By Anas Altikriti
It might be a cliché and often an elaborate exaggeration to term a particular event “historic.” However, few can doubt that along with the Civil Rights movements, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the revolutions that have swept through the Arab world are no less momentous or historic.
While the first decade of the millennium got off to a bad start with the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, and the ramifications which resulted in death, destruction, war, conflict, fear and division across the world, the second decade seems to have started off with an entirely different theme.
The “Arab Spring” fully deserves to be labeled ‘historic’ for two main reasons.
The first is that the sweeping changes and transformations taking place were totally and completely unexpected, and almost without any introductions or preliminary phases. Speaking to a political analyst from Tunisia, where the tidal wave commenced in January this year, he assured me that despite his expert knowledge and close following of Tunisian politics and society, he could never have predicted what then happened. The same is true for Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco and other locations throughout the Arab world.
Indeed, the mere concept of such radical changes and transformations taking place in a region renowned for political stagnation and corruption, human rights violations, absence of democracy and tyrannical and authoritarian regimes, would have been unimaginable, merely a few days before the region lit up.
So to actually see the first of what promises to be a long queue of Arab dictators standing trial before a court of law representing the people, charged with ordering the killing of civilian protestors, is truly amazing and almost unbelievable.
Every single aspect of this revolution, whether the nature and the structure of the change, how it all started, the manner in which the protestors communicated with each other and coordinated positions, the rapid pace of progress that led to the downfall of the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes, or the glorious stories of sacrifice, endeavor, courage and selflessness, is worthy of praise and mention.
The second reason is that this fantastic awakening of a nation deemed dead a long time ago, was lead by its youth. Young people who were born, raised and educated in these suffocatingly prohibitive conditions, but who used their individual and collective endeavor and creativity to bring about this illuminating chapter of history in such an inspiring fashion is in itself an event to be highlighted.
Among the factors that led to the world-wide audience being captivated by the performance of the Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans, Yemenis, Syrians and others is that this revolution was a 100 percent non-political movement in terms of the real actors on the ground. It was purely political of course in its remit, mandate and objectives, but no political party or political grouping could claim ownership or directorship of the movement on the streets. What this presented was a unique opportunity for everyone concerned. Those who had long given up on corrupt, malfunctioning, sub-standard political entities, all of a sudden were presented with an opportunity to induce change themselves. Further, the regimes who once felt that matters had gone out of control and began making unprecedented concessions, found that there wasn’t a particular party or body with whom they could negotiate, offer political gains or even bribe, into stopping the popular movement. If the regimes wanted to talk, they had to talk with the people on the street, and they often had to do so “on the street;” literally.
Most importantly, the youth decided that with this movement, they wouldn’t just topple the corrupt dictatorships, but they would also topple aged myths and counter many lies dispersed for political opportunism. Therefore, despite the streets of many Arab cities and towns being virtually inundated with protestors and out of the establishments’ control, there was no anarchy, no violence, no sectarian clashes, no attacks on churches, synagogues or mosques and no destruction of public property. The youth proved that change and revolution does not have to mean misery, pain and suffering.
They also sent the world a clear and unequivocal message. The West had for decades established alliances with corrupt regimes on the premise that the alternative would be far worse. The dictators seemed to have convinced their Western allies that democratic changes would bring Extremists into power, would empower violent thugs and would create anarchy.
The people also sent a message to the likes of Al-Qaeda, that change through peaceful protests and non-violent means is the most effective means of change, and that violence is actually an impediment to real, meaningful and radical change.
They were all proven wrong.
Anas Altikriti is the founder & CEO of The Cordoba Foundation in the UK. He has initiated multiple projects and campaigns to help foster a healthy dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe and the Arab world. This commentary is published by Daily News Egypt in collaboration with Global Experts (www.theglobalexperts.org), a project of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.