Among the turbulent countries, with the exception of Tunisia, which barely achieved its political goals, the other countries are all left alone.
January 14, 2021 is the tenth anniversary of the Tunisian Revolution. In a blink of an eye, the Arab turmoil caused by this revolution has been ten years old.
Looking back at the streets of Tunisia on December 17, 2010, Bowajiji’s self-immolation detonated the contradictions accumulated in Tunisia for a long time, and street protests swarmed. On December 22, another young man climbed onto a high-voltage telephone pole, shouted “Don’t be poor, don’t be unemployed”, and committed suicide by electrocution.
Since then, the anti-government protest movement in Tunisia has been out of control. On the night of January 14, 2011, Ben Ali, then President of Tunisia, fled to Saudi Arabia in a hurry with his family, ending his 23-year career in power. This opened the prelude to the turmoil in Arab countries.
The flame of anti-government spread rapidly throughout the Middle East with a prairie fire. Subsequently, the regimes of Yemen, Egypt, Libya and other countries have successively changed; Syria has begun a ten-year civil war; the authorities in other Middle Eastern countries have also made various degrees of self-compromise under internal and external pressure. Western media called this series of turmoil in Arabia the “Arab Spring”, but more people raised objections and doubts.
Aftermath of the financial crisis
In the long history of history, Bowajiji’s self-immolation was an accidental social event, but the Arab turmoil was the inevitable result of the change from quantitative to qualitative political crisis in the Middle East.
Tunisia’s Ben Ali’s presidential career lasted 23 years; Egypt’s Mubarak’s presidential career lasted 30 years; Libya’s Gaddafi stood at the pinnacle of power for 41 years; Yemen’s Saleh stood at the pinnacle of power for 33 years; Bouteflika of Algeria also has a 20-year presidential career. In addition, the half-century rule of the Assad family in Syria has survived.
British historian Acton said: “Absolute power leads to absolute corruption.” The long-term nepotism of these strong men inevitably led to collective corruption and family corruption. It is estimated that the Gaddafi family basically controls all the pillar industries of the country, and the industry controlled by the Mubarak family is worth tens of billions of dollars.
There is no era of strongman, only the strongman of the era. The 2008 global financial crisis paved the way for the curtain call of many Arab strongmen.
Ben Ali, former President of Tunisia
The social background of Bowajiji’s self-immolation was the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis. After graduating from university, he couldn’t find a job, so he had no choice but to set up a stall for the livelihood of a family of eight. He set up a stall and was oppressed by the city management and had nowhere to complain. The bloody Bowajiji ignited himself with a fire, and also ignited an era.
On January 28, 2011, a Tunisian demonstrator holding a Bowajiji poster
In the aftermath of the financial crisis at that time, the price of oil plummeted, and the economies of the Middle East countries were generally hit hard. Most Arab countries have a single economic structure and rely heavily on the outside world. Coupled with the improper response of certain dictators in the era of “new media”, the arrival of Arab turmoil has been accelerated.
“New Media” Started a prairie fire
The “New York Times” once commented that during the entire Middle East upheaval, it was no longer the rebels who tried to subvert the existing regime in the traditional sense, or the political speakers who instigated the sentiments of the people, who overthrew the strong-man regime. The online media that has occupied the commanding heights of information.
Around 2010, in the Middle East, the telecommunications infrastructure of various countries developed rapidly, and the Arab countries became one of the most developed and dynamic regions in the world with the Internet. According to the 2011 Arab World Knowledge Report, in 2011, the number of Internet users in the member states of the League of Arab States exceeded 72 million, accounting for 1/3 of the total population, a year-on-year increase of 17.1%.
/ The Arab turmoil is the inevitable result of the political crisis in the Middle East from quantitative to qualitative. /
With the support of a strong telecommunications infrastructure, the number of smartphones and tablets in the Middle East has increased dramatically, and the number of users of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube has begun to grow linearly. According to statistics, more than 90% of Internet users in Arab countries use various advanced social media platforms, which are very large. In particular, new media social platforms such as Facebook in the West are the most popular.
On January 31, 2012, in Tripoli, the capital of Lebanon’s Northern Province, a large number of people participated in a rally in the square in the center of the city to protest the deterioration of the economy and living conditions.
