Tunisia Twitters Trends Issue – Social Media and the Arab Revolution
MaryAnn Moore Jan 27th 2011
Every so often the world shudders with revolutionary spasms. It happened with the emergence of the American, French, and Russian Revolutions at the turn of the centuries past. Major social revolutions frequently occur after a major social change, such as the wave of industrialization that covered the world and pulled behind it the various revolutions that reflected the new social organizations, intellectual thought, and changed expectations. In America, the chains of colonialism were thrown off and the quest for personal liberty still remains at the core of the American psyche. In France, the people’s egalitarian principles joined a fraternal quest for liberty, and this framework still exists today in their social democracy. In Russia, the Czar who ruled with an iron fist was deposed, what he had was given to the masses, and a new society based upon the Marxist principles became the grand experiment of Communism. It was a failed experiment that imploded upon itself ironically, as a drive for personal freedom, ownership, and democracy led to other revolutions and the collapse of the Soviet communist style of government. Revolutions are not always a success story, and many are killed in the process.
As technology gains a foothold in the Arab and African world, the information age may be bringing transformation to societies locked repressively in a time that is closer to the beginnings of the industrial age. YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have become the tools of the oppressed to communicate new ideas and new social organizations. The reality of their world being brought into their homes relatively uncensored, and socially shared. Triggers such as the Wikkileaks disclosures, at times confirming their their thoughts, and the expression of their painful angst as shown in acts of self immolation, have lit a fuse in these social tinderboxes. However, one should be wary of regime change in Africa, which has a long history of governments failing, and nothing really changing in the end. The ‘Coup Trap’ as it is known. Researchers Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler studied this problem of the re-occurring coup, and rebellions. What they found was that in all coups there are commonalities, and at the core the issue was primarily economic, rather than political or social. The two variables that played major roles with rebellions being successful were geographic dispersion (giving the rebels somewhere to hide) and social fragmentation (the more fragmented a society is, the less likely the rebellion). But the role technology can play in empowering the masses to affect a change process and to drive the outcome to a different, better place, will be seen.
Using methods to remain undetected on the internet, rebels may have a different place to hide and communicate, while uncoordinated calls for rebellion on various media platforms may lead to a splintering of the group. Existing powers that be may use the same technology to track rebel leaders or movements, or spread misinformation. Researcher Simon.R.B.Berdal is noted on Wikipedia to explain the role of the internet as follows…
“As the globally evolving Internet provides ever new access points to virtual discourse forums, it also promotes new civic relations and associations within which communicative power may flow and accumulate. Thus, traditionally…national-embedded peripheries get entangled into greater international peripheries, with stronger combined powers. The internet consequently, changes the topology of the ‘centre-periphery model, by stimulating conventional peripheries to interlink into ‘super-periphery’ structures, which enclose and ‘besiege’ several centers at once.”
We may be seeing the siege beginning from the periphery, in the Arab world. Arab commentators are starting to call this unrest as the Jasmine Revolution, the pink revolution, and other names, which indicate a perception of the high level of engagement within the population, to driving a change process in these countries. Salman Shaikh from CNN feels we are witnessing today, an Arab people‘s revolution.
Part 1 Egypt ‘The Outbreak’
As the revolution spreads from Tunisia to Egypt, President Mubarak finally spoke to his country stating that his government’s cabinet would be replaced, but the general population remains out on the street wanting him to resign. It may come down to a show down between the army deployed to replace the beaten back police force, and the will of the people to see Mubarak gone. As yet, the people have taken the approach to co-opting the army, approaching them as friends. The rebellion has been driven by the youth in tandem with other segments of society, unlike the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ which has been in the past the main opponent to President Mubarak. Should this group decide to join the rebellion at a crticial moment, there will likely be enough momentum to topple the government. Internet and cell phones were blocked in advance of the massive rally taking place in Cairo. Mohammed ElBaradei who is seen by many as a possible interim leader, called for President Mubarak to ‘leave today and save the country’. The military has apparently told protestors that they will not stand in their way, opening the door to a change in government.
