By Alaa Al-Marjani and Sami Al-Hamid Share Share via Email Share via email Share via video An investigation by the Al Jazeera English team into the rise of the “Arab Spring” and the spread of extremism has uncovered significant similarities between what the West and its partners in the Middle East and Africa have described as a “democratic revolution”.
The findings by Al Jazeera’s Middle East Correspondent Alaa Ibrahim and former British ambassador to Egypt, Mark Sykes, shed new light on the origins of the Arab Spring, its emergence and its eventual downfall.
They suggest that the Arab spring began as a popular uprising against a repressive authoritarian government and its repressive and dictatorial system of control.
It has now grown to become an extension of the US-led economic and military power and influence in the region, it has also spread to the global arena, it is now being seen as a response to a growing and powerful “Islamist threat” in the form of Islamism, the Al-Jazeera report said.
This report is part of a two-part series that examines the roots of the global “Arab awakening”, which has since been dubbed by some as the “spring of the world” and a “political awakening” in many countries around the world.
The first part of the report, published on Wednesday, is entitled “How the Arab Awakening began”.
The second part, which will be published on Thursday, will examine “the causes of the crisis and its causes and the consequences of its failure”.
In a statement released by the report’s author, Alaa, Sykes said that his research had revealed a similar pattern of similarities between “the Arab awakening” and what the US and its allies in the Muslim world have described in recent years as a democratic revolution.
The US and others have also portrayed the movement as a movement of “peaceful and democratic aspirations” but that it has not been peaceful and democratic, and has been “totally destabilised and dominated by the threat of violent Islamism”, Sykes told Al Jazeera.
“What we found is that it’s not the case at all,” he said.
“The Arab Spring has been a very complex phenomenon, and it’s the combination of factors that we’ve identified that is the reason for the Arab awakening, which has been largely a democratic process and not a violent revolution.”‘
A very difficult story to follow’Sykes was appointed in 2008 as the UK’s envoy to Egypt.
He was the first Western diplomat to travel to the country, and the first to hold talks there with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
“I’m not a historian, I’m a journalist, but I’ve been trying to understand the Arab world for 25 years and it is one of the most difficult stories to follow,” Sykes was quoted as saying by the BBC.
“There’s no easy answer, because the truth is there’s no simple answer, it’s a very difficult case to tell.”
Sykes said he had “no illusions” that Sisi could be a “moderate”, and that “many Arab leaders are very concerned about how they can reconcile the aspirations of their citizens and the desire for change with their own security interests”.
“The challenge is, in Egypt, it looks as if some of the more radical elements have taken over and are pushing the political discourse,” he added.’
A dangerous moment’While it is widely agreed that the Egyptian “revolution” of 2013-14 was a failure, there is “no consensus” about how exactly that failure began.
Sykes noted that the “masses of media in Egypt and in the Arab media” portrayed the uprising as a peaceful movement, and that the West’s role was to “play a role in helping the Egyptian authorities to implement the transition, to support the transition to democracy”.
“This narrative was a very dangerous moment,” he told Al-Akhbar.
“You have to ask yourself: What is this revolution, what are these protests, what is this movement, what have these protesters been doing, what has the Egyptian government been doing for the last year?”
This is a very important question.
It is not about the Egyptian revolution or the Arab revolution or even the revolution in Turkey.
It’s about what are the interests of the Egyptian state, its security interests, its domestic interests and its external interests?
“Sisi, the new Egyptian president, is widely seen as having played a leading role in overseeing the transition of power from President Mohammed Morsi to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the current Egyptian leader, who has been widely condemned for his alleged crackdown on the protests.
The report was based on interviews with hundreds of Egyptians and foreign observers, as well as interviews with more than 40 government officials, journalists and human rights groups.