“The Battle for the Arab Spring” by Lin Noueihed and Alex Warren

A long overdue read, which I’ve finally completed before 2012 ended. A personal close subject, since my MA thesis (however crappy it might have been) would not have been if the Revolution hadn’t swept over this region in 2011.

The book’s detailed description and analysis of each country’s road before, during and after the Revolution shows how ignorant and unfair it is to judge the Arab Spring on a general overview encompassing all countries. Although they may have been all motivated, at one point of the other, by a flaming desire for democracy and more freedom on the one hand and the dire economic and social conditions on the other, what each country had to go through is inherent to its culture, political regime, ethnic division and history. Each country has distinct elements that played a part in the uprisings. Bahrain with its Sunni/Shi’ite division, Libya with the important figure of Gaddafi, Egypt with its long oppression of Islam. The sad thing is, each country went through a period of hope and change before each authoritarian regime, and it seemed that the new head or leader, or at least their sons, had something different in the mind than the oppression, the violation of human rights and the different divisions the countries went through afterwards.

I wish I had come across this book while I was writing my thesis (although the book is not too hopeful for the situation of women in Egypt, and frankly, reality today is not too promising either). I can easily understand how hard and confused people ‘outside’ must be at the sight of the rise of Islam in these countries after the Revolution, because for many of them, Islam is the complete opposite of democracy, freedom and equality. But that is a very narrow point of view, ignorant, one might say even. This book offers a valuable insight in that it explains, through the history and political and religious changes each country had to go through (quite easily, too, in fact, which makes the book a good read), why secularism may be the last option these countries are looking for.

There are so many more interesting and important matters discussed in the book, but once again, I’m too lazy to narrate them all. Anyone interested in the Arab Spring should definitely read this!

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