Demonstrations are also happening in Jordan, Yemen, and Morocco. Algeria is also stepping up their demands for an end to the multi-year history of living under emergency rule. Reuters reported that on Thursday a general Blackberry messenger went out calling for protests in Jeddah, an area badly damaged by floods, in a rare show of dissent. In the Sudan there was a student protest at the University of Kartoum, which was eventually shut down by police. In Jordan, King Abdulla II is trying to pre-empt further protests by firing his cabinet and replacing the P.M. who is seen as a moderate. The King was also discussing what sounded like democratic reforms, although specifics were not tabled.
The western world has been trying to walk a tightrope between encouraging democratic reforms and supporting a transition to an Arab democratic society, and fearing the change may become radicalized, violent, and revert back to an authoritarian structure of leadership whose agenda may not be peaceful. British Foreign Secretary William Hague requested a democratic ‘transformation’, while the American government is delicately trying to support ‘the people’ as opposed to the current regime style, or the radicals who may be looking for an opportunity to overtake the process in motion. China meanwhile, is trying to block all news from these events from entering their country.
Part 2 Egypt ‘The Battle’ Feb 2011
After the initial skirmishes, the real battle will take place as President Mubarak has shown no signs of wanting to step down, and most recently has begun to stop the press from reporting what is happening. This is usually a prelude to an autocratic government’s crackdown on a rebellion. The actions of the military will likely determine the outcome of this revolution. Foreign citizens living in Egypt are scrambling to arrange for a flight out, while countries are trying to coordinate evacuations. Reports from those who have left state that airport security are demanding payment to be let on board flights, and planes are being charged extra ‘taxes’ for departure.
As President Mubarak realizes he is left alone to fight this battle in the twilight of his years, and while reportedly in poor health, the potential for bloodshed grows. He has replaced the cabinet with his trusted friends and is suspicious of the motives of this uprising. A radio report from a ‘friend’ stated he did not feel that Mubarak was planning on stepping down. The people sense what is about to happen, and many have stated that they are prepared to die for their cause. Some are starting to prepare for Mubarak’s replacement, as intellectuals are gathering to discuss the people who could be chosen for an interim government. Mohammed ElBaradei continues to be the most likely choice for the people in a new government. The ‘million man march’ on the Presidential Palace has become a giant ‘tent-in’. So called ‘pro-stability’ protestors aka ‘pro-Mubarak’ backers are beginning to attack those camped out in Tahrir, with numerous Molotov cocktails being thrown, beatings happening, and gunfire being heard. The Associated Press reported that the German Foreign Minister Guide Westerwelle felt the assault on protestors ‘raised the question of whether political leaders of Egypt understand the need for rapid democratic reform.’ The answer to which, would appear to be no. One could speculate that this violence against peaceful protestors was not only designed to intimidate them, but also designed to bring out a violent backlash, which could then be used to legitimize the use of force. The west at some point, will have to decide how far they will go in supporting democracy in Egypt, and what constitutes interference in the affairs of another country. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are protesting the cut off in technology and communications Egyptians are facing because of political reasons, in a rare corporate commentary. Whether other forums such as the UN can be used remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Egyptians wait and watch. The military looks more and more to be the key player in the outcome. At some point there will be more forceful action towards democracy, when the people become tired of the games and intimidation. What the military does will decide the victor.