Through these social platforms, after long-term exposure to the development and “democracy” of Western society, young Arabs naturally attribute the backwardness of the country and their own poverty to the dictatorship and corruption of the government, and begin to use these social tools to find like-minded “comrades in arms” . This series of online interactions made Arab young people more and more trapped, and began to pay attention to and participate in public affairs that were not really open to them in reality.
In the Arab turmoil, every time those in power such as Tunisia and Egypt suppressed the dense crowds, the tragic pictures can always quickly generate digital media information through those social platforms and spread them to every corner of the world, provoking people to hide in them. The inner resentment and anger. Soon, the demonstrators won greater public sympathy and support at home and abroad, and the so-called revolutionary fire became more and more prosperous.
Information dissemination on social media platforms is not only rapid, but also massive and cheap. This information makes the young people on the front line of the “revolution” no longer feel lonely. Whether it’s Bowajiji’s self-immolation video or the “We are all Khalid Said” Facebook hashtags, content is constantly being updated, filled with rich and provocative web pages.
These endless and massive amounts of cheap Internet information continue to push the wave of demonstrations to a higher stage. Even during the days when the Internet was cut off, the scale and number of demonstrations continued to increase.
Looking back over the past ten years in these countries, putting aside the level of ideological emancipation, the results we have seen with the naked eye are indeed lackluster. Among the turbulent countries, with the exception of Tunisia, which barely achieved its political goals, the other countries are all left alone.
Egypt sent away Mubarak in a democratic way, but it was the same arbitrary Sisi who went round and round finally ushered in; the Libyans killed Gaddafi, in exchange for ten years of national division and charity; Syria paid more than 300,000 A lively life still cannot shake the dominance of Bashar al-Assad…
Time has passed, and now the Arab elites are also having differences when they reflect on the so-called “Arab Spring.” Regarding its unsatisfactory aspects, Monser, Tunisia’s first democratically elected president after the reform in 2011, compared it with the French Revolution. He believes that the French people have gradually realized democracy after two hundred years of hard work. Monsey’s ideas represent a large number of Arab elites. They are not pessimistic about Sisi’s arbitrariness and the continuation of the Assad regime at this stage.
On January 31, 2021, in a refugee camp in Idlib, Syria, children gather around a fire to keep warm
But another group of elites in the Arab world believes that this Arab tragedy stems from blindly grafting Western values onto the diseased bodies of Arab countries.
They feel that although the previous Arab society was a bit turbulent from time to time, those are all controllable. The so-called “Arab Spring” has caused many decades of “savings” in Arab countries to disappear overnight, and society has since fallen into an unknown and uncontrollable state.
They believe that the “democratic politics” regarded as the norm by the West is not the “panacea” for solving all social problems; democracy does not necessarily bring about “good governance” because of the new autocrats, internal disputes, civil wars and the “Islamic State” as the representative. The “jihadist” elements of the United States are emptying the weak foundations of Arab countries.
Due to historical reasons, Islam is still like blood, permeating every cell in the Arab world. The education level of the Arab people is generally low, and public opinion is easily trapped by religion.
/ This Arab tragedy stems from blindly grafting Western values onto the diseased bodies of Arab countries. /
For example, after Mubarak stepped down, the Egyptian people carried the radical religious group “Muslim Brotherhood” into the presidential palace. As we all know, the Muslim Brotherhood resists Western democracy and advocates the unity of state, state, and church. Egypt has exchanged countless bloody conflicts for one-person-one-vote democracy. However, this “democracy” has elected a more terrifying force. What a irony to the so-called “Arab Spring”.
During the Mubarak period in Egypt, religious forces such as the Muslim Brotherhood were suppressed for a long time in the political arena. Therefore, the result of this “democracy” will inevitably arouse dissatisfaction from the secularists.
Sure enough, a year later, in 2013, Egypt fell into turmoil again. In the end, the military stabilized the situation through a coup. At the same time, the military also “confiscated” one-person-one-vote in Western democracy, and Egypt returned to military rule.
The pessimistic elites agree with the words of Hafiz Ghanim, Vice President of the World Bank’s African Region: “How can a country lacking a democratic tradition and poor institutions improve people’s livelihood overnight and establish a good Democracy?” Therefore, in their eyes, this social unrest is not an “Arab Spring” but an Arab Winter.