Revolution’s fire is burning bright in the Levant and its winds are infectious. From Lebanon to Beirut and beyond, Manama, the Middle East is once more holding its breath before the defiance of its youth. This time around, revolutionaries have their eyes locked on the Establishment!
Four years after Tunisia set fire to the barricades by rising against authoritarianism (2011), inspiring an entire generation to denounce nepotism and oligarchic capitalism, Lebanon and Iraq are setting the tone for a second revolutionary wave – only this time, protesters are speaking a very different language and their demands are rooted in secularism, fair political representation and social justice.
Unlike the Arab Spring movement, which movement was very early on hijacked by the “old guard” to serve a very political agenda, the Levant is standing defiantly independent and non-partisan. More importantly and most definitely key, both Lebanese and Iraqis are standing together against any form of religious, social or ethnic divisions.
Where Egypt, Tunisia and Libya’s democratic aspirations were crushed before they can blossom, the Levant is not playing any factions’ game – neither financed by any particular group, nor sold out to any self-serving agenda, this budding revolution is as organic as the Arab Spring was manufactured.
Democratic at its core, this movement remains both unapologetically apolitical and universal in its message: change for everyone and for the good of everyone! From Beirut to Baghdad, it is Arabia which is finding a new voice in its youth.
The new Montesquieu and Robespierre of our century are being born in the streets of the Middle East; their resolve made stronger by decades of economic injustice, political misrepresentation and rampant colonialism.
Needless to say that the Establishment is taking notice! For before people’s wrath empires collapse – the pages of history are filled with their political skeletons, the memories of a painful past.
And if the Arab Spring only saw play out a game of musical chair; allowing for the deep state to survive intact the people’s call for reforms, Lebanon and Iraq are unlikely to buy into politicians’ half-hearted promises and other revolutionary lip-service. This time the Levant is demanding not reforms but absolute change; this time, the people are determined to reinvent their state institutions and not fall for western powers’ imperial shadow games.
Under Lebanon and Iraq’s impetus the chants echoed by Bahrain have found a new lease of life, a new expression away from the elite’s usual fallbacks: sectarianism and economic elitism.
What began in the streets of Manama in 2011 has taken hold in the Middle East – in the most secular corner of the Levant, no less; where nationalism is now rhyming with Arab identity and nation-state.
Amid rampant western colonialism and Saudi Arabia’s over-bearing theofascist patronage, the people have chosen to stand together against all and any form of oppression – whether political, economic, social or religious. In the cries of all revolutionaries it is the collapse of the Sikes-Picot era which is resounding.
No longer will the people of Arabia be defined by the standards imposed onto them by those powers which sought to pillage and siphon their resources; no longer will the people be bound by an identity which resemble not their own but that of colonialists.
From Beirut to Baghdad, and beyond Manama, the people of the Middle East are building the foundations of a new form of nationalism, one forged in pluralism and equality. Before this rising movement old standards no longer apply.
And if the world has been defined for over a century in a binary political construct: capitalism versus socialism, the Middle East could yet see a new model emerge, one which will reflect nations’ popular democratic dreams and not the devolution of western republicanism.
If memory serves me right, no revolution since Russia’s Red Revolution succeeded in such a feat. And though this revolutionary movement is still in its infancy, its potential remains cataclysmic.
Should the people succeed, should their ranks remain impenetrable to bribery and manipulation, they will see rise the cornerstone of a new political and economic system, one which reflects their history, traditions, religious makeup and social aspirations. Who said the Middle East had to be defined by sectarianism and ethnic hatred?
This narrative of hate and fear only ever served the Establishment, since it kept the people in a state of incessant division, thus preventing them to unite against the real villains of the story – those banksters and other greedy oligarchs.
And so to all the political doctors and media sold-outs already spinning sectarianism and Iran to distract and deflect from the real issues at hand I say: No, Iran is not promoting a grand Islamic Awakening it is only supporting the democratization of the Middle East! And No, Russia is not betraying any journalistic standards by offering fair coverage of the events!
The world is changing and it is time for all well thinking westerners to lose their colored glasses and see in the cries of Arabia the reflection of their own desires and dreams.
Amid unprecedented economic hardship, political oppression and the disappearing of their civil rights Lebanese and Iraqis ambition to live in dignity, free to think, work, pray and move within their borders.
Can we deny them? Can anyone truly stand and refuse them such rights? Liberty and Equality after all know no colors and faith, they are universal.
The products of western manipulations, both Lebanon and Iraq are in financial and social free fall, betrayed by their respective elite and destined to a life of misery while a minority basks in opulent wealth. How long was Arabia supposed to bow before rising its head again?
I guess the answers lies now in the Levant!
Catherine Shakdam is the Associate Director of the Beirut Center for Middle Eastern Studies and a political analyst specializing in radical movements, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.