BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Much is being said about, and made of, the “Arab Spring,” and rightly so. It is was, and is, quite breathtaking what happened in a matter of weeks earlier this year, though the bloodshed in Libya and Syria (not to mention the regimes’ harshness in Bahrain and Yemen) speak to how long and arduous a process has begun.
These events have been mislabeled as “revolutions.” Typically, what we’ve called “revolution” has been more organized, prepared for longer, associated with some ideological/intellectual perspective, and not so unforeseeable. The Arabs’ and North Africans’ actions are perhaps better described as rebellions, uprisings, or more cumbersomely, “enough is enough reactions” to unacceptable conditions. This makes them even more susceptible to cooption than is usually the case in revolutions.
There are no guarantees, even in much better prepared and implemented cases of all sorts. Tides of positive change ebb and flow. Things don’t move unidirectionally for the better, though over time, they do improve. Whichever example of revolution you choose —American, French, Russian, anti-colonial (post-WWII), Iranian, etc.— things always looked really good initially, then became far less so. Counting slaves as 3/5 human? Installing a reign of the guillotine followed by a return of despotic rule? Replacing one man’s tyranny with that of a party? Shedding imperial rule only to have petty despots grabbing the reins of power? Toppling a king and getting a theocracy as a replacement? None of these examples inspire much hope. Yet each of these revolutions brought some amelioration to the life of the average person.
Returning to the current set of uprisings, perhaps most instructive would be Lebanon. Though not currently living through mass street actions, it was the first in the Arab world to have them, after Prime Minister Hariri was assassinated with a massive car bomb. Things improved with Syria’s consequent pullout, but the opposing side has yet to deliver with major improvements. This same kind of multi-year, multi-generation process awaits other countries undergoing internal turmoil. If any further proof is needed, just look at what’s going on in Armenia and the rest of the former Soviet Union.
In all this, one big concern for Armenians is the fate of our communities in the countries undergoing the current turbulence. These communities, as minority groups, have had to develop a modus vivendi with whatever authorities were in power. Hopefully, this will not be held against them by any new leadership with whom we will undoubtedly cooperate. Remember, these are not immigration-based countries such as the U.S. and most of the rest of the Americas. There is something of a host-guest relationship despite four generations of post-Genocide citizenship because we are recognized as Armenians, which enables and eases the maintenance of our identity in these countries.
We can only hope that the lives of all people living the Arab Spring will be improved when things settle down.