What the Recent Revolutions Could Mean for the Arab World

February 3, 2011 Opinion

For over the past month or so, the public has seen great acts of protest and regime change all over the Middle East.

All of this began in late December, when a disgruntled young Tunisian man, fed up with the situation around him, set himself on fire in protest. From that moment on, thousands came to the streets in arms over the issues of poverty, abuses of human rights, and other grievances that have been pushed aside by their government for far too long. The 30-year regime of President Mubarak of Egypt has been very controversial. He has abused his people to stay in power, whether it be silencing political opposition to rejecting universities, mosques and newspapers based on political inclination. The nation’s people have resolved to fight until Mubarak has completely given up the presidency himself, which for a long time he had vowed not to do.

Many would be quick to assume that these events are a positive change for the region. Yet, as we have seen in the past, not all revolutions lead to democracy. If we were to look at one of the last major revolutions in the Middle East, the Iranian Revolution of 1979 shares many of the same attributes as that of the Egyptian uprising right now. Both nations were fed up with their corruptive political leaders, there is a dichotomous nature between the policing forces of the nations (the military is seen as that of the people; “good cops,” and the actual police force; “bad cops”), and the United States had a vested interest in the current rulers of each nation staying in power (especially with the amount of military funding the U.S. gave in aid to each nation). As we saw with Iran, the country fell into a dictatorial theocracy. In essence, the Egyptian president may not be the only loser in this situation, as the United States may lose one of the few allies they have in a region where allies are few and far between.

Assistant Professor of Political Science Eren Tatari had much to say about the events in Tunisia. “Democratic political culture does not take hold overnight but comes as a result of a long and painful process, “ he shared. “If the Tunisian people are able to successfully complete their democratic consolidation process, the rest of the world should applaud this. I am saying ‘if’ because in most cases the struggle of the people is not the only factor determining the outcome. There are influential outside forces that have a stake in the outcome.” On the spread of said events into Egypt, he remarked, “These events are becoming contagious… I hope all this bottled resentment will be channeled into achieving better sociopolitical and economic conditions rather than meaningless and destructive chaos.” Only time will tell what will happen in terms of stability for a region that has seen its fair share of chaos over the past couple of years.

About Amir Sadeh

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