Today(http://elkoshary.com/), identified these foreign forces as Australian koala bears.

      Since 1994 I have simply loved Egypt unconditionally—it has always felt like home. Being in Egypt during the revolution was not just a professional experience as a photographer, but something that turned my life fundamentally upside down. The intensity...

    • TELLING MY SECRET
      (pp. 93-98)
      Kholoud Said Amer

      How do I start my revolution story? It is in fact not only my story—it is the “story of the people,” like the title of the famous song by Abdul Halim celebrating the construction of the Aswan Dam in the 1960s. During the eighteen days from Tuesday, January 25, until Friday, February 11, 2011, the best days of my life by far, we related to this classical song because it talks about Egyptian resilience. For many years, I have been occupied with public action in a nonpolitical and nonideological manner, particularly in social movements and civic work. I also...

    • THE FALL AND RISE OF AN EGYPTIAN UPRISING
      (pp. 98-109)
      Samaa Gamie

      For years I have wondered what it meant to be an Egyptian: Was it something that came with birth? Was it that once someone was born on a land, it became his or hers by default? That was not the case with me. I was not born in Egypt. Being born in another country took away my sense of belonging to what I should perceive as my homeland. Even after moving back to Egypt and spending most of my youth and adult years there, the question of what made me an Egyptian lingered. I always wondered who I saw myself...

    • THE SPIRIT OF TAHRIR SQUARE: “LIKE GOING TO MECCA ON A PILGRIMAGE”
      (pp. 109-112)
      Al-Sayed Abdulmughni

      My name is al-Sayed Abdulmughni, and I am also known as al-Sayed Falafel (or Mr. Falafel) because I used to sell falafel at one point in my career. When I reflect on my life, I claim to be a self-made Egyptian citizen because I have taken financial responsibility for myself since I was in fourth grade. While working hard in different jobs, I earned my diploma of commerce in 1984, the most education I could ever receive. Working hard was the staple of my life in my multiple careers, sometimes working for eighteen hours a day. Thank God I now...

  8. 3. LIBYA

    • [3. Introduction]
      (pp. 113-114)

      On February 15, 2011, the Libyan authorities in Benghazi arrested the lawyer Fathi Terbil, who was representing the families of those killed in Abu Salim prison in Tripoli in 1996. The prison was the scene for a massacre of about twelve hundred inmates, who were imprisoned because they were opponents of the regime. The event took place after the prisoners had taken some hostages inside the prison and demanded better conditions, and it left many families of the victims seeking justice. When Terbil was arrested, the families joined the lawyers and judges who protested in front of Benghazi’s main courthouse....

    • MY MISSION IN THE LIBYAN REVOLUTION
      (pp. 114-121)
      Mohammed Zarrug

      I want to start with a disclaimer: It is really embarrassing for me to write about my role in the Libyan revolution when I remember the blood of the martyrs. It is equally embarrassing to try to describe only my own role when the revolution was indeed the outcome of millions of Libyan people. But I will write about my experience because I was asked to do so. I will write because I witnessed and participated in major events—even though everything I did does not equal one drop of the blood from the glorious martyrs who suffered death as...

    • FIGHTING QADDAFI: MORE DETERMINATION THAN WEAPONS
      (pp. 121-125)
      Khairi Altarhuni

      I should say from the outset that I have valid reasons for my opposition to the regime and my support of the revolution in Libya. I am a young Libyan born in Tripoli to an ordinary family, not rich and not poor. I studied mechanical engineering and graduated in 2001. Feeling happy with my degree, I thought that doors would open for me and that a good future awaited. But as I started applying for jobs, I realized that the opposite was true. I applied at many places for jobs in the departments of energy, military industries, and armed forces...

    • THE DARK NIGHT ON THE TRIPOLI FRONT
      (pp. 126-128)
      Abdulmonem Allieby

      I was born and raised in Tripoli, Libya, but because my father was a dissident, I was forced into exile and eventually settled in the United States. The Libyan revolution was a dream that I and most other Libyans initially saw as impossible, but the spark in Benghazi lit hope inside me for the first time. After a few months of watching the revolution unfold on television, it became the only thing in my life, and I could no longer carry on with basic everyday activities such as work and school. I felt solace only when I found myself in...

    • FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM
      (pp. 129-132)
      Ehab Ibrahim al-Khinjari

      I live in Ghout Alshaal, a residential area located in the capital, Tripoli, and my house is located in what is called Street No. 10. On the night of February 18, 2011, I heard people chanting “With our souls, with our blood, we will sacrifice ourselves for you, Benghazi” and showing support for this Libyan city. At that time, Benghazi was under attack by the regime of the former president, Muammar al-Qaddafi. I went out to the street and started running in a psychological state I have not experienced before. I do not know how to describe that moment. I...

