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Cairo Review of Global Affairs: Year Four of the Arab Awakening

Author: Marwan Jamil Muasher
December 19, 2013

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"2014 will see the countries of the Middle East moving in different directions, with some making strides toward genuine democratic transitions while other governments perpetuate timeworn policies that allow them to avoid addressing the very real social, political, and economic challenges they face."

How will history judge the uprisings that started in many parts of the Arab world in 2011? The label "Arab Spring" proved too simplistic from the beginning. Transformational processes defy black-and-white expectations, but in the end, will the awakenings be more reminiscent of what happened in Europe in 1848, when several uprisings took place within a few weeks only to be followed by counterrevolutions and renewed authoritarian rule? Or will they more closely resemble the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union, after which some countries swiftly democratized while others remained in thrall to dictatorship?

Whatever the case, it is clear that the process of Arab transformation will need decades to mature and that its success is by no means guaranteed. The movements driving it are more unanimous about what they are against than about what they are for. But the debate to define this awakening has begun.

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