Faisal Al Yafai writes: Without a doubt no one expected this. Five years ago this week, when Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in a small Tunisian town, no one, absolutely no one, could have imagined the Middle East would look like it does today.
The Middle East has been living with the reality of the Arab Spring and, in some countries, the post-Arab Spring for nearly half a decade, to the point where it has become the new normal. It can be hard to remember what it was like before.
Hardly surprising, then, that the Arab Spring divides opinion. The progression of the revolutions in each of the five countries have gone in very different directions. Some, like Egypt, have found themselves back on track. Tunisia, where it started, is doing well. Libya, Yemen and Syria, much less so.
In situations of such cruelty and complexity, it is easy to imagine that what existed before was better. That the revolutions, as some would have it, “failed”.
And, certainly, looking at the dire situation for ordinary Syrians, watching as ISIL attacks Kurds and Yazidis, or as ordinary Libyans and Yemenis suffer in countries without the rule of law, looking back to a period of stability is seductive.
But it is worth recalling that the Arab Spring wasn’t an event. It wasn’t a single, static moment. It was months and years of decisions, of responses, of actions and reactions.
If the Arab Spring revolutions didn’t always turn out better for the people, that isn’t the fault of those who revolted for a better world. It’s often the fault of those who spent money, manpower and bullets to prevent that world coming about. [Continue reading…]