“…Stimulate that process of reawakening…”
(From the “About” section of the Arab webzine, TahrirSquared.com.)
“Despair is Treason”
(A slogan of the independent news outlet, the Egypt Independent.)
It has been two years since the start of the Arab uprisings. When they began, there was a lot of hope in this part of the world – the promise of a new dawn for the Arabs. There has been much disappointment thus far, and many within and without the region wonder: Is this the future? Or can that promise of that original spirit, which was launched in those powerful places of Tahrir Square and elsewhere, be realized? Is there still the potential of an “Arab promise” for a better future?
In the last few years, there has been much to be disappointed about. The media, and more broadly freedom of speech, have seen better days. Quality has not exactly increased, and in some countries, it has become more polarized. Censorship, by different means, still exists, and this was evident in a recent banning of a film called, Jews of Egypt. How can free societies emerge without less control on free speech? We have seen the rising to prominence of radical religious voices that are extreme, if not violent.
The radical voices are loud and have been pushing people forward in Syria, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Sectarianism between different religious groups shows up in the most unexpected places. Pro-revolutionary activists like Alaa Abdel-Fattah and Mona Seif in Egypt have, along with others, been summoned for investigation by the Egyptian prosecutor general in a move that is being interpreted by opposition figures as the Muslim Brotherhood government clamping down on dissent.
Yet, in the midst of all of these challenges, there are great signs to be optimistic about the future. The reality of the uprisings and revolutions is that they may have begun two years ago, but they are grappling with decades of trauma and turmoil. None of this should have been assumed to be easy, but the real success story is where in spite of these challenges, very powerful moves are taking place.