A Year On

It’s been a year since I was sitting at this very computer in my dad’s appartment while he was watching tv in his room and the news that Ben Ali fled Tunisia came through. It is still very difficult for me to express in words how emotionally charged that moment was. It represented a moment of pure joy and hope that I only experienced once before, when israel was forced out of most of South Lebanon. However, this had another flavour. This event felt monumental in a different way. It wasn’t the defeat and humiliation of a colonising state, it was the victory of a people against their domestic oppressor.

I wrote last year that it felt like the first truely post-colonial revolution in the arab world, and maybe in the whole of the colonised world, and a year on I can but reiterate that thought. The revolution in Tunisia has changed the world. It might sound like a platitude or a blanket statement, but it doesn’t make it less true. The desperate act of Mohamed Bouazzizi has created a tidal wave of revolution that is still building up. I had hoped that the Tunisian model was going to spread to the rest of the Arab World, and maybe the rest of the decolonised world. I’m happy to see a year on that it is still going strong.

What we saw was Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya (although that particular revolution was marred by imperial and neo-colonial intervention), Syria, Kuwait, Saudi, and other Arab countries rise up, in different ways and to varying degrees that speak to the specificities of their situations. Today Nigeria is rising up. What I did not expect is to see the people of Europ and the USA rise up. Much can be said about their particular forms of protest, particularly occupy wall street and its refusal to show solidarity with the people of Palestine (I’m not letting that one go until they rectify the situation), but the point still remains that the revolution has gone global.

We shouldn’t forget the movements in South America, particularly the student movement in Chile. It’s also important to acknowledge the precursor to all that which is the student movement in the UK. I still believe that that particular movement, allied with the anti-cuts movement, has been central in awakening the revolutionary spirit in the world. While Mohammad Bouazzizi’s self immolation is the spark that started it all, it would be wrong not to see the student demonstrations as the kindling that was gathered and made the fire of revolution take.

Now we have seen countless regimes shaken by the tidal wave of revolution, some fell, others are hangging by thin threads, others are trying to weather the storm. We have also seen the forces of counter revolution try to coopt or destroy revolutions or revolutionary gains. The egyptian army is trying to destroy the revolution in Egypt. Saudi, israel, and the West are trying to crush the revolution in Bahrain, but to no avail. We must remain vigilant and continue to show solidarity with the people rising up.

While I think that the counter-revolutionary forces might get some gains in the near future, I believe that the writing on the wall is there for everyone to see. They will eventually be defeated, even if they make some tactical victories. It is important though to realise that in a post-Tunisia world (even though this was true before), we can’t be frightened by the popular uprisings of people. I find that many people are still stuck within a paradigm that sees some dictatorial and tyrannical states as allies. I’m of course referring to Syria and Iran.

We must realise that the people have broken through the wall of fear. We shouldn’t be afraid of their choices. Those who argue that if the Syrian regime falls Syria will become another Saudi or that it will make peace with israel, have no understanding of the significance of the Arab Revolutions. People will not accept a new form of dictatorship. Some puppet regime might try to establish itself, but as Egypt is showing us and as the rumblings against the NTC in Libya are showing us, that’s not going to happen. We must be on the side of the revolutionaries wherever they are and trust that they will not abandon their hard earned freedom.

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2 Responses to “A Year On”

  1. I think being on the side of revolutionaries, all the time and everywhere, is key. Thank you for this. I was astonished to see how thoroughly the Right misunderstood (or pretended to misunderstand) the tidal wave of revolutions, but with what’s going on in Egypt now it’s unmistakeable: the people will no longer accept any form of authoritarian regime, as you write.

  2. I think that this insight, “the people have broken through the wall of fear” is the most important takeaway for me – it makes evident that wall, which penned people in (which pens people in) – and points to its ephemeral nature.

    Great post, thank you for sharing your thoughts here.

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