By Jaouhar Tonsy
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The Dawn of the Arab Uprisings

This article is over 8 years, 11 months old
Edited by: Bassam Haddad, Rosie Bsheer, Ziad Abu-Rish
Issue 377

The uprisings in the Arab world have fascinated ordinary people, as well as political scientists and academics across the world.

This collection of articles has been written by academics, journalists and activists from the Middle East on the online e-zine Jadaliyya (Jadaliyya means “dialectic” in Arabic). There is a wide range of essays with different styles covering events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria.

Initial Reflections on the Tunisian Revolution by Mohamed Bamyeh explains how the revolution originated when all possibilities of reform had been shut down. Later articles argue that the revolutionary movements are continuing in Tunisia and Egypt as struggles against neoliberal policies and not, only against dictatorship. Economic demands in heavily policed states can turn very quickly against the establishment. In revolutionary times demands of better wages and social justice have the potential to become political demands

My favourite article was The Poetry of Revolt by Elliot Colla. Poetry has the power to express messages that could not be articulated in other forms as well as sharpen demands. Slogans voiced by millions of people in the streets played an important role in galvanising the masses and creating a sense of community. As protestors in Egypt chanted against the police, laughed at and ridiculed their oppressors, their confidence grew and the fear changed sides.

The article also points out that street poetry is a key part of the Egyptian tradition of struggle. There have been three official revolutions in the modern era of Egypt: the 1881 Urabi Revolution which overthrew a corrupt royalty; the 1919 revolution which nearly brought down British military rule and the 1952 revolution which began 60 years of military dictatorship. Apart from these three events, Egyptians have revolted against corruption and the cruelty of their rulers many more times. Many of these revolts have had their own poets.

Fear of Arrest is an amazing article which translates a text posted by an anonymous Syrian activist giving the details of the torture methods he witnessed at the hands of the Syrian regime as well as some advice to militants on how they should behave. The text was specifically aimed at helping militants facing torture.

My least favourite essay is Awakening, Cataclysm or just a Series of Events? by Michael Hudson. The author, inspired by the revolutions, criticises the negative terms used by some commentators to describe the events. The article seems to be mainly addressed to academics and political scientists.

I think this is a useful book for activists who want to learn more about the Arab uprisings and be inspired by these fascinating events

The Dawn of the Arab Uprisings is published by Pluto Press, £17.50

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