Which people — whose supporters — am I talking about? I am, of course, talking about the remnants of every regime that quickly collapsed as soon as it was beset by the storm that came to be known as the Arab Spring, which started in Tunisia three years ago this month. I am talking about those who have been dismissed as feloul, “remnants” of the former regime. This is a description that first emerged in Egypt.
Nobody can quash the dreams of those who hope that the failure of the change project could lead to a complete reversal in fortunes and ultimately return those who have been ousted to power once again. In any case, people can dream as they like and choose whatever side they prefer, whether that is to support the Arab Spring revolutions, or to view these uprisings as coups.
Time to face the music
In any case, these dreamers had better be prepared for the shock of waking, when they will no doubt see their dreams crumbling around them. This is a feeling that is perhaps best encapsulated in the well-known English idiom: Face the music.
This proverb has no link to actual music, but means facing the catastrophic consequences of one’s mistakes. In the Arab world, however, the shock of realizing that a dream has failed to materialize can soon become part of the romantic sphere. Egyptian poet Ibrahim Nagi wrote:
After this nectar’s sweetness we awoke
How I wished it has never been so
It is true that Nagi paints lovers’ anguish with his poetry, but the verses of the poem “Farewell”— Al-Atlal in Arabic— contain within them the story of the farewell to the dreams of revolutionary change in the Arab world, even though it was written in 1966.
Night’s dream had vanished, the night was ended
The night that used to be our friend
Nagi cannot have been more correct, regardless of what we were dreaming of when we thought about a country that began with a military coup, which turned into a popular revolution, which was then followed by a revolutionary coup, reform movement and, finally, a popular uprising. This has all taken place against the backdrop of regretful cries over the past, in precisely the same manner that the tragedy of the dreamer is that they awoke:
The light of morning was an ominous herald
Dawn loomed up like a wall of fire.
Is this rational? Could the fortunes of a people and a nation’s destiny be decided by moving from dreams to delusions, without taking the past into account?
No, this is neither rational nor acceptable. Logic states—and history confirms—that the people may persist in patience, but public anger cannot be curtailed indefinitely.
Whether we are talking about Egypt, Libya or Palestine—or anywhere that the specter of chaos is spreading and is threatening the people’s safety and security—the people must rise up again to demand the return of the rule of law and order and confront the absence of security. This is something that may require more sacrifices and suffering, but there is no escaping a decisive confrontation with all parties that want to impose the law of the jungle on the Arab street.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Dec. 5, 2013.
Bakir Oweida is a journalist who has worked as Managing Editor, and written for several Arab publications based in London. His last executive post was Assistant to Editor-in-Chief of Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, responsible for the Opinions section, until December 2003. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com