Comments presented by Frieda Afary at the July 14, 2017 public meeting to launch the Los Angeles Coalition for Peace, Revolution and Social Justice.
In 2011, the world was abuzz with the spirit of the Arab Spring, a revolutionary movement for social justice, freedom and human dignity which aimed to overthrow authoritarian states in the Middle East. This movement seemed to come out of nowhere but was actually the result of decades of deep mass dissatisfaction with worsening poverty and political repression under authoritarian regimes such as those of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria.
The revolts in Tunisia and in Egypt involved the participation of youth and women as well as large labor unions. They led to the overthrow of the dictators, Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt. The uprising in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad had the most diverse composition, involving youth, workers, women, and not only the Sunni Arab majority but also the Kurds, an oppressed national minority, as well as members of the Alawite Muslim minority, Christians, Assyrians and the Druze Shi-a community. The Arab Spring was really a Middle Eastern Spring that involved non-Arabs and even extended to protests against poverty and corruption in Israel. It was also preceded by the Iranian Green movement, a mass protest movement against the fraudulent presidential election in 2009 which lasted several months before it was brutally crushed by the Iranian government.
It was the spirit of the Middle Eastern Spring that many consider to have been the inspiration for the Occupy Movement which was also a response to the 2008 global economic crisis. The first Occupy protest to receive widespread attention was Occupy Wall Street in New York City’s Zuccotti Park in September, 2011. It became a global movement which spread to 30 countries and all the continents, and stated that it was anti-capitalist. It focused on opposing the influence of corporations in politics, called for a more equitable distribution of income and for tax reform. Its defining slogan became: “We are the 99%”
Now let’s return to the Middle East today in 2017. The masses of both Tunisia and Egypt are worse off economically, face greater corruption and higher unemployment than they did before 2011. In Egypt, after the