Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Activism after the Arab Spring

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Activism after the Arab Spring

Article excerpt

The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Stanford University's Program on Arab Reform and Democracy co-hosted a May 21 event in Washington, DC to discuss "The Local and Regional Dynamics of Arab Activism."

Yale University professor Ellen Lust began by warning observers not to conclude that Arab activism is dead simply because large-scale street demonstrations no longer are taking place. Such mistaken thinking was widespread prior to the Arab Spring, she noted.

According to Lust, activism is shaped by context and is constantly evolving. Thus, young people who took to the streets three years ago may now be expressing themselves via art, the Internet or in other "hidden spaces," she pointed out.

Moroccan journalist Ahmed Benchemsi said young activists have experienced setbacks in recent years because of their naïveté. "Momentum and enthusiasm remained their only asset and they expected it to last forever," he stated. The youth, he added, lacked both the resources and the know-how needed to gain political influence once regimes fell.

Benchemsi cited the Moroccan February 20 Movement as a group that was particularly damaged by its own disorganization. The group suffered because, among other mistakes, it refused to appoint leaders, he said. This aversion to hierarchy stemmed from the movement's fear that the government could easily target or co-opt leaders. The movement also feared a leadership team would cause internal factions to form, he said. …

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