Part 3 Egypt ‘Operation Valkyrie’ Feb 2011
It is important to understand the role the military has played in Egypt through the years. From Nassar, to Sadat, to Mubarak, the military has provided the leadership for Egypt and views itself as Egypt’s protector. It has however, become corrupt especially at the upper echelon, and feels no issues with torturing its opponents. Meanwhile, the protests continue at Tahrir Square. Other world leaders are joining in on the fray, including another aging dictator, Fidel Castro, who feels Mubarak ‘is done for’. As economic conditions worsen in Egypt with food and fuel shortages, there is limited time to broker a peaceful settlement to the stand-off, which is what the West appears to be doing. The ‘Wise Elders’ of Egypt in the meantime have drafted their own statement about a transitory government and have agreed to enter into a dialogue with the newly appointed Vice-President Omar Suleiman. The military thus far is keeping quiet, and Mubarak believes that a faction of the military is playing a role in plotting his ouster. At issue, is the succession of Mubarak’s son who is disliked by the military, and did not complete his military service. The players who appear to be game for the Presidential position include: Mohammed ElBaradei, Mubarak’s sons Gamal and Alaa, Omar Suleiman V.P. and the former chief of Intelligence, and Field Marshall Mohammed Tanawi Soliman have been mentioned, and no doubt there are others in the background. Rumors of President Mubarak being terminally ill with cancer have been around since 2010, with stories of him seeking treatment in Europe. Recent comments have him diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Succession as an issue has obviously been around for a few years with Mubarak pushing through a new law in the Egyptian assembly, that the speaker of the assembly would be President for 60 days, if anything happened to the President. It also required anyone standing for election to be the in leadership of a political party for at least one year, a situation which had favoured his son Gamal. The military has no doubt been discussing how this process of succession may take place, both formally and informally. The citizens are planning their own approach to democracy, with the ‘National Coalition for Change’ – comprised of the Wise Elders, Muslim Brotherhood, and other parties, and fronted by ElBaradei, meeting with the regime to build a new electoral process.
Israel and others are distrustful of this change, worried that other elements may come into play that may scuttle the peace agreement that exists between Israel and Egypt. The US has softened its stance towards the immediate removal of Mubarak, now that his sons and friends have been removed from the succession process. The country is still in chaos, with a pipeline being blown up with the encouragement of Islamist extremists, and continuing economic dysfunction, the reverberations of which are still being felt in adjacent countries. The situation is far from resolved. Egypt was able to mobilize its citizens, especially the youth with technology, along with more traditional ‘social networking’ in the Mosques and marketplaces, as it was ‘ready for revolution.’ High risk zones for further unrest will be the oppressed, poor people such as that found in Iran, where the failed 2009 Green Revolution may be re-ignited by the success of the Egyptian and Tunisian people. Triggers are often economic – high food prices and shortages, natural disasters, and the presence of sufficient leadership is also required. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated, ‘the conditions exist for a perfect storm’.
On Feb 10th the Egyptian army met without Mubarak, and announced that Mubarak would be stepping down and handing his powers over to the V.P. Omar Suleiman. However, Mubarak went on national television to state that he was not stepping down, but would hand over some powers to the V.P. On Feb 11th the army took control of the government, and made a formal announcement that President Mubarak had stepped down. Egypt had made history in changing a regime that had been there for most of their lives. Mubarak is like some tragic King Lear who had outlived his time. Like a proud pharaoh, Mubarak is planning to die in Egypt, one way or the other. Since he was deposed he has disappeared from view. There have been rumours of his falling into a coma, of going to Germany, and little official commentary since then. The army however is still in charge, and some protestors have not gone home, being unsatisfied with the democracy that they have not seen, as yet. Mubarak’s net worth has been estimated in the billions, with claims that he is the world’s richest man. His money is the process of being tracked down and frozen.
Part 4 Egypt ‘The Contagion’ Feb 19th 2011
Other countries in the region have continued to clamour for democracy, as unrest spreads throughout the region. Of particular note Iran’s reactions to increasing internal unrest have been harsh crackdowns, and everyone else is looking at Iranian ships allowed through the Suez canal by Egypt, with the suspicion that Iran may be upping the ante, using the fomenting unrest to escalate a war against Israel. Islamic extremists in Iran and other regions have re-labelled the Egyptian unrest as being driven by Islamic forces, and one could question the motives in play currently, although a certain segment of the uprising is likely encouraged by the clerics in the region.
The other area that is experiencing unrest against another dictator of 40 odd years-Libya, has seen the mass execution of its unarmed citizens by what are called externally sourced mercenaries. Forces loyal to Muammar Ghaddhafi have gone so far as to shoot mourners at funerals for ‘Martyrs of the Revolution’. Foreign journalists are finding it difficult to report, as entry visa’s are denied. News from the area is coming by way of eye witness reporting on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, and what staff AlJazerra has local for reporting. Even the Telegraph/UK has gone to use independent video, as their own reporters are not present.
