It has been nearly five years since the Arab Spring revolutions engulfed the streets and occupied headlines, and many people lost their lives to bring change for the better – change that raised several slogans against corruption and military regimes, but never for freedom! Do Arabs even understand freedom? Why didn’t the Arabs seek freedom in the revolutions instead of replacing an old power with a new one?!
This article is not a social or a political study, but we have to look at the subject of freedom comprehensively that exceeds wearing miniskirts or veils, to the absence of free thinking. While we were applauding the Arab Spring, we missed the point that any real change must enhance freedom, otherwise all efforts are wasted.
Freedom in any society must be based on two main factors – freedom of expression and freedom to participate in national decision-making without being penalized for having an opposite opinion or a different point of view. This is the inherent understanding of freedom and democracy, which has not been achieved in any country that was affected by the Arab Spring. The Arabs clearly failed in rearranging their home countries after the revolutions because of a lack of understanding the freedom they wanted, with access to power and decision-making.
The Arab revolutions revealed the fragility of the so-called civil institutions of the civil society. These groups are meant to focus on human development in the absence of leadership and internal organization, because people are ignorant over ways of participation and decision-making. For many years, no one had the freedom to decide, and this was evident in most of the Arab Spring countries. Five years have passed since the Arab Spring occurred and those who are still imprisoned or perished don’t even know why!
The Arab Spring brought chaos and activated as well as fuelled many terrorist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and a number of militants such as IS and Khorasan to turn those places into fields for killing innocents. The Arab Spring motivated so-called foreign fighters to move from their home countries to lands that have no connection with them, while their governments are turning a blind eye and are scared to take them back.
People must understand that freedom has no ceiling or limits. I am free in every way as long as I do not hurt people or the state – after all, freedom belongs to all people. Human rights organizations in Arab countries must convey the message that people’s freedom is not in the hands of powers or institutions.
It is unfortunate that the demand for freedom in the Arab world is based on what is permitted under the customs and traditions of the community, because the so-called clergy draws a certain perspective of freedom, limiting freedom of choice and thinking and associating these rights with societal approval. This is a mistake that swallowed countries, and people paid for it.
So after five years of revolutions, change is only partial.