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365. The Broken Dream

From 'Arab Spring' to 'Arab Winter'

Heo, Won-jun 기자2017.03.02 22:46:16

The Arab Spring was a series of anti-government protests and uprisings against dictatorships and political corruption. This revolutionary wave began on December 17, 2010 in Tunisia and spread throughout much of the Middle East and North Africa. Six years after the Arab Spring, however, the situation has changed greatly. Many countries showed how much they longed for democracy, but after the short positive beginning, they fell into confusion. Consequently the Arab Spring turned into the Arab Winter. 

 

From Arab Spring to Arab Winter

The Arab Spring, sometimes called the Arab Awakening, was sparked by a young Tunisian fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, setting himself on fire in an act of defiance against long-standing dictatorships, the brutality of the security apparatus, unemployment, and rising prices. This set off the wrath of the young generation and led to the nationwide democratic rallies in Tunisia, in what became the Jasmine revolution, ultimately leading to the ousting of the president, Ben Ali, on January 14 2011.  The success of the revolution spread through countries in the Middle East and the North Africa thanks to the social media and the press.


Five years after the wave of uprising, however, the Arab world is worse off than ever. Because of the rise of authoritarianism and religious extremism that evolved in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Egypt, Libya, Syria and other Arab countries are suffering from multiple civil wars, political unrest and economic harshness.


   Egypt is emblematic of the Arab Spring, but its future looks considerably darker than before, even though it succeeded in ousting the dictator, Hosni Mubarak. His successor, Mohamed Morsi, was sworn in as Egypt's first democratically elected president, but because of his misrule and Islamic fundamentalism, Morsi was also ousted, by military coup, since when the military has seized control of the country. Egyptians now suffer from suppression by the government in the name of the stability and prevention of terrorism. In addition, the present government’s anti-Islamic policy has led to large and small terror events, making people feel very insecure.

Syria is one of the nations in which the Arab winter has been most noticeable. Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship, rebels,  the Islamic State and the Kurd’s knotty civil wars had damaged Syria significantly. What is worse, Russia and the U.S. have intervened in the civil wars, causing them to escalate into an international conflict. Because of the civil wars, more than 10 million poeples became refugees and about 450,000 died. Libya and Yemen also suffered from civil wars. After Muammar Gaddafi was ousted, Libya fell into a state of disorder. Yemen’s case was seen as the success story of the Arab uprisings, but now as its government becomes embroiled in a dispute with Houthi rebels, its position looks increasingly fragile, too.


So why has the Arab Spring degenerated into the Arab Winter? The first reason is that there was no thought given to the best method of replacing the old system. No scholars or Middle East experts expected the Arab Spring, so they were not prepared to handle the power vacuum, and this resulted in chaos. The next reason is the Western countries’ ambiguous intervention. They showed interests in th situation and offered military support to the rebels. After the dictatorship was brought down, however, they took on a passive attitude toward the problem, which made things worse. They pursued their own interests in oil-producing countries such as Libya, but they did not do their best in handling the problem. This gave room for extremists to seize power. These reasons produced a change of seasons, from Arab Spring to Arab Winter.

 

Influences and Lessons

The Arab Spring has influenced the world in various ways. One of the biggest issues is the refugee problem. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says that more than 1.1 million people became refugees in Syria and a refugee expert, Amanda Taub, said the government has not controlled stowaways due to a security loophole. Neighboring countries and European countries have had troubles dealing with the matter. For instance, Za’tari Camp, which has become the 4th biggest city in Jordan, is built in the middle of desert. The camp runs over 500 trucks a day to supply food and water to the refugees, but they have trouble in dealing with the increasing number of refugees. Italy and Germany are experiencing the same problem.  The second issue is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Because of the power vacuum, extremists found it easy to seize power and extend their influence. For this reason, the Middle East and North African countries have become the biggest supplier of new ISIS members.

 

These two big issues have split public opinion down the middle in several countries and the most representative case of this is Brexit. Many countries have difficulty in managing these problems. As mentioned above, the root cause is the unstableness of the Arab World. Thus the world should focus not  on a superficial solution, but on a fundamental solution.

 

In South Korea, the political situation is also in turmoil right now and people should keep in mind that the Arab Spring became the Arab Winter. Candlelight rallies should not be ended in a one time political event but by a series of step by step processes. Furthermore, the resentment of mobs should be led to a sustainable democratic challenge.

 

‘Life is but a spring flower’ is the phrase that describes the Arab Spring. People in the Arab countries showed their desire for democracy, but consequently they are now experiencing a tougher life than they did before. Considering the circumstances right now, it may be that a failed revolution leaves behind a large wound. If we consider the South Korea, however, it is evident that we went through two big revolutions and spent almost 60 years to become fully democratic. Perhaps there is a probability of peaceful coexistence between Islamism and democracy. If so, then the broken dream could one day become a complete dream.

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