The genie is out of the bottle
We have seen how the lid was lifted this year in Algeria following the toppling of the dictator Abdelaziz Bouteflika, a country now in the throes of weekly demonstrations demanding an end to the entire "Bouteflika system".
Or in Sudan, where long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir was ousted and the protest movement managed to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with the military – to date the sole rulers of the nation – which should in three years lead to a civilian government and democratic elections.
And even in Egypt, a country ruled by an omnipotent repressive apparatus, people dared just a few weeks ago to take to the streets for the first time against the former head of the military and President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.
A long-term process of upheaval
All this shows one thing above all else: politics in the Arab world cannot be described with the seasons of the years along the lines of "the Arab Spring has become the Arab Winter". What we’re experiencing on our doorstep in the southern and eastern Mediterranean as well as in the Middle East, is a long-term process of upheaval.
Even the beginnings of this insurgency can be described as a process. The reality is much more complex than the story of the street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi who set himself alight in Tunisia and with this single act, this beat of a butterfly’s wing, triggered a hurricane that swept across the entire Arab world.
Take the example of Egypt: what sparked the rebellion against Mubarak? Was it 25 January 2011, when people began streaming onto Tahrir Square? Or the New Year’s Eve before that, when Muslim and Coptic youngsters took to the streets following an attack on a church in Alexandria to protest at the regime’s inability to provide adequate protection for the nation’s churches.
Or did the uprising begin the previous year, when the young man Khaled Said was beaten to death by policemen in Alexandria and the Facebook campaign "We are all Khaled Said" spread like wildfire throughout Egypt. Or was the catalyst the protest movement "Kifaya" (Enough!), a small group of political activists demonstrating against Mubarak since 2004?
Social factors as a trigger for the rebellion
And precisely because this movement for political change in the country does not have a determinable starting point, it also has no end point. The old systems may continue to try and keep the lid on these protest movements by repressive means, but thus far they have not succeeded in completely eliminating the prevailing contradictions.
And these are currently being inflamed by the growing economic and social problems. After all, the traditional Arab autocratic or confessional political systems all have one thing in common: they open the door to corruption and the self-enrichment of whichever elite happens to be in power, while most of the country is left economically and socially with its back to the wall.