Creating new perspectives since 2009

The Arab people and nostalgia for dictatorships

Who should we believe? The researchers who have been following the progression of such revolutions or the voices of the regular people?

May 3, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Since the outbreak of the popular revolutions in a number of Arab countries, many quick changes have been occurring. These countries are experiencing a great deal of instability in the political, economic and security domains. The countries in question include: Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen in addition to Iraq, which despite the fact that it has not experienced a revolution, has continued to experience a great deal of political turbulence since the American occupation in 2003 and the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government.

There are also other countries that have had some level of a popular uprising but this has never reached the point of a revolution, as was the case with the Sultanate of Oman, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Sudan. The governments in these countries succeeded in absorbing the popular movements as they began and they did so through different means. However, despite all efforts, these countries are still experiencing a great deal of political unrest and instability because they suffer from a number of different challenges.

Yet, what is striking for anyone who visits the Arab countries that experienced popular revolutions and lived through a great number of changes (Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq) or meets with the citizens of some of these countries without going there (Libya, Yemen and Syria) is that many of these people have a sense of nostalgia for the dictatorships that prevailed before the outbreak of the Arab revolutions.

Anyone visiting these countries would also find that the citizens of these countries wish for a return to the previous regime because they are experiencing a great deal of economic and security related challenges. They also feel as though the popular revolutions and the new leaders have not succeeded in meetings the demands of the people. On the contrary, they have increased the number of crises in their countries and they have worsened the chances for stability. There is also the prevalent fear that these countries will be divided along sectarian, ideological, or tribal lines.

Some of the main problems that these countries are facing include: the increase of corruption, the lack of political stability, an increase in unemployment rates, economic regression and many of these countries no longer allow for freedom of the press and media. Some of the countries in question now have dictatorships that are far worse than the past regimes while others now experience a higher rate of social, religious and sectarian oppression, which did not exist before.

The aforementioned observations intersect not only with the swift changes that are taking place on the ground but also with several official surveys and studies that are being conducted by centres focusing on social changes. Yet, with each passing day, there grows a fear that the coming days harbour more oppression and fear than those that have already past.

But does that mean that a return to the dictatorship is the solution to the problem and that the only thing that could benefit the Arab peoples is an authoritarian and oppressive government? Is there a chance for Arab countries to establish democratic and just governments?

Such an outcome would be unfair to the Arab people and one must remember that popular revolutions around the world required a great deal of time for them to succeed in establishing new governments as an alternative for the old regimes. The experiences of other countries did not take place overnight. In fact, anyone who studies the French, Communist, American and Chinese revolutions would find that in many cases it took tens of years for the these countries to solve their problems and get their governments in orders while others are still suffering from political crises even today.

In light of this, there are many Arab and Muslim researchers and thinkers, among them Lebanese scholar Mr Mohammad Hassan Al-Ameen and the Syrian thinker Dr Tayeb Tayzini among others, who think that the events that have unfolded in the Arab world are expected and normal within the context of revolt. They also believe that the fall of authoritarian regimes is the final outcome and that these dictatorships can never return to their original position although it may seem to us that some remnants of the original regimes might revive themselves. Yet, this current period of chaos and worsening economic situations and compromised security as well as the emergence of violence and barbarity is an indication of consistent failures since the emergence of modern states and entities in the Arab world after the colonial era.

What we ask of these researchers is to focus more on social and political thought, which is necessary for us to rebuild our societies because it allows us to cope with new and emerging forms of oppression. It is important that the revolutions continue the process of change and that we find ourselves in a better position. Yet, it remains to be said that nostalgia for the past or for dictatorship is not the solution because that would be the ultimate failure within the context of Arab experiences.

Who should we believe? The researchers who have been following the progression of such revolutions or the voices of the regular people?

Translated from Arabi21, 27 April 2016

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.