The situation in Libya worsens with the military fracturing and Ghaddhafi ordering air strikes against his own military installations and protesters while importing more external mercenaries. The rebellion seems to be moving westward across the country, as the cities of Benghazi, Bayda, and Darnah, are broadcasting revolutionary messages, and some members of the air force have defected in Malta rather than attack their own people. There are contradictory reports of air strikes in Tripoli, with essentially the government of Ghaddhafi denying citizens claims that Tripoli was attacked. There are calls by the revolutionary army to head towards Tripoli, to remove Ghaddhafi from power. Nearby cities on the outskirts of the capital are also coming under fire, as the fighting starts to concentrate in and around Tripoli. The major battle should be over in the near future, but Ghaddhafi may retreat to a fortified location, such as a bunker facility.
There is a wholesale exodus of refugees from Libya and Tunisia across the Mediterranean into Europe, and the security force protecting the E.U. border- ‘Frontex’ is asking for more resources to deal with the overwhelming numbers arriving. Europe may be faced with it’s first mass wave of refugees since the second world war, as a result of the ongoing unrest in Africa and the Middle East. Turks, Egyptians, and other foreigners in Libya are trying to flee where possible, but otherwise are trapped by the uprising and a lack of means of evacuations. Egypt is hinting of bringing it’s planes and support personnel into the country, to assist Egyptians trapped there.
In examining where Ghaddhafi may have retreated to, the rumour on the street is that he may have went to his desert home of Sabha, Libya. In 2004 the IAEA report stated this was the base of his nuclear weapons program, and nearby Serba Oasis was the test site of OTRAG rockets. It was where he made his ‘dawn of the masses’ speech, and may add an extremely dangerous element into his arsenal which he may wield against protesters. There are reports he has begun shelling Tripoli from ships. It would appear to be the actions of a desperate man, who was never that stable to begin with. His actions, weapons, and money, make this a very dangerous situation for his people who have deserted him, and neighbouring countries.
Part 5 Egypt ‘A Fire Burns’ – Multiple Regional Crisis Feb 23rd
The Arab Revolution has become on fire in several locations, and has begun to spread along the periphery. The other factor driving the quick spread of revolutionary fever, aside from technology, is the youth demographic of the Middle East/North Africa region which peaks around 2035 at 100 million, and about 25-45% of it is currently unemployed. The centre of it all- Saudia Arabia, has become nervous and now King Abdullah has returned home after a three month absence and announced aid for unemployed youth to begin. The youth have waiting lists of around 18 years to get state housing which delays issues such as marriage and developmental milestones. Most recently one of the Saudi Prince’s has a video that has was placed on YouTube as endorsing Ghaddhafi, despite the Clerics from Saudi Arabia all condemning Ghaddhafi. It has been said that ‘all roads lead to Mecca’, and it appears the Saudi’s, with trouble in nearby Bahrain and Yemen, are looking down those roads for what is slowly approaching their kingdom. Succession, like in Egypt, has been in question for a time. King Abdulla has his successor named, but there are conflicts in opinion over who should be next, and what happens after, is anyone’s guess. Both the King, and his named successor are elderly. The King has shown progressive leadership as compared to his predecessors, but whether this can hold the tide approaching, is anyone’s guess. The fire will take hold and burn to the center, how much transformation will ensue will be a reflection of the people’s determination.
The battle continues in Libya, with fierce fighting in and around Tripoli as the last vanguard of loyal army members and hired mercenaries fight anti-government forces. Some sea vessels of the Libyan navy have defected, and the anti-government forces are picking up more and more, as tribes and deserted army officers travel to the battlegrounds to join up in the fight. Once the battle around Tripoli is decided, the battle will likely move southernly, or towards Ghaddhafi’s location. It will become evident at that point, whether Ghaddhafi has further weapons he will launch to prevent an approaching front from reaching his base, or whether he will have created some sort of nuclear material bomb, a ‘dirty bomb’ available in some grand defense, or chemical weapons against those who would oppose him. His only international support coming from Malta and Italy’s Burlusconi, who were against applying sanctions on Libya. Foreign nationals continue to try and get out of the country, as reports of major bloodshed and battles are emerging.
