The Middle East Crisis Factory: Angry rallying cry for human rights

Iyad El-Baghdadi and Ahmed Gatnash take on fatalism and racism of western attitudes

A Yemeni protester is tossed into the air by comrades during a rally marking the third anniversary of the 2011 revolution: “A certain strand of western thought has always seen us, the people of the Middle East, as somehow lesser on the ladder of humanity.”  Photograph:  Mohammed Huwais

A Yemeni protester is tossed into the air by comrades during a rally marking the third anniversary of the 2011 revolution: “A certain strand of western thought has always seen us, the people of the Middle East, as somehow lesser on the ladder of humanity.” Photograph: Mohammed Huwais

There was a common thread to the headlines marking the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring: “Why the Arab Spring Failed”, proclaimed Time, Vox, Prospect, Jacobin and Haaretz; variations on the theme ran in many other outlets. As Iyad El-Baghdadi pithily notes in The Middle East Crisis Factory, the first time he was asked to join a panel on “the failure of the Arab Spring” was in July 2011 – just seven months after it had started.

Baghdadi didn’t believe it then, and he doesn’t believe it now. For him and co-author Ahmed Gatnash, the Arab Spring was not a switch that could be flicked on and then off again; it was instead “a real awakening that produced a new citizen” in the region. Did the Arab Spring fail? As the Chinese premier Zhou Enlai didn’t quite say about the impact of the French Revolution, it’s too early to tell. “The Arab Spring is a 30-year historical transition that began in 2011 as the last phase of a long decolonisation,” they write.

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