In a concluding session entitled " Authoritarianism and the Future of Democracy in the Arab World " on the final day of the 9th Al Jazeera Forum, researchers, members of parliaments, and directors of centers addressed the prospects of democracy in the Arab world and the outcomes of the Arab revolutions.
The speakers collectively agreed on the fact that the transitional stages of some Arab nations will take many years before they bear any fruits as was the case in various other states and regions. For example, transition in Europe took place over a whole century, and the struggle against communism took 40 years. Thus, the Arab situation will also require time, patience and wisdom.
In this context, David Hearst, editor of The Middle East Eye, declared, "The situation in the Arab world requires more patience and caution against depending on the European Union that already suffers from a lot of problems resulting from the Ukrainian War and illegal immigration, which proves that the model cannot be emulated by other regions worldwide."
He indicated that disputes between Arab political powers do not differ from their European counterparts during the French Revolution, and that Europe's transition to democracy was rather similar to that of the Arab world. He explained that in the beginning, liberals and leftists united to form what was considered democracy. After democracy was established, these very same trends were dragged into political strife; while Marxists saw that liberals had seized their values and goals, the latter believed that the former had stolen their democracy.
He also added: "I do not think that the Arab Spring died; conversely, I do believe that the Arab world witnesses real revolutions that are not different from the French and Bolsheviks revolutions. The hindrance we see today resulted from the support of major powers for the Arab revolutions; the aids offered by Russia and the [United States] are extremely declining."
By the end of this course, we shall realize that it is unacceptable that the situation remains unchanged. Change will inevitably take place in Egypt, and the situation in the major countries of the region will improve because of the Arab Spring.
Former Kuwaiti Minister for Planning and Development and member of the National Assembly Rola Dashti demanded that powers seeking change in the Arab world reconsider their courses and realize that demonstrating in the streets, spreading sectarian calls and using familial and tribal affiliations will neither serve the revolution nor build a nation.
"The Kuwaiti political scene has a lot of dynamics, which started before the Arab Spring when the Kuwaiti Parliament demanded the resignation of the prime minister. This originated from the culture and freedom of the Kuwaitis, which pushed the Kuwaiti youth toward calling for change," she remarked.
It is saddening that foreign powers and political currents crossed their paths and confused the Kuwaiti scene after the youths believed that change will not be achieved but through demonstrations, which contravenes with Kuwait's interests. The concept of citizenship fell apart at the cost of disintegrating the community and driving it back to seclusion in the shadows of sects, tribes, or families. I want to say to all political activists: 'Down with Abuse.' We will never build free democratic communities and civic countries while walking in the shadows of tribalism and sectarianism."
"I wish I could see elections based on nation-building instead of cheap gains and the appeal of the sympathy of average citizens. If the youth were given a chance to lead the democratic course without [the interference of] the society's traditional powers, the future of democracy will be promising. Religious and sectarian slogans will never feed the hungry or build the nation," she followed.
Member of the Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt Dr. Gamal Heshmat confirmed that the revolutionaries in the Arab world fought against injustice that was crystal clear to everyone and that, as a result, there were no journalists or political activists in the forum as all of them are behind bars. Today, he declared, Egypt is a big prison.
He stressed that the Muslim Brotherhood and revolutionary trends in Egypt do not seek sole authority to make decisions but want freedom be granted to everyone. In doing so, they significantly implement the words of a Muslim leader to the Persian general, Rostam: "God sent us, and He brought us here in order to lead whom He wills from the worship of man to the worship of only Him."
Injustice leads to terrorism, and the fact that authoritarian regimes commit all sorts of violations to achieve destructive goals is the reason behind the nation's destruction and sabotage. Our main cause in Egypt is freedom; a prerequisite that men were born for.
He also pointed out that the regime of Mohammed Ali laid the foundations of tyranny in Egypt, because it made the state above all and disabled state structures. This regime betrayed those who granted it legitimacy. El-Sisi did the very same with the political parties that granted him legitimacy.
Furthermore, he criticized the judiciaries and media outlets in the Arab world, arguing that they have turned into tools for the crackdown on the revolutionaries and murder of civilians through incitement, the fabrication of accusations, and the issuance of verdicts in a manner that renders the regime a laughing stock.
Tunisian Member of Parliament Meherzia Labidi, however, explained the hardships facing the Arab revolutions, especially that of Tunisia, noting that while Eastern European revolutions were truly supported by the European Union, regional and international powers conspired to abort the Arab revolutions.
"The success of the Tunisian revolution resulted from the lack of differentiation and sectarianism in Tunisia," she stated. "In addition, opposition groups, with all of their ideologies and inclinations, faced the regime of Ben Ali because they share a common ground." She confirmed that Tunisians joined forces to eliminate tyranny and injustice.
Last but not least, Director of the Brookings Doha Center Dr. Salman Shaikh proclaimed that "the entire world, not only the Arab World, is witnessing a stage of transition; the United States, the world's greatest power, is going through a major decline, and its influence in the region has started to diminish."
He reminded that transitional stages tend to be chaotic and difficult and the situation in the Arab World will remain tumultuous for a long time. Nonetheless, we must realize that the peoples will not withdraw because we are living in a phase where a new Arab history is being created. In Europe, this phase lasted for an entire century before democracy was achieved, and communism was overcome in 40 years, thus confirming that the Arab situation is not an exception. What concerns us here is changing the relationship between citizens and governments in this part of the world.
He went on to say that it is unfortunate to see deposed presidents back in the scene troubling the situation in Yemen, Libya, and Egypt. We would have never imagined that the international community would overlook Assad's issue or that the Assad regime might receive support from any side. There comes the time to rid our world of Assad's tyranny and gangs, help Syrians and grant them their freedom, for which they had demonstrated.
Shaikh criticized the Arabs for their laxity and silence toward Assad's atrocities and murder of tens of thousands of Syrians using internationally banned weapons. While we witness the world's possession of power to protect Syrians by putting an end to Assad's regime, we can also see the regime fearlessly resuming its atrocities. He also indicated that the coming nine months in Syria will be decisive, and will witness total changes.