It has been three years since the revolutions alternatively known as the “Arab Spring,” “Arab Awakening,” and “Arab Uprisings” began. Since then, much has changed but little has been predictable.

As dictatorships were toppled, people celebrated these once impossible victories. While individuals across the Arab world grew even more assertive in their right to shape and determine their countries’ futures, establishment forces and “the deep state” found a way to hang on and retrench themselves. The good moments were almost idyllic, like the utopian-like communities that developed during the revolutions’ early days in iconic places such as Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The bad moments duplicated the most vivid and ghastly nightmares, with countries like Syria torn apart by war and deprivation.

Events in the region oscillated, as people and states pulled and pushed against each other at various turns. In Egypt, the two have seemingly joined together for now, with devastating results for the revolution’s future. In other countries, popular opposition against transitional governments or old-ruling regimes has continued, though daily life has been no easier to endure.

Political instability is the most reliable phenomena in the Arab world these days. It also happens to be a critical feature of any vibrant, participatory democracy. While it is unclear how the revolutions will ultimately pan out (they are very much still a work in progress) political instability (of the non-violent, non-militarized kind) may be critical for a better, more inclusive future, in which the goals of bread, freedom, and social justice stand a chance of being realized.

But that, of course, is just one of countless theories about the enigmatic Arab revolutions. In this special issue, we look at different aspects of the Arab Spring, from political and economic issues, to art and culture. These pieces, which will publish on a rolling basis throughout January, February, and March, combine observation with opinion to help anyone interested in the region plumb the deeply complicated and intersecting dynamics that have kept the revolutions going for this long.

In the end, we cannot promise that after reading these pieces you will be able to crack the code on the Arab Spring and understand what all it means once and for all. But, we do hope by reading these contributions you will be surprised and challenged in your own thinking.

That, at least, is what we’re aiming for – to be critical and thought provoking, in the spirit of the Arab Spring itself.

Muftah Editors

*To contribute a piece to this issue, please email your submission to [email protected]

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