Some have said that Libya is but a small country, of no great geo-political importance, but it’s leader has managed to stay in power for over 40 years, while contributing to, or directly ordering terrorist attacks on innocent civilians, and as such, has distinguished himself as a menace to society at large, to the point where President Ronald Reagan called him a ‘mad dog’. The fact he paid retributions for the lives he took, does not replace those lives, and was strictly an economic move on his part to get sanctions lifted, and not an act of contrition. With age, he has learnt to be lower key and how to pretend to play the game. He is all about the money and power, and has evolved to a megalomaniac. His past methods of manipulating the masses, some learnt from Mubarak as a young man, are what we see today. His claims in the past, of being attacked by outside forces while it was him all along, may have successfully confused a populace with little but state media coverage, but in today’s age of internet and wireless communication, the methods fall ridiculously flat. He is sitting back letting his opponents play out their hand, while he organizes staged propaganda shows. He warns them to stop the protests, then comes with helicopter gunships and massacres people. He has gone out to his military stores in the desert and revised plans for counter-attack, and returned to Tripoli with further mercenary back-up. He has offered the general populace about $400 per family along with added state benefits, in trying to regain control of the situation, now that sanctions are on the way. While he has money he will be a formidable foe, and freezing his assets is likely to bring about an angry response, although alternative accounts were already set up by his son for redirecting money flows. Ghaddhafi should not be trifled with. He has always been a dangerous man, and the biggest mistake would be to under-estimate him, or try to appease him. It behooves us in retrospect to understand why we have found it easy to forget the actions of this man, and why we have bought his oil over so many years, and taken his money, lest we be a quiet accomplice in his actions.
Part 6 Egypt ‘Towards a New Arabian Future’ Feb 27th
As we witness the wholesale change of mentality, the Arab world now is faced with the ‘now what’ of determining the direction of their collective societies. It will be interesting to see if a higher degree of cohesion and similarity results between countries, of whether the re-creation of an old idea of ‘Pan-Arabia’ emerges, with commonalities being driven by a shared culture within the internet affecting local values, in as much as it helped to drive a revolution through the Arab world in varying degrees. Intellectuals from places such as Saudi Arabia to Egypt, and youth who have seen the western, developed world and have ‘e-friends’ across the globe, have in their mind a vision for their future. It is the youth generation, soon to be a 100 million strong that will propel the Arab world into the future. As this revolution continues to unfold, their vision needs to coalesce into an actionable plan, or they will lose the moment for seizing a true opportunity for change. For when the ‘hard’ revolution is over and governments are toppled, leaders must step up and out from where there had been none. Constitutions must be reformed or created, and public institutions made to reflect their new view on life. The revolution is far from over, in many ways it has yet to really begin. What has been different for us in the West, is that we have been able to watch live, uncensored footage shot by camera phones on YouTube, posted messages of support on Facebook, and contributed to Twitter conversations with ‘e-friends’ in the middle of Libya. We have become of the part of their revolution with our technological support, and with our offers of friendship to a world that few of us have ever been to. Perhaps that has been the greatest gift that the internet has given to us all.
‘Understanding the Inevitable Conclusion’ – Using Resilience Theory to Examine Social Innovation and ‘Surmountable Chasms’ March 2011
While the Arabian Revolution continues to progress, we can move past watching the actual events and develop an understanding of the theory that can be used to frame the events in more detail, and be used more importantly in helping others, the youth in particular, guide their futures. This revolution has only begun, and while it may stop and start in various phases, the youth demographic alone will drive it along to the eventual conclusion. The Arabian future has become of age, and has begun to take their rightful place, long denied, in the established order of things. We have begun to see that Social Networks have begun to be used in ways that can create fundamental change, but our understanding of these effects is only partially known and only quite recently researched in the context of resilience and innovation. The role of ‘Institutional Entrepreneurs’ in the network system, that have the ability to recognize patterns that cause rigidity traps, to create informal groups and missions, functioning as ‘nodes’, rather than hubs, within the system. ‘Knowledge brokers’ with specialized knowledge can frame the information to make it comprehensible and relevant for others, especially decision-makers. ‘Network Rechargers’ are visionaries, who give form and direction to the network and its mission. Network theory helps to explain the types of relationships needed for social innovation to spread across boundaries. Research has shown that:
‘Networks have become the intellectual centrepiece for our era. If the contest between markets and state hierarchies was an organizing feature of the 1980’s, network has emerged as the dominant social and economic metaphor for subsequent decades’ 1.
