A mini-Arab Spring 2.0
It's easy to forget that Iraq had it's own Arab Spring movement in 2012-2013. It's easy to forget because after the massacre at Hawija it spiraled out of control. The Iraqi government tried to brutally suppress the Sunni protesters, and Sunnis fought back in what grew into an insurgency, and then ISIS seized control of the Sunni insurgency before anyone could grasp the catastrophic consequences.
Iraq is witnessing a new Arab Spring protest movement today, and it's starting to look a little like the last one.
Iraq’s premier on Friday urged anti-government protesters to go home, saying their “legitimate demands” have been heard, as the death toll from days of violent demonstrations across Iraq surged to more than 40 on Friday, most of them killed in the last 24 hours.
But dozens of protesters defied his message, gathering shortly before noon near the central Tahrir Square. Many had camped out on the streets overnight.
Security forces responded by firing live bullets to disperse the crowd near Tahrir.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi spoke in a televised address to the nation following three days of demonstrations that have spread across many provinces in the country.
Authorities have also cut internet access in much of Iraq since late Wednesday, in a desperate move to curb the rallies.
The rallies have erupted spontaneously, mostly spurred by youths wanting jobs, improved services such as electricity and water, and an end to endemic corruption in the oil-rich country.
Protesters aren't giving up, and the death toll has reached 65. Unlike the 2012-2013 protests, today's movement looks a lot less sectarian. Cleric and politician Moqtada al-Sadr is calling for the government to resign.
Egypt's Arab Spring was famous and inspired.
It was also famously crushed in one of the biggest massacres in modern history.
The butchers are still in charge today. So when a new protest movement started in Egypt, tolerance wasn't on the agenda.
Over the past 12 days, Egyptian authorities have launched the biggest crackdown under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s rule rounding up more than 2,300 people – at least 111 of them children - said Amnesty International today. The authorities have carried out sweeping arrests of hundreds of peaceful protesters as well as carrying out more targeted arbitrary arrests of human rights lawyers, journalists, political activists and politicians.
The vast majority of those arrested are being investigated as part of one single case. If referred to trial, it would be the largest protest-related criminal case in Egypt’s history.
According to Belady for Rights and Freedoms, at least 111 children, aged between 11 and 17, are among those arrested, several of them subjected to enforced disappearances for periods ranging between two and 10 days. At least 69 are facing charges including of “membership in a terrorist group" and “misusing social media”, though many of them do not even have mobile phones.
Egypt will not see an Arab Spring again for a long time to come.
Fortunately there is one bright spot so far in this mini-Arab Spring 2.0 - Algeria.
Now, after nearly eight months of a peaceful civilian uprising that has rattled the country’s power structure, Algeria’s rulers have strengthened their push for new presidential elections, which they hope will quell protests.
Instead, what many Algerians continue to demand on the street is a reshaping of the entire governing system. What would real change look like? A transitional period that includes the election of a constitutional assembly that would work on a new legal foundation for the country—make it a civilian state instead of a military one, as demonstrators regularly demand across the country’s cities.
The generals have been trying to portray the last eight months as a de facto political transition: The people protested, the president was pushed to resign, a purge put several of the former regime’s apparatchiks and businessmen in jail, and now the people are ready to democratically elect a new president. This narrative serves the country’s military rulers, because the army has chosen or approved every single one of Algeria’s presidents since independence.
Over the past several months, le pouvoir has employed an array of tricks in an attempt to quell demonstrations: It has stoked regional animosity between Berbers and Arabs, violently repressed protests, and arrested opposition figures. Authorities have also moved to prevent protesters from other parts of the country to join Friday demonstrations in the capital. Protests have remained peaceful.
Army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah says the military will not support any candidate in presidential polls, but does that mean anything?
We'll see. The protesters have managed to force more concessions out of the ruling elite than anyone could have thought possible 8 months ago. But is it enough to truly transform Algeria?