Trump should learn from The Arab Spring

Watching the events unfolding in the USA and the reactions of Trump’s government, one can’t help but draw the lines and compare the uprising of the people protesting injustice with what we faced here in the middle east in the past decade. On the verge of Bouazizi putting himself on fire in the street of Tunisia, triggering an uprising that swept over the region, the western media rushed into branding it and calling it The Arab Spring. A name that held so much hope for a much needed change towards a more just and free societies.

Today, waking up to the news of Trump threatening to ‘dominate’ protestors with military force, shooting peaceful protestors in Washington with rubber bullets and tear gas, one can’t help to wonder if the table has turned. Many people in Arab world and around the world ask themselves today, are we watching the birth of The American Spring?!

We all know the fatal consequences of The Arab Spring on different countries in the region, and certainly don’t wish the same faith to be reflected into any other country, and certainly not to the one that been considered a world leader for many years. In reality, if one looked into the region to take notes, he won’t be disappointed. Each country leadership reacted differently, and each country found itself verging into a different path. All depended on what the man on the top did!

And to be honest, with Trump in charge, angry with inflated ego, it is sad to say that we should expect the worse. Ben Ali was smart, he fled Tunisia in less than month of the revolution, saving himself and the country from disastrous consequences. Today, Tunisia is considered the most successful model of The Arab Spring and turned into an operational democratic country. Husni Mubarak, in Egypt, reacted as wisely as Ben Ali, and after his initial violent reaction towards protestors that triggered millions more to go into the streets, he stepped down. King Abdallah of Jordan was the smartest, he instantly changed the cabinet, promised demonstrators to fasten a political reform and fight corruption, and worked hard to ensure they are safe. He even ordered policemen to distribute water and juice on angry protestors.

On the other hands, ego-centric leaders, from the dump Gaddafi of Libya, to Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, and Bashar Al Asad of Syria. They all reacted violently, trying to “dominate” the demonstrators with their military force, and ended up taking their countries downhill, swirling into a civil war and declared as failed states. While Gaddafi and Saleh didn’t survive the havoc, Al Asad played all his cards, tortured and killed millions, displaced millions, and was saved the growth of ISIS and the intervention of Russia!

One would say that neither one of those countries had a democratic system in place that would ensure a better consequence for the events, but we have an example for that as well. Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader, who took over Egypt through a democratic vote after Mubarak stepped down. He lasted a year, as he ruled with an ideology that didn’t sit well with most Egyptians. He was deaf to the masses, like Trump is today, and was on the verge of killing the new found democracy, same like Trump is doing in America today. Morsi was ousted by a military coup, ending the very short democratic ear of the country.

Trump feels as stupid and deaf as Morsi, and ego-centric and crazy as Gaddafi. No one can deny that America is in a state of division today. Politics polarization hit the roof. Although opposition leaders feel more wise today, his reactions might trigger more and more violence, and could easily push the country into a civil war. We have seen looting during the Arab Spring, and we have seen other militias forming in some countries to respond to the violent state reaction, we have seen other countries interfere and support all sides of the conflict, we have also seen terrorist groups taking advantage and gaining grounds. Trump might have the military to aid him at the moment, but he might not have that for long. Divisions will appear in every single institution, and if he kept his stubbornness, don’t listen to his advisors, and don’t learn from other countries, his America might just do a free fall, from leading the world, into a failed state.

Mexico watch out, pay for the wall, before you get to face the flood of millions of refugees.

This would be a sad scenario, which we don’t want to see.

Humanly Syrian Stories

Destruction in Syria

Destruction in Syria

During the madness of war, one can’t possibly weave story that tells it all. There is no story that would ever show the whole picture of the horrors happening in Syria. Media news channels may focus on numbers, numbers of bombs, chemical arms, casualties, refugees, migrants, etc. They may focus of the political divide, the power struggle, and the calculations of winning and losing. People from the outside, may take sides, ignoring the fact that the loss far exceeds whatever media channels could cover. It is the loss of an entire nation (not a country) because it is the loss of people that matters. The stories of each individual affected in this power play are the real stories that should be making the headlines.

Last week, during the follow-up of the YLVP13 (Young Leaders Visitors Program) in Amman, I met a young Syrian guy. Ibrahim Al-Assil introduced himself to me as one of the members of the Syrian non-violence movement. A movement that aims to bring back sanity to the country, calling for change via non-violent means. He, along with his fellow members of this movement are courageous admirable people. He was jailed and tortured before, released and moved to the UAE. Yet, he refuses to settle with the comfortable life in Dubai, and plan to go back to Syria in order to push for the non-violent movement agenda. He told, “Syria needs us, we can’t leave to mad people”. He believes that with communication, he, and his fellows, can help those people see the madness of their action and talk them back to their sane self.

Though part of me think he is mad himself, going back in a suicidal mission to convince armed fighters on the ground to drop their weapons and adhere to non-violent methods, yet looking at his passion towards this cause, I could only admire the amount of humanity he has in his heart. It is only because he is humanly beyond our imagination, that he sees the humanity in the hearts of those fighters and thinks that he could reason with them. It is beyond media coverage, beyond political leaders, beyond ignorance and madness. It is people like him that Syria needs right now, people like him that gives me hope.

I am sure that each and every Syrian has a similar story to tell. Wars may have the capabilities of bringing out the worst in us, but they are very well capable of bringing out the best in us as well. I met Dana Dajani, the Director of Madrasati initiation at the Chevening Regional Conference. She was telling me that she wishes she could capture the amount of stories she hears because of her work. One of the touching stories is for a Syrian little girl in 2nd grade who lost both of her parents for the war. She came to Jordan with her grandmother. One day she headed to a nearby school and wanted to get in to study. Sadly, they didn’t allow her in because the school was full and there is no space from more students. The little girl tried to argue with the school principal, telling her how good she is in languages, that she knows how to read and write, and that she even memories poems! They refused her entry, only to see her next day bringing a carpet, placing it on the floor at the gate of the school, and telling them that she will do that everyday till she gets her right for education.

Another story comes from a school in Karak. A little Jordanian girl gives her daily allowance of 30 pence to her Syrian friend. After few days, her teacher got worried, she thought that maybe the Jordanian girl is bullied to do that. She asked her, why are you giving your allowance to your Syrian friend. The girl answered “I would spend my allowance on buying chips, but my friend would spend it on buying bread, she needs it more”.

There are only 3 stories among millions of stories that we fail to capture. I just wish that the media focuses more on the human side of this struggle rather than echoing the loud voice of the political powers.

We need an independent entity to rank our media outlets based on credibility

My opinion about the Arab spring, originally written and posted here for a project for the Swedish Institute.


I have mixed feelings about the so-called Arab Spring. On one hand, there is a hope for a true democratic breakthrough in the region, while on the other hand there is a fear of failed revolutions, where the outcome is yet again autocratic regimes with extremist ideologies. There is also some sadness in my heart for all the violence that has erupted in those revolutions, and for all lives that have been lost fighting for freedom and equality.

People of Europe and the western world seem to be in awe of the Arab youth. I felt their admiration and encouragement myself at the Tällberg global environmental convention in Sigtuna in July. In reality, things are more chaotic on the ground; even in those countries where there is a consensus that all traces of the old regime must be removed, there is still a power play between different groups trying to gain control.

The newfound belief in the power of their own voices has encouraged people of different shapes, colors and ideologies to rise up and demand what they see as just. This is great, as long as there is a democratic system in place that caters to all players; when a proper system is lacking, things can go awry.

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