100 years later, is it time for another Arab Revolt?
100 years ago today, the Hashemite rulers of the Kingdom of Hijaz (modern day western Saudi Arabia) – -assisted by the British and French empires – -began a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire known as the Arab Revolt. The rebellion spread into Jordan and all the way up to Aleppo in northern Syria, and resulted with the end of Ottoman rule in the Middle East and the partitioning of the Middle East into British and French spheres of influence after the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement.
The rationale behind the Arab Revolt was that Arabs–-not the Ottomans–-should rule the Arab world, and Sharif and Emir of Mecca at the time Hussein bin Ali hoped to unite Arabs from Syria to Yemen into one Arab state. The current state of division, chaos, and stagnation can’t be what Hussein envisioned the region would look like 100 years down the road. So is it time for another Arab Revolt?
And although it receives much of the world’s attention, Syria is far from the only country in conflict, where a myriad of rebel groups, Daesh (ISIS), Kurdish nationalists and the government are fighting.
Parts of Iraq remain in a multifaceted contestation between Baghdad and the Kurdistan regional government, who at the same time put aside their differences to rid the country of Daesh, which still controls Mosul and other major cities.
Conflict in Yemen rages on between Houthi rebels, the pre-Arab Spring government, and the current government.
Libya has a significant Daesh presence as well-bulked up by the flow of Tunisians next door-in addition to internal political divisions that have showed no signs of abating since Gaddafi’s fall.
Egypt saw the death of its first-democratically elected government in a century, and now protests to president Sisi’s rule are mounting as well.
Palestinian statehood seems like an ever diminishing dream, as the world powers discuss the prospects for peace while the Israelis and Palestinians are not even close to coming to the negotiating table.
Even Tunisia-often hailed as the Arab Spring’s only success story-struggles with Daesh attacks and fears its crucial tourism industry will subsequently be hurt.
And as the U.S. keeps intervening Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, regional foes Saudi Arabia and Iran are flexing their military might in a battle for regional dominance in Yemen and Syria, respectively–and Lebanon, easily unhinged, is a casualty of these proxy wars. This is not to mention Russia’s newfound military role in Syria.
However, to call for another Arab Revolt would be to assume the Arabs are one. Or that they share any common cause to rally around. And this would be a mistake.
Why did Tunisia emerge from the Arab Spring relatively at peace whereas Libya, Yemen, Syria and others plunged into civil conflict?
The reasons are plentiful, but one reason is peaceful transitions to power and respect for differences of opinion. When the Islamist Ennahda party won Tunisia’s elections in 2011, supporters of Tunisia’s long tradition of secularism moved into opposition, cringing non-violently at the sight of Islamists in power.
In 2014, the tables turned and Ennahda left the government, remaining in peaceful opposition as Beji Caid Essebsi-a relic of the Ben Ali regime-was elected to office.
Syrians, Yemenis, Iraqis etc. cannot be completely blamed for their countries’ turns to violence. But the whole world could learn from Tunisia in terms of peaceful transitions of power.
As Jordan commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Arab Revolt, let Arabs and non-Arabs alike reflect on why this event will be celebrated more in Jordan than anywhere else.
Indeed, it was not an Arab revolt at all, but a misnomer that more accurately could be named a Hijazi revolt. For the Hashemites–-still in power and ruling a relatively stable country in a sea of despair-–it’s a perfectly valid reason to rejoice. But Arabs from Morocco to Iraq, Syria to Yemen have different histories, and many of them are just as Arab as the Hijazis were 100 years ago.
This American author has no interest in preaching to the Arabs on what to do with their future. As a citizen of another country born via an uprising, I merely ask that Arabs, Americans, and all humans recognize their different histories and perspectives on this Jordanian jubilee.
In the words of my country’s south, happy 100th anniversary, y’all.
By Adam Lucente
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