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'Putting Arab uprisings into pre-conceived categories wrong': Niblock

Posted on Feb 06, 10:58AM | UNI

Kottayam, Feb 5 : Putting the Arab uprisings into pre-conceived categories such as 'democratic revolutions, or more recently 'Islamist revolutions' leads 'to distorted expectations and understandings,' according to Prof Tim Niblock, Professor Emeritus, University of Exeter, UK.

Delivering the Valedictory address at the two-day International Conference on The Arab World: March Towards Democracy and Its Implications organised by the K P S Menon Chair for Diplomatic Studies, School of International Relations and Politics (SIRP), Mahatma Gandhi University, in cooperation with the Public Diplomacy Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi and the Kerala State Higher Education Council, here today he said "the situation, as it is, does not indicate 'what kind of revolutions they were, are or may be. The crowds who demonstrated on the streets were motivated by many different interests, emotions and beliefs."

"Some were showing their despair at prolonged unemployment or the rising cost of living; some were moved by anger at the wealth being accrued and flaunted by the elite; some felt marginalised or side-lined by the ethnic or religious composition of the political leadership; some had been alienated by the secularism or un-Islamic practices of the society and polity in which they lived; some were motivated by the oppressive conditions imposed on women; and some were rebelling against the authoritarianism of those who held political power in the country, nationally or locally," he said.

Prof Tim pointed out that the central issue for Arab countries, as for most countries with less well-established political institutions, remained what it was before. "How to create and maintain political systems where those who govern are accountable to the population, where social and economic problems can be effectively be addressed, and where the population feels a sense of common purpose and common identity. When the previous regimes first came to power in the 1950s and 1960s they sought legitimacy on the grounds of being able to resolve these issues. Their means of resolution envisaged rapid development through
state-sponsored industrial and agricultural development, measures to bring relief to the poorer parts of society and create greater equality, accountability through fostering popular participation in supposedly all-encompassing single parties, and projecting a national identity which created among the population a feeling of common endeavour," he opined.

He said there were times when these objectives seemed capable of bringing success, but ultimately the regimes failed to deliver what had been promised.

Prof Tim noted that "the new regimes represent a new approach to resolving the same problems. Their success will be measureable over the long-term, not the short-term. It is, at present, too soon to draw negative conclusions about the outcome of the uprisings. A sense of hope remains the correct approach."