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Continuing the review of Arab spring events that unfolded in the Middle East a decade ago, it makes good sense to recall the illusions it created with the Arab society in the first instance. Today, recollecting the Arab spring's first phase, it's worth noting that expectations were not just inflated, but... false. Many Arabs sought an improvement but got a disaster.
The Arab spring beginning's exact date is not entirely obvious. On the one hand, Algeria started suffering from riots as early as in November 2010, but those were swiftly suppressed by the authorities. It seemed like a mere episode. After a young man's self-immolation in Sidi Bouzid (Tunisia) in December the same year, it was also quiet for several weeks. People knew that Mohammed Bouazizi, who caught himself on fire, was a university graduate, had a teacher's degree, but did not find a school job and had to engage in selling vegetables and fruits without a license or a medical certificate. Thereunder, the police seized the goods. Everything by the law.
Things went off in January 2011.
We will talk about Tunisia later, and now let's move to the neighboring Egypt, which picked up this tragic torch. And it was in Cairo that the situation decreased drastically, making the Arab Spring start gaining momentum and energy.
It has already been noted that Egyptian President Mubarak's resignation pressurized by a raging crowd in Cairo's Tahrir Square took place at an amazing date of February 11, 2011. If you write it down in numbers, numerologists and conspiracy theorists will tell you that there is a sacred meaning, making this day a borderline, a turning point in the entire Arab world's history. Indeed, we see a fantastic order of numbers in Mubarak's departure date – 11.02/2011. This presents a milestone in the life of Egypt and the entire Middle East. And after Mubarak quit, the dam gave way to make the Arab Spring flourish, with its tragedy pummeling Libya, Syria, Yemen...
But why did the disaster get such an optimistic name? The question is as correct as hard to answer accurately. Because an idea of a "democratic revival" for the Middle East was cultivated in the West, in the United States, where all of this had been planned and orchestrated, as well as among the Arab oppositionist intellectuals. Allegedly, an era of "democratic prosperity" was to replace "totalitarian regimes" existing there.
And the Arabs did not initially realize where the Americans would lead them. "Today, the Arab peoples are opening a new page in their history. The claim that the Arabs and Muslims are historically excluded from the democratic process for not being genetically inclined to democracy, has irrevocably sunken into oblivion," well-known Lebanese public figure and coordinator of the Wasatiyyah (Moderation) movement Dr. Wasim Kaladgie, wrote in 2011. Hopes were high and magnificent. The Arab intellectual society believed life would magically change to bring the long-awaited freedom after the departure of "dictators".
They forgot that in France, for instance, this "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" formula ("Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité") walked hand in hand with the guillotine and cruelty of Napoleon Bonaparte, who meddled in Russia for some reason but lost EVERYTHING after that.
Two ordinary people as represented by Beshir Sassi, a Tunisian unemployed, and Egyptian peasant Abdelhamid Gohar told me as one: "We are happy to have achieved a revolution. We now have a lot of freedom and democracy. No one can arrest us just for thinking in a way different from our new rulers. We are not better off, but we are freer – and that's the thing." They took delight in the freedom of speech but were deprived of the "freedom of life". Not a fair exchange whatsoever.
The Arab spring events went off a democratic scenario. In the same Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood (banned in Russia) came to power, led by a man named Morsi who arrived from the United States and proved not a "president of all Egyptians" but a schismatic enjoying a mere 40% of people's support. In the end, the Egyptian army turned the tide, with General Al-Sisi becoming the head of state. Following the Muslim Brotherhood's rule, the talk of "Western-style democratization" has scaled back... The thousand-year-old Egyptian state does have its own traditions after all.
And here we come to the heart of the matter, although rarely discussed: What did this "Spring" cost the nations forced to experience this mayhem?
The first days after the overthrow of Tunisian President Ben Ali saw the press spread a rumor that he and his entourage had $40 billion hidden abroad. The first days after the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt saw the press spread a rumor that he and his entourage had $70 billion hidden abroad. The first days after Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in Libya saw rumors that he had almost 120 billion dollars hidden abroad. Nice talk...
But where are the former dictators' assets announced by the Western propaganda and the Arab press? And why didn't the "liberated" peoples get this money back after having defeated the "dictators"? The answer is simple – the West has pocketed all of it! Billions of dollars! What do you call it? A huge snatch, that's what it is!
By the way, it was later proved that the "dictators'" assets were public money placed in Western banks, and they were not that big. However, those funds have never been recovered by the countries affected by the "Arab Spring". Does everyone understand now how the West helped the "young Arab democracy" and what was the "fee"?
Egypt's post-revolution internal and external debt was unprecedented in its size, having exceeded $240 billion after the Tahrir Square events. That's the price of the "Arab Spring" in Egypt alone. It fortunately evaded a full-scale civil war, although the army did shot a good deal of Islamists.
All of this must be firmly remembered – the government collapse, the civil war, tens of thousands of graves and enormous financial and economic losses. These are the Arab Spring's key features that originally aroused democratization illusions with local intellectuals.
So what is the lesson learned? Interestingly, Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post provided one of the most adequate assessments. Sort of a detached view. It presented a forecast about what exactly the Arab rulers' generational change will yield to their future policy based on knowledge, situational awareness and Arab Spring experience. As a matter of interest, the author "screwed down" his thoughts to a conclusion that the new Arab world government will rule... as of old ("new authoritarianism"). He believes that classic Western-style "democracy" won't assimilate here, with changes, if any, being primarily aimed to entrench power: "The ruling Arab elites seem to prefer the status quo over the chaos of Yemen and Libya, despite the generational change and disappointment over America."
I would add for myself that many people follow the term "democracy" and this beautiful idea. But as soon as you come to realize that "democracy" is an economic category, a system of power to the benefit of private producers, a power not for everyone but for private owners alone, its appeal to ordinary people, particularly employees, may fade at a quick pace. And you understand the incredibility of effort required to make "democratic ideas" more mainstream in the Arab world.
This is quite telling in relation to the countries and peoples of the Middle East...