Saudi Islamist & the Arab Spring

In the reading by Stephanie Lacroix, we learn about a variety of social activist groups and how they continuously reformed, even though the Regime would shut them down. Some of the earlier movements started in the 1970’s and defied the royal families. One of the larger, well known movements was the of the Sunnic Islamic movement, also known as the Sahwa. They protested and lead many of them to be imprisoned. The movement eventually split into two different groups, one which focused on “society” issues and the other on “political change”.

If we look at movements in more current times, it is easy to see how much technology advancements have impacted social media movements. Lacroix explains in her journal, “the young themselves were becoming more actively politicized” through the new media platforms such a Twitter and Facebook. Thus, opposing a new threat to the Regime and demonstrating the ongoing issues in Saudi Arabia. A number of Sahwa activists were able to establish the Kingdoms first political party, known as the Islamic Umma Party. As a result of, allows people to question the royal families power and the government system they have in their State.

Throughout the piece, I am able to see how social movements create a new threat to the Regime. Not just by it being virtually available, but because it was easier to get people together to protest. The more people are able to see the problems they have in Saudi Arabia, the more effective their movements will be. I feel there are still too many things left to be acknowledged and gradually changed but these changes have been embedded since the 1970’s. There will be a change, if not know, there is hope for tomorrow. As Lacroix states towards the end of her article,”Though the royal family has undoubtedly won the first round of the game, it could therefore experience more challenges to its authority in the not-so- distance future.”

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Saudi Islamist & the Arab Spring

Different activist groups coming together

I think that an interesting issue the reading touches upon is the fact how in Saudi Arabia people from different groups came together to achieve common goals, but only to a certain degree. If members of different groups and from different background pursue the same goals, one might think that it only makes sense that they fight together. This was the case in Saudi Arabia when people from different sectarian groups signed the petition “Towards a State of Rights and Institutions” to demand an elected parliament and the appointment of a prime minister. Groups might have realized that they are not that different and learned to accept each other. However, significant differences might persist and a group likely does not want to be associated with another group’s beliefs and values if they do not mirror their own. The Saudi government used that to discredit and divide the activists by raising word of an Iranian conspiracy and Shiite responsibility for the movement. Sunnis didn’t want to be seen in that light and a degree was reached at which the different groups couldn’t work together anymore. The government succeeded in its attempt to stop the protests.

I can see why certain groups might feel the need to uphold their credibility and identity and how that can easily be threatened if the public learns about their collaboration with a different-minded group. However, a single group might often not be enough to bring about change so the pros and cons of the collaboration have to be weighed carefully. It should also be taken into account if the goals really are the same and which measures one is willing to take to achieve these goals. Should a peaceful group of protesters work together with a radical organization knowing that they might only reach their goal because others used violence? In some cases, a collaboration might do more harm than good, but in other cases groups are only held apart by societal constraints. People of different age, gender, religion, ethnicity, or social status are often seen as different groups merely because of outer aspects, but they might share the same values, attitudes and beliefs and might be much more powerful as a group. Moreover, if everybody believed and acted in that way, there would be less need for activism in the first place, but that is something that John Lennon already imagined years ago.

Different activist groups coming together

Protesting Government Corruption: #YouStink

The social movement in Beirut, mobilizing behind the hashtag #YouStink, began in the Summer of 2015, and calls for reform of Lebanon’s state infrastructure and an ousting of their current political leaders whom protestors argue are more concerned with capitalist corruption than the well-being of their own people. Following the privatization of Lebanon’s garbage collection services and the shut down of the country’s largest waste landfill, trash quickly began to collect on the streets of Beirut, leading protestors to organize in a call for government reform and the rights to a cleaner living environment.

The main source of government corruption in relation to #YouStink is the relationship between the Lebanese government and the waste management company Sukleen. Sukleen has been dumping garbage in public spaces, and the Lebanese government’s completely apathetic response to this crisis has left the citizens of Beirut open to the exposure of disease caused by the multitude of waste being left to decompose in the open. It has been suggested that Sukleen has been allocated state funds in order to act as the country’s leading waste management system, yet they have been apathetic and willing to exploit the garbage crisis in order to obtain a contract extension with the government.

 

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Although the protests in support of #YouStink have aimed to be peaceful, violence has broken out as the government has sent out riot police with water cannons and rubber bullets as a response. Although #YouStink seems to resemble the activism and beginnings that we saw with the rise of the Arab Spring, its supporters seem adamant to distance themselves from being called revolutionaries.

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Protesting Government Corruption: #YouStink

After Tahir: The Ultras

The part of the After Tahir panel discussion that stuck out most to me was the discussion of the football fans in Egypt, also known as Ultras. The Ultras are characterized by their synchronization and demonstration during games. They have coordinated cheers, dances, and celebrations. The Ultras are getting attention from both activists and the government as of late. Many activists believe that their methods of assembly and demonstration could be adopted by people demonstrating against their government. Unfortunately the government may think the same thing because they often harass Ultras, taking away banners and arresting leaders of the groups before big games

The Ultras are often the case of mischaracterization. Both the public and government view them in two conflicting ways. The first is that these people are heroes of some kind. Oftentimes they are on the front lines of protests against the government and their experience with large scale, organized, demonstrations is valuable. They are often passionate about the future of their country and as young men they often side with the more progressive activists. They are also seen as potentially dangerous hooligans, as most sports fans are at some point or another. It’s no secret that fights often break out after sporting events, especially soccer, and sometimes those fights lead people to view the fans involved in a strong negative light.

In my opinion, the Ultras lie somewhere in the middle. They are primarily young Egyptian men who love both their club and country. In terms of soccer they may occasionally get violent but they are not really a public concern. However their raucous nature and experience demonstrating can be vital to the continuing progress in Egypt. Are they heroes? Probably not, certainly not in more of a sense than any other protester. However what they are, publicly involved Egyptian citizens, is enough to create some social change.

After Tahir: The Ultras