The people still want the downfall of the regime

The people still want the downfall of the regime
Comment: Tunisia is the only country to have benefitted from the Arab Spring - but reform and freedom are still the demands of the majority.
4 min read
03 Feb, 2015
Protesters have achieved some victories since 2011, but their demands remain the same [Getty]

The past four years have witnessed many grave events since the start of the Arab Spring.

People called for political reforms, freedom, democracy, integrity, and an end to corruption, tyranny and the inheritance of power in countries that were once republics but transformed into the feudal systems of the ruling dynastic families.

The chant, "the people want the downfall of the regime", became the enduring slogan of the Arab Spring.

Popular uprisings were successful in bringing down two tyrants - Zine el Abidin Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak. Massive demonstrations in Yemen forced President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down, while long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted by rebels in Libya following a bloody conflict and the intervention of Western airstrikes.

In Syria, when the regime used violent tactics to undermine the uprisings, peaceful protests turned into armed clashes. The conflict in Syria developed into a full-fledged civil war, in which many Arab and regional parties became pitted against one another.

The "spring" did not last long in Egypt. Mohamad Morsi won presidential elections and was sworn in on 30 June 2012, hardly giving the "deep state" behind the Egyptian regime a chance to catch its breath.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood believed it would be able to make gradual changes to the regime by aligning with the army and some groups from the state, sidestepping other forces in the process.

     The 'spring' did not last long in Egypt.

But they repeated the same mistakes as when army officers took over Egypt in 1952 - by approving a bill to dissolve political parties. The Brotherhood assumed that moderation and alignment with counter-revolutionary forces would be enough to protect the 25 January revolution.

One has to say that the uprising achieved some of its goals, but it failed to establish a strong government or lay the foundations for a new national front that could protect the achievements of the revolution.

It also failed to make radical changes in the country's domestic and foreign policies, or even restore Egypt's leading role in the Arab world. A military coup in Egypt swept away the blooming flowers, thus ending the country’s democratic experience and its influence on other aspiring democracies.

Lessons learned

The Ennahdha Movement in Tunisia has drawn some lessons from the Brotherhood's experience. Its astute and enlightened leadership played a key role in maintaining the country's stability.

However, former regime leaders still managed to return to power through democratic elections. We still do not know if Nidaa Tounes will be able to maintain democracy in Tunisia or turn against it.

Catch up with all our special coverage of the anniversary of the Egyptian revolution

In countries where sectarian or tribal divides exist, the Arab Spring ended in a bloody showdown - as has been the case in Syria, Yemen and Libya.

These divides led to civil wars, while regional forces with competing interests became embroiled in the conflicts. The original goals of the uprising also shifted from popular demands for reform and freedom, to an environment where sectarian movements flourished.

This highlights the need for a political solution to the conflicts in these countries. Fighting should end and demands for change should be listened to. This should be coupled with a genuine desire to reach an accord with various societal forces.

There must be some common guidelines all forces agree on, such as rejecting exclusion, fighting corruption and tyranny and maintaining the country's unity, first and foremost.

The Arab Spring has given tyranny and corruption a blow, and has spread the values of freedom, democracy and freedom in the region.

     The Arab Spring has given tyranny and corruption a blow.

These ideas have brought down some regimes and shook the foundations of others. Most importantly, they have made it clear to rulers in the region that the people are able to change to the status quo if they wish.

Groups once dubbed as elites have not met the expectations of the people. They remain divided and the conflicts within Islam has enabled the counter-revolutionaries to succeed.

Despite the chaos, the blood, and the setbacks, one has to say that the Arab Spring was a real revolution for the region. Within each border of the Middle East the slogans and goals raised were the same, regardless of the ensuing failures.

Despite later mishaps, the world still celebrates the French revolution that toppled an autocratic monarchic system.

The goals of the Arab Spring are still on the minds of Arab people who are currently preoccupied with greater challenges. Despite everything, the people still want to make a change - and they will eventually triumph.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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