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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It never seize to amaze me how we always manage to busy ourselves in discussing the ‘measurments’ of freadom of speech whenever the issue is brought. We are smart-asses, aren’t we? When there are measurments, then we can always fit our freedom of speech to our own needs.
On the last day of the follow up meeting of the YLVP in Alexandria, we had a press conference at the Swedish Institute to communicate what we have been doing to the Egyptian press. After introducing ourselves and giving a brief information about the YLVP program, the Swedish Ambassador Tommy opened the door for questions.
Most of the questions were friendly. They asked about the program, our projects and the netwrok. One journalist, whom according to Wael Abbas, works for the governments’ official newspaper asked: Did you have any discussion about the measurments of freedom of speech in your program? because as we all know, you have picked Wael Abbas, who is an Egypatian blogger that is known of his dirty language.
Wael answered him in a firm angry tone: When you live under a dictator regime, you don’t discuss freedom measurments, you discuss freedom itself.
In truth, Wael does use a dirty language in his posts. He usually curse and swear public officials and even Hossni Mobarak himself. He rationalize it of using the common language that most of us use in our daily interactions in the streets – which is very true -. While I may not use such language in my writings, I respect Wael’s choices of practicing his expression freedoms.
I was impressed by the level of freedom of expression allowed for the Egyptian press. This is one thing that bloggers managed to snatch and help mainstream media to fill. They really pushed up their freedoms. One taxi driver rationalized it that the regime had to allow this in order to avoid a people’s burst because of the great pressure they face on a daily basis.
In Jordan, we have been talking about *responsible* freedom of expression for a long time now. Shouldn’t we just drop all of those vocabularies and focus on the freedom of expression itself?