It has been more than half a year since the Arab revolts began in Tunisia and Egypt, causing strong a wind of change to batter at the houses of dictators across the Middle East.
In Tunisia as well as Egypt, we are seeing something somewhat acrimonious cooking up as clashes (in both the public and governmental levels) between secularists and Islamists groups regularly occur. In my opinion, this will hinder and delay any sort of transition into a potentially hybrid form of democracy.
In Syria, the iron grip of Bashar Al-Assad's Baathist regime is tightening. By offering national dialogue he is still playing a massive game of chess. However, not everything is black and white and deep divisions within opposition groups are hampering any concerted efforts and strategies to oust the leader.
In Libya, a stubborn yet defiant Gaddafi regime is still causing Nato a lot of problems. The cost of the operation is rising by the day and an organised and agreed exit strategy isn't even on the horizon yet.
In Bahrain, the main opposition party (Al-Wafeq) has backed out of national dialogue efforts that it claims are "not serious"; a vacuum is continues in a leaderless Yemen; and we see the occasional 'noise' from Jordan where loyalists and pro-reformers are even finding it hard to distinguish themselves from one another, shouting slogans without context or substance at each other.
True, social media played a role in ousting Hosni Mubarak by giving Egyptians a common, very loud and very organised voice, but that's about it for Facebook and Twitter for now. Social media can become a headache, a disorganised mess and in some senses a burden you're left with if not used correctly, and in my opinion that's a slight reflection of what's happening currently on the ground in the Middle East. We are seeing a disorganised stalemate.
However the people are still shouting, they are still trying, they are still fighting (some don't know what for anymore) and they will continue until changes materialise in their countries. Too late to turn back and it's now or never some may say.
The only presence with the slightest hint of organisation is the Muslim Brotherhood(s) of the region. This is partly due to them being shunned from positions of power and real parliamentary representation throughout the 20th century and so far the 21st century. They have always been a constant opposition voice throughout Ottoman rule and Arab Nationalist eras, fuming within the shadows of dictators and secularists.
The main reason for my piece, however, is to question what we may see in less than two weeks. The Holy month of Ramadan kicks off on August 1st - how will this affect the current political stalemates we are seeing across the region?
Considering that this year has been like no other in modern Middle Eastern history, I am guessing that Ramadan will be a quite different one too. Maybe I'm wrong.
With long, hot (scorching hot) summer days throughout August, what effect will this have on people's motivation to take to the streets and protest vehemently? What will become of opposition efforts? Nato has already indicated that they will continue operations in Libya throughout the month, will that be welcomed by the wider Arab World? On the other hand, it's unlikely they can just stop and recommence after Eid. Will those in power take advantage of this month to exercise political initiatives of varying natures?
As mentioned above, the Arab revolts are at a stage of 'it's now or never'. So, my ultimate question is how do you think Ramadan will affect popular movements across the region?
Food for thought...(wink)
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