Massive protests in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran are filling the news since the autumn of 2019. Although interruptions occurred caused by political events, the protests are going strong for several months now. Moreover, they seem to intensify instead of calming down, especially in Iran. Middle Eastern protests explained
In the news, the protests are frequently referred to the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011: the protests in the Middle East that were massive and many people around the world still remember. The ‘Arab Spring’ is a term that’s easily associated with new life, blossoming, joyfulness and a new start. Unfortunately, reality has been different. What supposed to be a fairytale of radical change and prosperity is in the majority of countries a prolonging of the same political status quo. Only in Tunisia, the regime is replaced by a democratic system although the economic problems are still unsolved.
Because of this history, the question pops up if the current protests do make any sense, can they accomplish anything? Or is the political system of these countries to strong and solid?
An important side note has to be made to answer this question. There is no more misleading term than the ‘Arab Spring’. First of all, the association with positivity and new life does not come close to reality. And second, the term highly suggests the protest to be an Arab occasion only. Protesting citizens of countries of 2011 were not only Arab but also included other ethnicities. In fact, that was one of the characteristics of the protests, all citizens of the nations where included in the protests. Despite any differences as profession, gender, ethnicity or religion. Besides this also Iran – a non-Arabic country- had massive protests after the 2009 elections.
In short, what is named the ‘Arab Spring’ was, in reality, a wave of protest in multiple Middle Eastern countries between 2009 and 2011. Talking about waves, making sense of the protest in the region is the easiest with the analogy of waves. Let me explain this further.
Imagen a dam holding a reservoir of water. See the dam as the regimes of protesting countries like Iraq, Egypt, Iran for example and the water as the citizens of these countries.
The dam is based on a strong foundation that prevents the water to float. That is no problem when the water isn’t under pressure. In this scenario, the water doesn’t want to go anywhere because the conditions are good enough. There’s no pressure on the dam and the dam can easily keep the water at its place. Both the dam and the water are in harmony. Middle Eastern protests explained
The situation changes as soon as there’s pressure on the water. The water wants to go to the other side of the dam. Unfortunately, the strength of the dam and resilience will hold the water at its position and prevent the water to float. See in this situation the economical situations and corruption among others as the pressure on the water. They make the water wanting to move to overcome the pressure.
In order to get through the dam to get relieved from the pressure, the water produces waves who break the dam. See the protests of citizens as the waves.
Every time a wave hits the dam, the dam breaks a little. But every time the dam is able to fix the breaks and stay solid enough that the foundation of the dam will not be destroyed and the water keeps in place.
The water has no other way to go and is depended on the dam. The only way to get release is to build more pressure on the dam with stronger, massive waves. Eventually, if the situation will stay the same, the pressure rises and the dam will not give any relieve, the waves will become stronger and stronger in order to break the fundamentals of the dam. Like a killer wave that destroys everything.
Back to the question if the protests can accomplish anything. Like explained by the analogy of the dam, the question is not easily be answered with yes or no. When the situation stays equal and the dam has little options to relieve the pressure of the water, the waves will become bigger and stronger and eventually destroy the dam. But still, when this will happen is hard to foresee. No-one could predict when the waves will be too strong to break the fundamentals of the dam. Middle Eastern protests explained
That means that in reality, the regimes might still be in charge after the current waves of protests. Eventually even after the waves of protests that will come after these ones.
What is for sure to say, is that what is accomplished right now is that the citizens are able to organize stronger and more massive overtime against the regimes. Until at one unpredictable day one killer wave will be strong enough to break down the fundamentals of the dam. Translated to real-life: until one strong, massive protest will break down the fundamentals of the regime.