    • FROM SCHOOL TO THE BATTLEFIELD
      (pp. 133-136)
      Yusef Mohamed Benruwin

      For my whole life I was raised on the dream of a free Libya. My father, Dr. Mohamed Abdu-Rahaman Benruwin, dedicated his life to that dream. He focused his research on Islamic politics and wrote critiques of Qaddafi’s regime and its use of torture against the Libyan people. Blacklisted after attending a protest in Benghazi, which caused the university to temporarily shut down, my father left Libya in 1977 and did not return to the country until November 2011. His passion for Libya permeated my life, and he always told me that his dream was for me to help Libya...

    • LIVING THROUGH THE LIBYAN UPRISING
      (pp. 137-139)
      Gay Emmaya Tongali

      Trying to summarize how I lived my life through the months of the Libyan revolution is challenging. I was hopeful when the New Year started. Plans were outlined; I had goals that needed to be met. I never knew that events would unfold that would drastically change my life. The whole experience was tough, rough, and, frankly, painful.

      All right, let me start in mid-February, the seventeenth to be exact, when what started as a simple demonstration turned into an all-out war in Libya. It was a mind-blowing experience that I wouldn’t want to go through again. It was downright...

    • BENGHAZI, MY LOVE
      (pp. 140-144)
      Adel el-Taguri

      As a child in the early 1970s, I remember going out into the streets with my father, as did tens of thousands of enthusiastic Libyans, to salute Qaddafi in the first few years after his 1969 coup. As the years went by, however, things changed. When I entered the university, dozens of small incidents always reminded us of how Qaddafi’s revolutionary committees changed the life of thousands of children who grew up in misery. A simple wall journal was confiscated because of a small comment on the value of the scholarship given to a student who had been reprimanded by...

    • MY WORK IN REVOLUTIONARY LIBYA
      (pp. 144-148)
      Annabelle Veso Faller

      When I was still in the Philippines, I tried to research the country that was to become my workplace, to at least equip myself with basic knowledge about the very first country I would spend a considerable amount of time in besides my birth country. Unfortunately, I found very little relevant information. I learned that Libya is situated in North Africa and not in the Middle East, as many believe because it is a Muslim country. I also learned that for more than four decades, the country’s official ruler was Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi. I had only seen posted pictures of...

    • THE DAYS OF MY LIFE
      (pp. 148-152)
      Ezedin Bosedra Abdelkafi

      Yes, I am a Libyan, and yes, I did not believe that we would have even an opportunity to say no to Qaddafi’s regime, let alone witness and participate in a “revolution.” I will describe the three weeks of my work as a doctor during the revolution, particularly from February 15 to March 23, 2011. I will record the hardships we went through, but before that let me try to explain to you how I felt about the Qaddafi era before the revolution. I hated the whole regime, but I personally agreed to his becoming the ruler of Libya and...

    • BLOOD FOR MY COUNTRY
      (pp. 153-156)
      Aisha A. Nasef

      On Tuesday, February 15, 2011, my husband and I went to Tripoli to attend a one-day conference on blood banks. We also wanted to apply for a visa to go to France to attend the annual conference of the French Association of Blood Diseases. My brothers strongly opposed our trip because of the possible demonstrations on February 17, which had already been announced by email and on Facebook. They feared that we might get caught up by riots that could lead to all flights being canceled. In fact, I did not take the matter seriously because I thought it was...

  9. 4. YEMEN

    • [4. Introduction]
      (pp. 157-159)

      Both Muammar al-Qaddafi and Ali Abdullah Saleh had been military men before they took on civilian roles as “supreme guide” and president, and both turned the army against their rebellious people. Yemen is the poorest state in the Arab world and lacks infrastructural development in almost all the sectors of its economy. This, along with high rates of unemployment and corruption, made the country ready to end Saleh’s regime. Saleh had ruled North Yemen from 1978 to 1990 and then, after unification, Yemen since 1990. Even before the Arab Spring, Saleh had been struggling with opposition movements that challenged his...

    • WITNESSING THE YEMENI REVOLUTION
      (pp. 159-163)
      Mahmoud Sagheer al-Fasly

      I will start with this date: February 3, 2011, which is considered the beginning of the revolution in Yemen. Answering the call of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), the largest demonstrations started in the capital, Sanaa, and various other governorates of Yemen. The JMP began preparing for this demonstration about a week earlier, planning to have it in Sanaa, in Tahrir Square downtown. Two days before that date, however—on Tuesday, February 1—President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ruling party set up twelve big tents in the square in order to block the opposition’s plan and to control the area. The...

