In 1949, George Orwell gave us a glimpse of what would become the fate of millions, to be ruled by the cruelest of dictatorships the world would see in the years to come. Sadly, 1984 became more of a manual for the world’s most ruthless dictators, rather than a guidebook for people to navigate through and fight the control and oppression.
When it comes to the Arab World, 1984 reads like a history book of the region in the post-colonial era. Even in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab “upheavals” – as it’s still too early to tell whether it can be truly categorized as a revolution – Mr. Orwell doesn’t seem to fail us with his insight.
I am not one to believe in conspiracy theories, as the second part of this quote may imply. Until this day, I do believe 2011 was the most beautiful, inspiring and proud year to be an Arab. What took place was personal yet reflective of collective desperation, genuine and spontaneous, tragic in the sacrifices but hopeful that it wouldn’t all go in vain.
Yet today, we witness the swearing-in of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s quasi-dictatorship and the reelection of the bloody rule of Bashar Al Assad as a clear answer to the so-called “revolution,” and everything it stood for. Dictatorships will never safeguard a revolution, something Sisi did actually have the guts to say, while the best gift ever for Al Assad has been the revolution itself, to help revive his support base and reinvent his dictatorship. Having said that, opposing Sisi and Al Assad doesn’t mean supporting their opponents, a naive rationale that is sadly adopted by many to simplify political positions. It may all mean that we have simply not seen the end of this chapter of Arab history, or so many of us eternal optimists would like to believe.
It is true that three years are nothing in the context of history and not enough to judge the changes that erupted three years ago. And it may also be that the Arab World is condemned to enjoy brief glimpses of freedom in an ever-dark and suffocating ocean of oppression. Maybe our dreams of secularism, freedom, and social justice are too revolutionary for this place. Maybe all this wasn’t meant for us…