January 5, 2017 Print

Six years after the “Arab Spring” began waves of both conflict and reform throughout the Arab world, results have ranged from significant economic and political reforms to brutally violent civil war. In the intervening years, even the successes of the Arab Spring have waned. Atlas Network partner MinbaralHurriyya.org, an Arabic-language website based in Morocco, regularly publishes new content that explains how the future prosperity of the Arab world depends on building a consensus of peace, tolerance, individual liberty, stable institutions, and a consistent rule of law.

In a new piece exploring the state of the Arab world in 2017, Kuwait University political science professor Nazim Shafiq Ghabra consideres the conflict between two schools of change, one ready for peaceful reform and popular democracy and the other built on armed struggle and violence. A book review from late December by researcher Abdullah Hdari explains why the liberal heritage of the Arab world can be the engine that drives a second renaissance. Also in December, researcher Nabil Ali Saleh explores the future of pluralism, acceptance, and a conscious humanitarian worldview within Arab countries.

In addition to its extensive online content, MinbaralHurriyya.org organizes events that bring the ideas of liberty to participants in a direct, interactive way. The organization held its 13th annual summer university in Hammamet, Tunisia, this past August, sponsored in partnership with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Titled “Five Years After the Arab Spring: Stakes and Challenges,” the event brought more than 30 young activists together from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, Bahrain, and Lebanon.

“The importance of this year’s edition of the summer university stems from the fact that the Arab world is passing through some hard times, especially because the Arab Spring movements were seen to mandate staggering economic costs that critically influenced the development of Arab countries,” said Dr. Nouh El Harmouzi, project coordinator for MinbaralHurriyya.org, who delivered the event’s opening speech. “As also pointed out by Mr. Ralph Erbel, chief resident of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Tunisia and Libya, the Arab world today is going through a multi-front crisis that makes a serious intellectual debate and scientific analysis very much needed.”

The speakers approached the conference theme from different perspectives. Professor Shafeeq Al Ghabra, from Kuwait, lectured on the effects of “counterrevolution” by the old guard during the Arab Spring, and on extremism and violence in Arab countries. Dr. Mohamed Ezzat and Dr. Khalid Aazeb, both from Egypt, focused on the threat that cultural and intellectual extremism poses to the future of the Arab world. Dr. Mazen Daerawan, from Syria, lectured on rebuilding Arab countries that suffered economically and socially from the Arab Spring, and on the future of freedom and democracy in Arab countries. Professor Mohamed Haddad, from Tunisia, presented an evaluative study of Arab Spring movements. Dr. Ikram Adnani, from Morocco, aimed to inspire the young participants to help shape a future of tolerance and coexistence for all for the Arab countries. Just as he had opened the summer university, El Harmouzi delivered the final lecture of the conference about the economic cost of the Arab Spring.

“The Arab world is still living in turmoil and our societies are going through times of divide and intolerance, in a reality of expanded marginalization, vulnerability and lack of genuine societal dialogue,” El Harmouzi said. “A climate of growing extremism and violence has settled on the region. With many failed States and many countries in or on the verge of civil war, the Arab Spring seems to have failed on delivering on its promises for a better and brighter future for the region. In the face of what looks like a calamitous situation, the need today is urgent for the adoption of new strategies that should come from concertation of all stakeholders to restore peoples’ faith and set the foundations for a prosperous future that includes freedom and dignity for all.”