Where Did it All Go Wrong? 5 Years on from the Arab Spring

Five years ago, the streets of Cairo were filled with millions of Egyptians celebrating the dawn of a new ear after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak following 18 days of mass protests.

For those who weren’t familiar with Middle Eastern politics, there were exiting and exhilarating times ahead.

Among the tide of tweeters and commentators, even President Obama said: “The word Tahrir means liberation … Forevermore it will remind us of the Egyptian people — of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country, and in doing so changed the world.”

It wouldn’t be long before we found out exactly what these changes were. The

The first democratic elections in a generation produced a Muslim Brotherhood government led by Mohammed Morsi. His short tenure swiftly ended less than a year later when the oppressive and chaotic regime was also overthrown by a coup d’etat led by current president Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi.

Five years on, Egypt looks much the same as it did under Mubarak. With the milestone anniversary approaching, the regime remains as intolerant as ever. While the Muslim Brotherhood no longer pose the same threat they may have done a few years back, it has been replaced with a much more dangerous and radical ideology – ISIS.

However, what is more likely to cause trouble for Al-Sissi is the state of the country’s economy. While it may not have been the sole contributing factor, the country’s poor economic standing was certainly a big deal for the millions of regular Egyptians.

Once a powerhouse of the Middle East, Egypt has spent the past few years on the sidelines watching Saudi Arabia and Iran battle it out for supremacy, and the economy is where Al-Sissi must focus if he wants to get the country back on its feet, and this is where Egypt and the rest of the Arab world continually goes wrong. Our states simply lack the business and academic culture en masse to overcome the corruption and dictatorship that control our governments and societies.

Democracy is not necessarily the solution for the extremely complex societies across the Middle East, and meddling Western governments only serves to make matters worse. When one throws in tribal politics, family interferences, religious sects and wasta it becomes clear why democracy, in the Western sense, doesn’t work in the Middle East. While many on the outside perceive this as chaotic and unruly when looking in, it is all held together under the guise of a president, king, emir or Prime Minister. Under such rulers, different elements of play come into force, when concessions are made to different groups knowing that there is an ultimate limit; that the iron fist is never beyond reach.



For many Arab countries, this cultural conservatism is most likely the largest obstacle to economic and social development. The ever present distrust within democracy is why revolutions across the Arab world are destined to fail, each and every time.

Zainab Al-Deen

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