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Arab Spring or The Dignity Revolution?


The Arab Spring has dominated much of the international coverage, and for good reason. 

Since the start of the Tunisian upraising, and on to the dramatic and ongoing events in Egypt, to the current developments in Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria, the eyes of the world are on the Arab nations.  

But is it possible that we have misunderstood fundamental aspects of this widely popular revolution? 

That's precisely what May Alhassen, a very promising scholar from University of South California argues in her piece titled:  "Please Reconsider the Term 'Arab Spring'."  

Alhassen and her colleagues cover thousands of blogs, facebook posts, and twitter messages, and lo and behold, they find that for the most part, Arabs do not refer to their own revolution as the Arab Spring. 

Rather, the three most popular terms that they use to describe their movement are:  thawra (revolution), karama (dignity), and Huquq (rights, as in human rights).  

Alhassen correctly points out that: the metaphor of spring as a time of "renewal" also historically defined "liberal reform" movements that were either short-lived or quickly crushed (like the "Prague Spring" of 1968 that was put down by the USSR).

What is significant is that we keep imposing our categories on this ongoing movement, instead of realizing that what is going on in the Middle East and North Africa region is indeed a movement that is primarily based on the assertion of dignity, of human rights, and a genuine revolution--in short, the very same set of ideals that we idealize about the French and American revolutions.  

Not a "spring" that is a response to American invasion of Iraq, and not a passing spring, but a fundamental shift in the region.

Perhaps it would be good to have terms that match what the people in the region are using to describe their own movement!

Tags: arab, arab spring, egypt, islam, middle east, revolution, tunisia

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