Much like the transformative change that took place and revolutionized the former Soviet Union, the change happening in the Arab world has similar features, but with the advantage of the unifying and co-ordinating aspect of the internet and social networking sites. While the former revolution that led to the destruction of the Soviet style of government, it was often tumultuous in the aftermath, with state assets often being sold off at fire sale prices to political cronies, and a wholesale lack of any unifying features aside from a couple leaders that emerged periodically from what could be called an aimless collapse into the unknown. The Arab revolution however has the ability to try to collectively shape their future using the internet/social media to find a more positive outcome of this revolution. Research has shown that the more boundaries and scales innovation crosses, the more likely the innovation will result in transformative change. At some tipping point in momentum, and entire region will be a vastly different place in the future. The shaping of this process occurs now. How we support and facilitate the process, how determined the Arab population is in achieving its ideals, how brutal the governments of this rigid system are in trying to suppress this inevitable change, will affect the process and the final outcome. This revolution will not only transform the Arab world, but others to come in the future. Rigid organizations, political or otherwise, will not be able to survive the onslaught of this social change, ‘the power shift’, brought about by the internet, and other macro factors such as climate change, technological shifts, and global economic evolution. The era of ‘Rapid Transformation’ has begun.
‘Global Impact’ March 2011
The Arabian Revolution has also had a social impact right across the world. In nearby Iran, the Persian youth culture is trying desperately to find ways of overcoming the extreme repression that has smothered the 2009 Green Revolution, and kept in check recent efforts to find freedom. In China the Jasmine Strolls, as the gatherings are called, are making some in government nervous. Their concern is that this movement may intensify, if their economy becomes more troubled, which may occur, as current events in the world throw a monkey wrench into the global economic recovery, with increasing volatility in various markets. Even in India, youth are challenging the old beliefs in the caste system, with online movements beginning. Our social world with social technology now unleashed and used effectively, has become a place of different expectations. The youth in particular, will play a critical role in global social transformation, and those aged, ancient, authoritative leaders will be swept away by the third wave that is coming to their world.
‘Shaping the Revolution’ March 23 2011
The West and the UN have decided to play an interventionist role with Libya, after watching the slaughter of peaceful and armed protestors; and of bodies burned, buried alive, or buried dead, so little evidence would be found. Ghadhaffi has made himself visible for all to see, what was the illusion he had held out, so dearly, of a ‘reformed terrorist’. If Libya is able to turn its momentum towards a democratic process, then perhaps from the northern edge of Africa, social change has a chance to spread towards other areas in Africa, with time. If the Arab world is able to embrace and shape democratic change, rather than live in fear of it, authoritarian countries like Iran, would be under their challenge, rather than the other way around. Iran often plays sectarian conflict towards each other, in order to be the victor, if sectarian conflict was engaged in a democratic process, an authoritarian Iran would be the loser. The African, Arabian, and Persian youth of tomorrow, and today, have much of their struggle yet before them.
Libya has been able to regain some area with the help of the no fly zone, being in place. They have begun to form a transitional government and have named a transitional Prime Minister. They have formed a Transitional National Assembly and made their a declaration of their transitional government status and intent to hold free elections. Ghadhaffi, is thought to have gone into hiding into one of his many bunkers again. His thoughts will likely review his options for accessing more funds, securing further mercenaries, and reviewing how to access further weaponry he likely has cached. It will be unlikely that he will depart, given he has spent most of his life in his current role, and believes in nothing else. The battle for Libya is far from over, and the longer it progresses, the more Ghadhaffi will hope for political winds to change in his favour, although this is unlikely to happen. Warnings are posted on Twitter of ‘sleeper cells’ in cities such as Mistrata, and these are likely recently planted Ghadhaffi spies, there to provide needed intelligence, to plan his counterattacks.