    • YEMENI OBSERVATIONS
      (pp. 163-167)
      Joshua Zettel

      I went to Yemen to study Arabic in May 2010. Seven months later, I found myself watching a revolution unfold in a country oppressed for the thirty-three years since the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, had taken power. Since January 2011, I had been going to these protests on Fridays to listen and watch the prayers and to hear people’s opinions on the issue of changing the regime. Being a foreigner and experiencing nothing but American democracy my whole life, I was interested in how a dictator rules his country and what could be done to change that system. It was...

    • THE YEMENI DREAM
      (pp. 167-170)
      Reemy Mojahed

      I was in my town, which is close to the capital, Sanaa, and I can remember listening to the radio while preparing breakfast when I heard about Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation. This news thrust me into a new life and perspective. Like Bouazizi, I also was a college graduate without a job. Belonging to the middle class and studying sociology made me relate to him even more. At that point I felt a mixture of nerve-wracking humiliation and pain. For a moment, I imagined that we were just millions of humiliated people spread on a map of the Arab world. This was...

    • THE EMERGING NEW YEMEN
      (pp. 171-175)
      Ameen Jaber Sailaan

      I grew up in the governorate of Hajja, which is located northwest of Sanaa. The city has been marginalized and neglected by the regime, even though the ruling party claimed victory at all its voting centers in the last parliamentary elections in 2003. The downtown is relatively small—almost everyone knows who does what. Thus, every person is known to be affiliated with a particular political party, whether or not one wants to be. One’s appearance, how one behaves, and even the family’s title have political significance in such an insulated society. In my early years, I used to watch...

    • KILLING THE ROSE BUT NOT THE SPRING
      (pp. 175-180)
      Abduljalil Yousef

      I became engaged and interested in the Yemeni revolution on the first day it started, Saturday, January 15, 2011. This is when the Yemeni people displayed their strong opposition to the regime and took to the streets in order to condemn the corruption and Ali Abdullah Saleh’s preparations to pass the presidency of Yemen to his son, which had been speculated in recent years. The first demonstration did not last long, as people marched for only two hours and then went home. But a small group of young people who participated and were not affiliated with any political party opted...

    • THE AROMA OF FREEDOM AND THE SMELL OF BLOOD
      (pp. 181-185)
      Abdullah Sufian Modhesh

      In the beginning of the Arab Spring, with the first flowers blossoming in Tunisia, I was not so optimistic about the possibility of the same thing happening in Yemen. Although I believed that Yemen needed a regime change more than any other Arab country, I was almost totally desperate about the possibility of that happening by way of peaceful protests. This despair was not because I didn’t believe in the potential of Yemeni youth but because I knew that corruption in Yemen, unlike that in Tunisia and other countries, already was institutionalized and woven into the structures of the society...

    • THE TENT AND THE REVOLUTION
      (pp. 185-189)
      Mohammed al-Omari

      I don’t know exactly where to start; there were so many events that I lived through during the youth revolution in Yemen. Nonetheless, I will give an account of what stands out in my memory as relevant and worth sharing. It all started in February 2011, when we heard about the revolution by the Tunisian people and we doubted that they would achieve success on the ground, particularly to overthrow President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. That is why I was greatly amazed when Ben Ali fled Tunisia, thanks to the people’s revolt. I wished at the time that those events...

    • THE CHALLENGES OF OUR YEMENI REVOLUTION
      (pp. 190-197)
      Sarah Jamal Ali Ahmed

      I engaged in civic activism for the first time when I turned fifteen and spent two years working in an Arab-Israeli youth conflict resolution and coexistence network. I got to know so much about the boundaries I had taken for granted. Eventually I chose to become a sociologist in order to understand what my society has to offer me and what I can do improve it. During my four years in college, which was Northwestern University in Chicago, I discovered a whole new world of perspectives and ideologies, and I became a strong believer in two things: social justice and...

  10. 5. SYRIA

    • [5. Introduction]
      (pp. 198-201)

      Syrian expatriates created what would be the most visible Facebook page, “Syrian Revolution 2011 against Bashar al-Assad,” and they set Tuesday, March 15, to be the start date for revolt. But the timing was not propitious, and nothing unusual happened during the day. Syrians joined the Arab Spring as a response to the events that took place in the southwestern city of Daraa. On March 5, 2011, about fifteen elementary school children wrote antigovernment graffiti that reads in Arabic, “Ijaakal door ya diktoor” (Now it is your turn, Doctor [Bashar al-Assad]), referring to the Syrian president’s profession as an ophthalmologist...

    • SYRIAN WOMEN’S REVOLUTION: THE NEW WOMEN OF QURAISH
      (pp. 201-205)
      Rustum Mahmoud

      “I am shamed by the women of Quraish” is a widely used idiom in our popular culture. It has a sense of defi ance: a person engages in an act—despite warnings of its dangers and negative effects—and insists on continuing unless he or she is told to retreat or desist. Here, insistence springs from value-based factors or egoism, which gives primacy to values, the actor, or other utilitarian concepts that may lead to retreat. Historically, the source of this idiom is a folktale about the meeting between Prophet Mohammad and Antara ibn Shaddad, whose courage, generosity, and poetry...

