Today is the one-year anniversary of when a Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire. His tragic act gave birth to his country's successful democratic revolution and ignited the Arab Spring across North Africa and the Middle East. While memorial celebrations overtake Tunis, the uprisings are still unfolding. A collection of Arab poets and writers offer thoughtful reflections on the extraordinary year over at The Guardian.
Moroccan novelist Laila Lalami tells of the February 20 Movement in her native country, and what was missed by American and European television news. "The past year has made patently clear that no Arab regime will reform unless it is pressured to do so by the people and unless that pressure is maintained," she writes. Says Tunisian writer Nouri Gana: "Tunisia's obligation to the Arab world – indeed, to the world – is not to let the democratising process fail and to continue to inspire insurrection and revolt – and, at the same time, bring economic stability." Lebanese author Joumana Haddad questions the patriarchal overlay of both the dictatorships and the uprisings. She writes:
Are the revolts that occurred and that are occurring in the Arab world real revolutions? Are they also women's revolutions? The prognostics of the Egyptian, Tunisian and Lybian revolutions are not promising, to say the least, and we are still far from being rid of the patriarchal monopolisation of private and public life. One form of dictatorship seems to be getting replaced with another form: religious integralism. What kind of revolts are these if women are content to be just pawns "mobilised" at will, and neglected when decisions should be made? What revolutions, if these revolutions did not turn the tables of patriarchy on the heads of those oppressors, and if they will only bring forth a new form of backwardness and subjugation?
Meanwhile, Samar Yazbak of Syria is a writer and journalist who was detained after a demonstration in her country's ongoing, complicated, fraught, and powerfully persistent revolution against a vicious strongman. She writes (in a translation):
Those shouts for freedom and dignity rang out from the most impoverished and marginalised and miserable cities and small towns, before engulfing all of Syria. Despite all the attempts on the part of the regime to force the intifada into the furnace of a civil war and to encourage people to take up arms in order to strangle the essence of the uprising, it remains unable to turn this revolution into a guerilla war fought by the citizens of our united country. A danger looms on the horizon in the form of distractions arising from the regional, Arab and international situations. But the tricks concocted by the regime and implemented by the security apparatus and the shabbiha against the people of our united country have been unmasked.
The real fear now is from the scorched-earth policy pursued by the regime in those cities that have risen up against besiegement and starvation and bombardment, risen up against those who would redirect the intifada away from its moral and nonviolent course in such a way that people would have to take up arms in order to defend themselves. But weapons are the opposite of freedom's essence.
The heroism displayed by the Syrian people allows me to be optimistic. Their path of resistance makes me ever more certain that this intifada is destined to become a precedent for the whole world. The pure meaning of courage is to stand unarmed and alone in the face of murder and all the firepower that can be mustered by cowardly oppression.
About the Image: Journalist Tawakkol Karman won the Nobel Peace Prize this year for her leadership in Yemen's democratic revolution, an uprising that is still very much in process. It was a significant win for many reasons: she is the first Yemeni, the first Arab woman, the second Muslim woman, and the youngest person ever to earn the honor. She is the founder and leader of the organization Women Journalists Without Chains. Image credit to Deutsche Welle.