News / Middle East

    Arab Spring Became Brutal Winter, Analysts Say

    FILE – A voter shows her ink-stained finger after participating in Tunisia’s first post-revolution parliamentary election in the Tunis suburb of Ben Arous, Oct. 26, 2014.
    FILE – A voter shows her ink-stained finger after participating in Tunisia’s first post-revolution parliamentary election in the Tunis suburb of Ben Arous, Oct. 26, 2014.
    Mohamed Elshinnawi

    Five years after Tunisia became the birthplace of the so-called Arab Spring, analysts say most of the Arab countries that witnessed popular uprisings in 2011 are now worse off.

    The hopes for a peaceful transition from authoritarianism to democracy and social justice were dashed by new autocrats, repression, civil war and counter-revolutionary forces.

    "Almost every Arab country is either worse off than it was in 2011 or no significant positive change has occurred, so the phase that the region is in right now is a brutal winter,” said Amy Hawthorne, Deputy Director of Research at Project on Middle East Democracy.

    The one exception, she says: partial success in Tunisia.

    It was unique circumstances in that country that made for a different outcome.

    "Tunisia does not have a very powerful or politically influential military, and that allowed civilian politicians and civil forces to dominate the political transition into democracy,” Hawthorne said. “Tunisia also has a strong civil society and pragmatic secular and Islamist political leaders who wisely managed the transition.”

    However, Tunisia is still facing significant security and economic challenges.

    FILE - Anti-military protesters, mostly supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, gathered on the third anniversary of the Egypt's 2011 uprising in Egypt, Jan. 25, 2014.
    FILE - Anti-military protesters, mostly supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, gathered on the third anniversary of the Egypt's 2011 uprising in Egypt, Jan. 25, 2014.

    Elsewhere in the region, popular uprisings produced less successful results.

    In Egypt, the ouster of Hosni Mubarak was followed by unrest, political polarization, and eventually a military overthrow of his Islamist successor, Mohamed Morsi.

    “Mighty institutions of the state worked to reverse the democratic transition, elites showed no interest in democracy, preferring [their] own interests, and political actors — secular or Islamists — committed a great deal of mistakes getting involved in ideological fights,” said Amr Hamzawy, professor of political science at the American University in Cairo.

    That, according to Hamzawy, helped set the stage for the military overthrow of the Morsi government in 2013.

    But Hawthorne cited more specific reasons for the failed transition to democracy in Egypt.

    “Pro-democracy forces were divided and not strong enough to push back against authoritarian forces in Egypt," she said. "The Egyptian military used its influence to obstruct democracy-building, and [the] Muslim Brotherhood [MB] failed to lead the transition. Unlike Ennahda, [the] Islamic Party in Tunisia, MB proved itself to be very selfish and short-sighted.”

    Brutal winter

    The worst failures of the Arab uprisings were in Syria, Libya and Yemen, Hawthorne said.

    FILE - Demonstrators protest Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo's al-Sha'ar district, Jan. 25, 2013.
    FILE - Demonstrators protest Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo's al-Sha'ar district, Jan. 25, 2013.

    “In Syria, the level of repression the regime used to crush the peaceful uprising changed it into an armed conflict that became a battleground between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey,” she said. “In Libya, the lack of political institutions led everything to crumble. And in Yemen, a flawed political transition led by the Gulf countries papered over deep-seated political disputes that led to a civil war.”

    Lessons learned

    Hamzawy, who is also a former member of the first Egyptian parliament after the uprising, cited several lessons to be learned five years after the Arab uprisings.

    "Political actors have to avoid being trapped in ideological division,” he said. Another lesson: “not to underestimate the capacity of dictators to reach the highest levels of brutality in order to secure their grip over power.”

    Hamzawy argues that one major lesson to be learned is to pay attention to regional actors, like the Gulf monarchies supporting counter-revolutionary forces and suppressing the transition to democracy in the region.

    Hawthorne agrees with Hamzawy, and added that organization and planning are keys to successful transitions.

    “Pro-democracy movements have to learn how to better organize and to have a clear plan for what comes after the uprisings," she said. "They have to understand that young Arabs revolted for a better system of governance, more open and just societies, social justice and freedom.”

    What is next?

    Hawthorne strongly believes that while the first wave of popular uprisings failed to achieve their goals, Arab masses are not giving up.

    “While the hopes are crushed, they are not dead; the 2011 uprisings were sort of the initial earthquake that will be followed by another earthquake that will come sooner or later,” she said.

    Hamzawy agrees, and notes the importance of 2011 is that Arab people emerged with a firm vision of what they are aspiring to.

    “People demanded social justice, democratic transition, respect for human rights, modern states — and these demands will reemerge, but no one knows exactly when or in what form,” he said.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Mohamed Ghuneim
    January 20, 2016 2:57 PM
    Mr. Shinnawi is very accurate in his description of the state of the Arab World affairs in the aftermath of what was hoped to be a harbinger of mounting yearning to replace autocracy and despotism with the rule of people. Unfortunately, as evidences in this article and the situation on the ground, the Spring, as it looks now, may be headed from its brutal winter to a deep freeze.

    by: PermReader
    January 20, 2016 7:46 AM
    The bizzare ignorance of new leftists, inpired by marxists from one side and brainless liberals of the West ,produce the chaos of Arab springs and further."Social justice" in a mixture with the "national liberation" for "international" Sharia! These miserable creature does not see that the impossible contradictions of medieval Islam and modernity can be smoothed by authoritarian regimes only.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora