Below we share an extract of Looking back, looking forward: inheriting the revolutions of the ‘Arab Spring’ by
Around a year ago we were reminiscing about how a decade had passed since the mass protests in Alexandria, Egypt in June 2010 against the police murder of a young Egyptian, Khaled Mohamed Saeed, and since the start of the Third Sahrawi Intifada in Gdeim Izik, a protest camp in occupied Western Sahara, in October 2010. We talked about how for us that marked the beginning of a life-changing epoch.
In the year that followed, a wave of revolt spread throughout the whole Middle East and North Africa region, in what came to be called the ‘Arab Spring’. These uprisings were acknowledged as world-shaking events. The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions ignited historic upheavals in North Africa and beyond. People there celebrated the toppling of the dictators, Ben Ali and Mubarak, and looked ahead towards meaningful change in their lives. These uprisings, like most revolutionary situations, released enormous energy – a collective effervescence, an unparalleled sense of renewal and a shift in political consciousness.
The peoples of the region are all too familiar with the racist stereotype and contemptuous cliché embodied in the facile falsehood that ‘Arabs and Muslims are not fit for democracy and they are incapable of governing themselves’. The imperial and colonial dominance over the region has led to it being seen in some quarters as a homogeneous entity that can be systematically reduced through negative tropes.
Seen through this distorting lens, the region evokes images of conflict and wars, ruthless dictators and passive populations, terrorism and extremism, as well as rich oil reserves and expansive deserts. This orientalist imaginary and the rigid representation of ‘the other’, as well as having the power to ‘block narratives’, are hallmarks of a political and geographical violence that is produced by imperialism.
The uprisings shattered many of these stereotypes and debunked many myths. The wind of revolution that began to blow in 2011 spread from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco and Oman, among other places. The emancipatory experience was contagious, inspiring people all over the world: activists in Madrid, London and New York, whether calling themselves the Occupy Movement or the Indignados, were all proud to ‘walk like an Egyptian’.