March of Arab Spring on Pause

The Arab Spring, a wave of protests sweeping through the Middle East in 2011, inspired hope for more freedoms in the region. Such anticipation was short-lived as authoritarian rulers recalibrated strategies for control by strengthening alliances with constituencies including elites, secular middle classes and workers who are wary of rapid changes that might threaten economic stability, explains Hicham Alaoui, the director of the non-profit Hicham Alaoui Foundation for Social Science Research. He delivered the annual Coca-Cola World Fund at Yale Lecture this year, and this essay is based on that lecture. He describes operational tactics employed by some governments: repression of opposition and extensive monitoring of public activities, exploitation of fear, selective enforcement of strict interpretations for Islam, and increased interventions throughout the region. “However, at the heart of retrenched authoritarianism rests a long-term gamble,” notes Alaoui, that “all else being equal, youth activists that comprise the vanguard of opposition movements can be permanently deactivated.” Societies with a high proportion of youth cannot ignore that driving force of change. – YaleGlobal