Syria and Jordan are beginning to experience more unrest. Meanwhile, Yemen is looking more like Egypt with every passing day. The military is starting to support the revolution, and even bureaucrats are jumping off of the government and into the revolution. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia remain fixed against the wave on their doorstep. Iran is engaged in escalating regional conflicts to their benefit. Israel is experiencing increasing attacks, as others are trying to create an attack by Israel, at the same time the West has entered militarily into the region. With a further escalation in violence with Saudi Arabia/Bahrain on Friday prayer protests, Iran can easily transform this scenario into a unifying rally call for Arabs not interested in change, into a call supporting the extremist version of events, of change being a function of American led interests. The west, in particular America, must be very careful in how appearances can easily be transformed by Iran, and friends.
‘A Constitutional Change Forward’ March 28 2011
In Egypt, there has emerged a report, that there are thoughts of drafting a new constitution versus changing the existing constitution, leading to a possible delay in presidential elections. In Syria, there are promises of amending article 8 of the first chapter of the constitution which gives the ruling Baath party, the designation as the leading party in the country, and changing the law to make it illegal to imprison journalists. It is significant that some of the countries that have felt change are speaking of redrafting their laws and basic structure, to reflect a new reality that has emerged.
More Hands Shaping the Revolution March 31 2011
There have been more players entering the field in playing a role in shaping the revolution. Turkey, in particular has emerged as a mediator for various situations, especially regarding Libya and Syria. The interim government in Egypt is changing the alignment of its relationship, before elections are held, and it remains to be seen whether this is prognostic of further trouble to arise out of an incomplete transition to democracy. Iran has been found trying to ship arms to Syria, by Turkey, and in Kuwait a group of Iranian diplomats was sent packing after allegations of spying were made.
Meanwhile in Libya, the supposed defection of Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa should be taken with a grain of salt. Offers of ‘intelligence’ should be viewed with caution, as it is unlikely his easy departure was allowed without knowledge of Ghadaffi, who has seized upon the political turmoil caused by western intervention in Libya, to try to change the tide of political winds against him. The ‘rebels are criminals’ as a statement from the foreign minister, is quite ironic given the history of his involvement in terrorist bombings. The rebels meanwhile are having difficulty fighting especially while under fire, and their actions only show how unlike hardened criminals they are. The situation in Libya will come to a conclusion politically, shortly, and sadly most seem unconcerned about the violent oppression of a people, being concerned more about being drawn into some Iraq like situation, which this is not. If the west and the U.N. let Gadhaffi to stay in power, they will rue the day they made that choice.
‘The Arab Spring continued’ June 2011
The ‘Arab Spring’ as it is known now, continues. Much of North Africa remains in turmoil, awaiting the departure of Libya’s Ghadhaffi. Meanwhile in Egypt, the revolutionary forces are suspiciously viewing the results of their initial efforts, and trying to gain some sense of justice with Mubarack, despite his poor health – a return of cancer has been confirmed. Tunisia, has shown the most spirit in both executing it’s revolution and going after resources formerly owned by their deposed leader. The center of it all- Saudi Arabia has been gazing at female drivers for the first time, as various cultural feminists, are requesting the right to drive in a society where no women are allowed to vote, and votes are held rarely. In Yemen President Saleh was the victim of an assassination attempt, and was treated at a Saudi Arabia hospital, and is expected to return. In Syria, Bashar has resorted to firing on protesters, and killing children to intimidate his population into submission.
‘The Youth of the World Emerge’ July 2011
The Arab revolution will continue into the Arab Fall, which is likely to be a major event with increasing conflicts building from the summertime and coming into full play. Alignments in the middle east are beginning to shift, both from the economic and political spheres, and the social revolutions being held down for now by repressive regimes attempting to continue their hold on power. The role of religion in power and the state’s government is only starting to shift, as the youth segment increasingly connect to the outside world through social media, and realize the complex societies that exist outside of their doorstep. They want in many cases the change we already have, such as the separation of state and religion to allow a more pluralistic society to exist. Wild cards such as weather induced food shortages, energy costs, extremists making a run for power in a dynamic situation, and failing regimes pulling out all the stops to stay in power, are likely to make a fully loaded situation explode while September approaches.
