It started just ten years ago: the crowd, initially fearful and then joyful, which pressed into Tahrir Square in Cairo; these demonstrators arm in arm, of all faiths, who dared to think the unthinkable in Damascus; these young people, in Yemen, who also recalled their existence, and their full membership in this new world which seemed to be emerging.
A decade later, this beautiful story has turned into a nightmare for millions of people. The Arab Spring seems to be nothing but blood and tears. Yemen collapsed, as did Libya. Syria, Egypt or Bahrain have turned into ruthless ogres, tearing up every shred of freedom, crushing any contestation without qualms. As if lost in labyrinthine thoughts, Lebanon or Iraq do not quite know which path to take. The Arab world, with its 450 million inhabitants, has lost its mind. But, much more serious, he also seems to be deprived of any vibrant heart.
This tragic story, however, can be read differently. As the famous Egyptian writer Alaa el-Aswany argues in these pages, a flame may remain alive. Far from extinguishing, it will inevitably end up igniting a new wick. In Algeria, Sudan, but also in Lebanon and Iraq, as well as among Iranian neighbors, some recent eruptions suggest that, if we dare to use this expression, Mass has not yet been said.
The Arab world, we bet, will never turn in on itself again, despite the current difficulties and the ease with which certain Western leaders have come to terms with the leaden cover placed on these countries by “friendly” authoritarian regimes. Ten years ago, the courage and determination of these populations had taken hold. At the time, it was the Indignants in Spain, then the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States, then again, a little later, similar movements that arose in Latin America or elsewhere.
From the red lanterns of a globalized world, Arab social movements have thus risen to the rank of inspirers of a world to which other societies aspire, too.
Today, another cover covers the whole world, that of the pandemic and economic difficulties, which makes cries indistinct. But far from stifling protests, these new events risk on the contrary multiplying them, in an unprecedented movement, where the best and the worst will surely coexist. It is in this great hubbub that is looming that the heirs of the Arab Spring may have a chance to be heard again.