The strength of the earthquake that created the Arab revolutions stems from the sufferings of the Arab nation and will not stop so long as those sufferings continue. Therefore we think that democracy or democratic rights in Arab countries are not only necessary but also inevitable. And despite the complexity of alliances and conflicts between regimes in the region, despite the diversity of conditions from one country to another, we think that the drive for better democratic regimes will affect all non-democratic regimes in the region, including Iran. It is the aspirations of young people for freedom, prosperity and individual and national dignity on the one hand, and the impossibility of achieving development without democracy, dignity and liberty on the other, that are the motors of change.
Since before the invasion of Iraq, the Arab nation began to regain its self-confidence. The youth of the nation wants to live as free and as prosperous as the youth of other nations. The globalisation of information and media uncovered the poorness of the conditions of their lives. The large participation of women and the youth in the Arab Spring revolutions is unprecedented in the Arab world. They lack jobs, healthcare, real education, freedom of movement and creation, healthy relations between women and men, clean habitation and environment, respect of their individual and national identity, integrity and culture, freedom of opinion, expression and assembly in civil society organisations, associations and trade unions. And on top of this, they lack justice, justice for themselves, for their co-citizens and for their sisters and brothers in other countries, of which Palestine is their never-ending concern.
It is certain that there are many currents among the youth of the Arab nations, but as the Arab revolutions expressed well, they are bound — be they Islamists, leftists, nationalists or liberals — by an unwritten constitution that springs from their Arab-Muslim culture, history and experience.
For nationalists, retaining control of national resources to serve the general interest is sacrosanct. For leftists, opposing the international chains of imperialism and globalisation is a baseline. For Islamists, resistance to foreign occupation, as written in the Quran, is a duty. Their interest lies currently in achieving unity in struggle. They are united by their Arab-Muslim identity. They share common principles and values as follows: natural resources, material heritage, and the riches of culture and civilisation are the property of the totality of the people; the totality of citizens constitutes the people; the people are the sole source of sovereignty and of constitutional, political and judicial legitimacy; government is responsible for and accountable to all citizens; solidarity between citizens — between generations, the able and ill, the elderly and young, the orphan and every human being who finds himself in a state of weakness — should form the basis of any government’s social policy. The general interest is the justification and basis for the operation of the state, with every citizen, free of all forms of discrimination, sharing in the fruits of national wealth and social development.
Western propaganda, leftist as well as rightist, tends to undermine the importance of the Arab revolutions in the name of the election of Islamists as a majority in parliaments. They express by this their ideology that the Arabs, because of their Islam, cannot have a liberating revolution. The reality is elsewhere. Firstly, insisting on the Arab-Muslim character is a normal response to the animosity expressed by the neoliberal imperialists and comprador regimes towards Islam and Muslims, that violate Arab rights, interests and dignity, of which supporting Israel is the crying example. Secondly, the Islamist current didn’t, until now, break the unwritten pact among existing political currents on building a civil state. Thirdly, what is democracy if not reconciling the national state with all popular cultures and trends? Fourthly, the youth is not only waging a political revolution for power; it wages, including the Islamists, a revolution for societal change.
The factors and the immediate character of the struggle for power through elections are different from the factors and the lasting character of a societal revolution. The force within power will fade if it doesn’t correspond to the societal change. Power in a transitional period is temporary; a revolution is continuous. The chaos and economic difficulties engendered by the change, or created by the enemies of change, always weaken in the eyes of electors those who appear, in reality or supposition, as working towards a tabula rasa, especially when they don’t have a clear programme for change. This is not new in revolutions: the Jacobins of 1789 in France produced Napoleon I; the Blanquists in 1848 produced Napoleon III; in Russia, the Socialist-Revolutionaries produced Stalin; and the election after the youth revolution of 1968 in France produced a rightist parliament.
Outside the distinctions of each national context, there are geopolitical factors that also play a role in the Arab renaissance. The horrors of what happened in Iraq, on the one hand, and the United States’ military, political, financial and moral suicide on the other, are factors that made the Arab nation’s youth realise that the repressive, heavily armed regimes that respond to imperial and Zionist demands are nothing but paper tigers. Added to the similarities in conditions under comprador regimes, these geopolitical factors produced a regional synergy that is the Arab Spring of democracy.
The invasion of Iraq was not only the first genocide of the 21st century but also the peak of the curve of the West’s capacity — that began with the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration — to decide the future of Arabs. The first Palestinian Intifada announced the beginning of the Arab masses taking their future in their hands without waiting for governments and leaders. This was followed by the political, civil and armed Iraqi resistance, the resistance of South Lebanon and the continuous resistance of Gaza. Increasingly, as imperial and Zionist forces tried to subjugate this rising backlash, they found themselves confronting the full force of Arab societies.
With Tunis followed by Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria, we entered into a new historical transition period of change in the Arab world. Women and the youth work to achieve profound societal change. The state is reconciling with the Arab-Muslim identity of the people. Every social stratum is calling for liberty of opinion, expression and the liberty of organising itself. No maitre à penser — whether a state, a party or a person — can dictate positions anymore. The notion of a permanent entity leading the state and society has blown away with the wind. The ideology of no ideology is winning, and the solidarity among peoples too. Every aspect of liberation began to appear possible. It suffices to struggle in mass, peacefully and consciously. The future is open for the youth of the Arab world. The oppressive and neoliberal models and policies are falling. Condoleezza Rice wanted a new Middle East of pro-imperialist governments sustained by creative chaos; she got a Middle East of peoples who want to get rid of oppression, corruption, poverty and imperialist dictates.
Vive the Arab revolutions.
Abdul Ilah Albayaty is an Iraqi political analyst. Hana Al Bayaty is an author and political activist. Dr Ian Douglas is a specialist in geopolitics and has taught at universities in the US, UK, Egypt and Palestine.