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Endless Arab Spring?

Iraq demonstration
Arzu Abbasova, BA International Relations

Again, we are faced with a scenario akin to the Arab Spring almost 8 years later but with the new youth.

Recently, the Middle East has been convulsed by growing protests in several countries, namely Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq. In Egypt, protests erupted in response to the exile of businessman, Mohammad Ali who accused the government of corruption. This resulted in the arrest of thousands of people, including journalists, activists, lawyers and 111 minors. Similarly, in Lebanon the riots mainly addressed the economic and financial crisis that the country is facing, in Iraq protesters did not only call for the downfall of the leader but they also called for the end of the political system. These protests saw violent reactions from the government as more than 100 people were killed while thousands were wounded, making the demonstrations one of the worst for Iraq in recent years. Interestingly, although the protests have different contexts, they all have similar catalysts: frustrated youth, unemployed people, corruption, poor public services and financial and economic difficulties. Additionally, the chanting of one of the most famous slogans from the 2011 protests, “Al-shab yurid isqat al- nizam!” (“The people want the fall of the regime”) brought the memories of the past to the surface. These reverberations pose questions about the future and whether we are witnessing yet another Arab Spring.  

The straightforward answer to that depends on how the protests will turn out. The recent protests seem like a flashback to what we saw before in the Arab Spring; demonstrations both in Egypt and Iraq have been leaderless and spontaneous; social media has played an important role in mobilizing the protestors; finally, the protests had a nationwide character and governments, in turn, aggressively attacked the protesters. Again, we are faced with a scenario akin to the Arab Spring almost 8 years later but with the new youth.

One must draw attention to the fact that as well as the protesters, the governments are also cautious of the memories of the Arab Spring. Indeed, when the protests ruptured, both in Egypt and Iraq the internet and social media was immediately blocked to prevent further communication among protesters, and the respective governments tried to find common ground with the public by offering them concessions. Surprisingly for the very first time since the break out of the protests, the Iraqi military agreed that their use of force was ‘excessive’ and stated that they will hold accountable the commanders who carried out wrong acts against the public. This can indeed be regarded as the government taking a step back. Additionally, this shows that the people in power are conscious of the history behind them.

Though some people are hopeful that these protests might turn into a revolution, whether it will happen or not depends on several factors. If that is the case, then let it be Arab Summer this time because we all saw how ‘the Spring’ ended.

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