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Wither the Arab Spring?

It's hard to believe that it is 5 years ago, this week, that saw the dawn of the so-called Arab Spring in Tunisia.   And then it all seems to have evaporated despite the fervent desire of so many that it succeed throughout the Arab world.    So what happened?

"Five years ago this week, the first of several victories of the Arab spring was won in Tunisia. Popular and largely nonviolent demonstrations had begun just four weeks earlier in the country’s southern interior, with its long history of resistance to central government.

Following the self-immolation of the vegetable seller Mohammed Bouazizi on 17 December 2010, the demonstrations had spread rapidly, culminating in a large rally outside the interior ministry in Tunis on 14 January. On that day, facing huge opposition and a planned general strike, the president of Tunisia, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, fled. He has been holed up in Saudi Arabia ever since.

Strong unions strengthen democracies – and deliver peace | Houcine Abassi and Richard L Trumka
Why was the apparent success of the Tunisian revolution followed by so many disasters? Can it really be true that a largely peaceful development, which inspired millions around the world, contributed to the situation faced today: internationalised civil wars in both Syria and Yemen, the rise of Islamic State, authoritarian rule in Egypt, the collapse of central government in Libya, and migrants risking all to flee these horrors?

A short answer is that getting rid of a dictatorial and corrupt ruler is not enough. Building democratic institutions, and restoring confidence in a flawed state, are much harder tasks. It was a failure to understand this that led the US and Britain into their disastrous Iraq adventure in 2003. However, it is not only the neocons and their friends who need to learn this lesson. So do advocates and practitioners of nonviolent civil resistance, who have often concentrated on the task of getting rid of dictators with less thought and planning about what comes after."


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