Arab Hope Springs Eternal
A decade after the start of the Arab Spring, the hope of securing democracy and human rights in the Arab world seems as far away as ever. But the counter-revolution of the intervening years cannot last forever, and the sooner that governments recognize the need for reform, the better off they will be.
STOCKHOLM – The Arab Spring that began on December 17, 2010, is a somewhat uncomfortable subject a decade later. Seldom has such a vast outpouring of hope resulted in so much disappointment – and in such deep confusion about what lies ahead.
In 2002, the UN-sponsored Arab Human Development Report issued its stark initial findings, revealing a region that was falling behind the rest of the world, and where the aspirations of the young and the educated could no longer be met. Reform was obviously needed, but it would not be forthcoming. Eight years later, the conditions were ripe for revolution. When it came, it started in Tunisia, where a street vendor, fed up with the petty abuses of a corrupt system, immolated himself.
The focus soon shifted to the center of the Arab world, Egypt. When that country’s aging dictator, Hosni Mubarak, threw in the towel as hundreds of thousands demonstrated in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the prospect of a democratic revolution in the Arab world suddenly came into view. Egypt seemed ready for a genuine democratic transition, with traditions of political pluralism to fall back on and a middle class that longed for a more open society and a more stable, representative political system.