‘The Battle Heats’ August 2011
Syria’s Assad continues to fire upon protestors drawing international condemnation from the west, and supportive apathy from countries such as Russia who are against sanctions being applied. Libyian rebels, assisted by NATO, appears to have affected a regime change on the low profile Ghadaffi. His several sons/grandsons have either been killed or captured, with only a few remaining in the battle. Ghadaffi bears watching for a last grandstand exit, as a man who has ruled the country in brutality for so long, and experienced such family loss in these battles, and is so familiar with killing.
‘ A Year of Change’ Dec 2011
Ghaddafi is killed by rebels, in what appears to be gun battle that was a rather one sided finale. Libya now faces the daunting task of rebuilding their economy and effecting a transition to a more democratic style of governance. The tension in the middle east has heated up, with Iran and Syria along with sympathizers becoming increasingly hostile in their defense of their positions of power, as larger waves of discontent emerge and the situation becomes much more fluid in the region. The change overs in Tunisia and Libya has encouraged not only the middle east, but rippled effects across the world globally for those who have used the success and verdict of change, to push harder at home for their local version of the same.
Jan 2012 Arab Spring 2.0
The Middle East continues in revolutionary ferment. Egyptian crowds fight with the police, and the ‘Girl in the Blue Bra’ YouTube video goes viral in social media, and becomes another defining moment of the Egyptian revolution as women come out in force to protest both the treatment of women, and the failure of the revolution to bring into effect the democratic changes sought. Opposition forces begin to multiply and organize, as the army and police begin a larger crackdown on protesting forces. After forcing a regime change, the people want the real change they were hoping for, and as long as the economy continues to fail to improve, the seeds of discontent remain, and are growing daily. In response, those trying to keep the reins of power have embarked on a campaign of undermining support for full democracy in Egypt, including suddenly arresting American NGO officials in efforts to remove any sentiment towards what is perceived as a negative American presence. The civil war in Syria spills over into Lebanon, as rebels set up base camps in the safe haven it offers. With the army splintering, Homs, a heavily Sunni town and the home of their military academy, and strategic for oil and other reasons, is being heavily shelled. With the Arab world was sending in observers, the Ba’ath party Syrian government could easily be goaded into an aggressive manoeuver into Lebanon. Syria has also begun to talk about constitutional reform, likely as a measure for decreasing the pressure it must be feeling, or as a stalling technique. Iran which is mainly Shiite, remains under global pressure as an Oil embargo is placed to deter it from its nuclear ambitions. Iran in turn has begun to ratchet up tensions by saber rattling with its nuclear intentions, as if it welcomes provocating results and counter-plays the reactions. Hamas and Hezbollah begin to polarize into Sunni and Shiite camps, respectively. Religious sectarian violence becomes pronounced as the tensions heat up, and the 2012 withdrawal of western forces counts down. Much of the dynamics currently in play in the Middle East is a function of religion, with the Muslim majority of Sunni’s playing a key role in reshaping the current regional dynamics. Social media can play a role in helping to moderate the increasing religious tensions, but it can just as easily amplify religious intolerance, as people view the Koran being burned, or see other Sunnis bombed by the Syrian government.
‘Update Syria’ August 2012
Social media continues to be the focus of communication techniques for both inspiring and repressing revolution in the Arab world. The situation in Syria has deteriorated, and revolutionary fever has continued to spread into countries inspired by the actions of those in countries that are similar in geography and politics. Facebook is shown to be the dominant social media internet engine for the middle eastern region.
‘The Quiet Noise before the Storm’ Nov 2012
The battle for control of the Arab Revolution begins, with Israel decimating Hamas which has been performing chaotic attacks on their flank. Israel must determine and define it’s relationship with Egypt before it can possibly look towards Iran and the brewing mix of Shite, Sunni, and Al-Quaeda in Syria and the surrounding region. Meanwhile Iran has begun its preparations as well, trying to foment revolution in Bahrain hoping to destabilize Saudi Arabia.