The flame of the Spring refuses to be extinguished

The flame of the Spring refuses to be extinguished
Comment: Protests in Lebanon and Iraq prove that the spark of the Arab Spring is still burning within a generation of Arab youth, writes Khalil al-Anani.
4 min read
07 Sep, 2015
Many believe protests have lost their appeal, but they have been proven wrong [Anadolu]
Protests in Lebanon and Iraq against corruption and government failure have brought back memories of the scenes we witnessed during the Arab Spring four years ago, when protests erupted demanding, insisting and sacrificing for change.

Today's protests signal that there is something within wide segments of Arab youth that refuses to surrender despite all the attempts of the local and regional counter-revolutionary forces that want to distort the idea of popular protests as a spontaneous tool against the status quo.

What's more, the current protests have brought social and economic issues to the fore as the main driver behind public action, in addition to highlighting the possibility of overcoming ideological and political divisions for the sake of a shared goal.

This was the original premise of the Arab Spring protests. They started as a socio-economic protest movement calling for social justice, and then morphed into a political movement calling for freedom, dignity and democracy.
     The seed of the Arab Spring that was planted four years ago is still alive

Regardless of whether these protests are able to achieve their objectives, they have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the seed of the Arab Spring that was planted four years ago is still alive and refuses the death that surrounds it from every direction.

They also prove that all the tricks and resources used by the counter-revolutionary forces to abort change have failed.

"The heat of Iraq protests forces Iraqi government reforms" - read Zana K Gul's commentary here

'Social non-movements'

Surprisingly, most of today's protests do not have a clear identifiable leadership, but are spontaneous movements that attracted the support of people who believe that protests are the only way to affect change, just like the movements that preceded them four years ago.

In his great book, Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East, Asef Bayat argues that the ordinary person on the street is the secret to change in the Middle East.

This ordinary person - who has lost all faith in the political elites - seeks to solve his problems on his own, either through changing his situation or changing the social, economic and political structures that have created his problematic situation.

The most important aspect in Bayat's mind, and a concept which has become quite clear in the current protests, is what he calls "social non-movements". These non-movements have been an influential driver for change on the regional scene, as they suddenly and unexpectedly appear, carrying limited demands that transform into a more comprehensive change agenda depending on the situation.

These non-movements take political elites by surprise and represent a microcosm of revolutions and revolts that include the marginalised and disenfranchised segments of society.

"Why the Lebanese protesters should be cautious" - Read Karim Barakat's commentary here

What is happening in Lebanon and Iraq is quite remarkable, as it is surprising that protests about economic and social issues would erupt in two countries known for their sectarian divisions and tensions. Perhaps the protests are an attempt to overcome the divisions and create a shared agenda for change.

It is also surprising that the protests in both countries have largely remained non-violent, which is why they have been influential and attractive, especially since we are talking about two countries where using violence to resolve a political dispute is far from unheard of.

The protests in Lebanon and Iraq come at a time when many believe that protests and demonstrations have lost their appeal due to the disintegration, destruction, repression and violence witnessed by the region, which proves wrong those who want to scare Arab masses and reinstate patriarchal authoritarianism.
     We are witnessing a popular outpouring that is concerned with rebuilding its self-confidence

We are witnessing a popular outpouring that is as concerned with rebuilding its self-confidence than with the results of its actions as such.

Regardless of the outcomes of the current protests, they prove that the seeds of the Arab Spring that were sown four years ago are still alive within a generation of Arab youth, and will yield change - sooner or later.

Khalil al-Anani is an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.