    • THE ROAD FROM DAMASCUS TO AL-QABOUN
      (pp. 206-212)
      Odai Alzoubi

      I looked around me as if I were seeing my friend’s house for the first time. It is located in the heart of Damascus, where a feeling of claustrophobia had settled in the aftermath of the demonstration that we joined on Wednesday, July 13, 2011. Our plan for the day did not completely succeed: We were supposed to meet at my friend’s house at the end of the demonstration, but some of us were arrested, and others escaped and disappeared in the alleys. We went to a café instead. I was trying to recover my calm in my own way:...

    • FREEDOM AND NOTHING ELSE
      (pp. 212-216)
      Hani al-Furati

      The city of Deir al-Zour, just like the entire region around the Euphrates River, is magnificent. But this eastern part of Syria suffers from poverty and unemployment: 40 percent of its young people are in other countries looking for jobs. Most of the people in the towns work in agriculture, and some of them are expatriates living abroad to support their families. Both the educated and the uneducated people in this area seek jobs in the oil-producing states in the Arabian Gulf, even though they come from a place that produces oil and is rich in agricultural and dairy products....

    • A STORY FROM HOMS
      (pp. 217-221)
      Mohammed Kadalah

      At the beginning of the revolution, on February 15, the people, mainly young, answered the call to start the Syrian Day of Anger. In my hometown, about five hundred people gathered in the main street for about an hour, and then it was over. Actually, that gathering was extremely dangerous because we had never before publicly criticized the government. However, nothing bad happened, and we felt that we had done our part to start the Syrian revolution. Even though I was busy at that time, I felt extremely happy that we could challenge our fear and the government as well....

    • THE FIRST STEPS TOWARD DEMOCRACY
      (pp. 222-225)
      Bishr Said

      The roots of the Syrian Arab Spring can be traced back to the moment oftawreeth, the inheritance of the presidency in Syria, a nightmare that Syrians feared before it happened and that later became both a reality and a torment for all Arabs living in republican states. The citizens of these republics worried that the same fate would befall them. In 2000, the Syrian regime could get away with this unprecedented transition of power to Bashar al-Assad after his father, Hafez, died while in office. In the same year, the Damascus spring began after the young president took control...

    • A SMALL COMMUNITY OF GREAT SYRIAN REVOLUTIONARIES
      (pp. 226-229)
      Amer Mahdi Doko

      The Arab Spring was a big surprise for those who never believed in the will of the people. On the contrary, it came as a dream come true for those who always believed in and worked for change. I was one of those who believed in change. I know deep down inside me that the day will come when we are free. All the suffering from oppression will end. For me, there has always been a small light at the end of the tunnel, even when all my friends started losing hope. I have always believed that we can be...

    • FROM THE DAMASCUS SPRING TO THE ARAB SPRING: A NONPERSONAL STORY
      (pp. 230-233)
      Radwan Ziadeh

      When the wave of Arab Spring uprisings brought monumental changes to Tunisia and Egypt, analysts thought Syria would be next. The mass demonstrations that began in Daraa seemed to gather together the country’s disparate groups in a call for human dignity. Respect for human rights, equality, and protection from corruption underpinned all the popular revolutions of the Arab Spring, including Syria.

      The Syrian revolution had less to do with unemployment than with honor and dignity. An entire people had been brutally oppressed and systematically terrorized by the leaders of their own country, oppression that spanned decades. While the conventional wisdom...

    • BEFORE AND AFTER THE ARAB SPRING: KURDISH STRIFE FOR FREEDOM
      (pp. 233-237)
      Walat Khabat

      I was a high school student when I became a member of the Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria (PDK-S) in 1994. I chose PDK-S for all that I had learned and seen of the party’s long history of struggle and fight to achieve the following:

      1. Kurdish political, cultural and societal rights.

      2. Overall democracy in Syria.

      3. Stronger bonds of brotherhood between Kurds and their fellow Arabs.

      4. Women’s rights in Syria.

      5. The abolishment of all racial discrimination against Kurds in Syria.

      The PDK-S’s struggle for these objectives has always been peaceful, as we believe in the spirit...

    • STATE SECURITY AND MY COUNTRY
      (pp. 238-242)
      Hasan Khalil

      It was a winter night when I sat in a café with four friends and heard on the news that Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, president of Tunisia, had fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2011. It was a strange piece of news! We looked at one another, and all of us were thinking the same thing: “Could it happen in Syria?” But nobody dared to say it out loud. We continued late into the night, and then everybody went home. After a few months, three of us were protesting and could not believe it was really us!

      Less than...

  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 243-244)