Since protesters first took to the streets of Tunisia in December 2010, the Middle East and North Africa region has never been the same.
More than two and half years later, people in many regional countries continue to push for meaningful change and better opportunities for themselves and their fellow citizens.
Both inside and outside the region, a sense of hopelessness has gripped some who see little headway being made by these efforts. Indeed, in countries, such as Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, much work still needs to be done to realize the revolutions’ goals.
But, a new book on the Arab Spring tells a more hopeful story about the region’s progress since the revolutions’ early days. “The Future of the Arab Spring: Civic Entrepreneurship in Politics, Art, and Technology Startups” highlights the grassroots movements, organizations, initiatives, and startups, which have kept the revolutions’ spirit alive and represent an important, though largely unappreciated aspect, of the Arab uprisings.
“The Future of the Arab Spring” tells the story of these entities, ranging from protest movements in Egypt to art collectives in Yemen. As this book argues, the time has come to pay attention to these and other examples of civic entrepreneurship and to understand the contributions they are making to the Arab Spring.
Through these entities, activists, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and filmmakers are applying their talents to the task of rebuilding their countries’ political, economic, social, and cultural fabric, in both direct and indirect ways. These instances of civic entrepreneurship are a critical ingredient for holding regional governments accountable and ensuring that revolutionary promises take root in Arab Spring societies.
The following videos and photos are intended to supplement the discussion in this book, and give readers a visual peek into a small selection of the many forms of civic entrepreneurism that are cropping up across the Middle East and North Africa region, thanks to the Arab Spring.
CIVIC ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN POLITICS & SOCIETY
Image from Yemen’s Change Square, March 1, 2011. Change Square was the heartbeat of the country’s revolution, until mid-2013 when the protest camp was abandoned.
Image from Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout, February 19, 2011. Because of the Roundabout’s symbolic importance to the revolution, the Bahraini government destroyed the area in mid-March 2011.
Political & Social Movements:
Video from Yemen’s Life March, December 27, 2011, in Sana’a. The first of Yemen’s two Life Marches, which started in the city of Taiz and ended in the capital of Sana’a, was organized in opposition to the immunity deal given to Ali Abdullah Saleh in return for his commitment to step down as president.
Strengthening Civil Society, Supporting the Youth:
Shabab Libya is an organization working to increase youth participation in Libya’s public sphere. Among its various projects is the Libyan Youth Voices platform, which is a project that amplifies the voices of young people in the country. The following video is a Google Hangout sponsored by the platform and moderated by Shabab Libya co-founder Ayat Mneina, featuring young Libyans discussing the country’s recently passed political isolation law.
Resonate! Yemen works to develop strategies for sustaining and institutionalizing emerging youth groups in Yemen. The image below captures one of the groups events in January 2013, centered on building the capacity of youth groups from Yemen’s Change square.
The video below is a public service announcement from the Egyptian group, Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment. The video captures the brutality and violence of a group sexual assault as it unfolds in Tahrir Square and calls upon Egyptians to stand up against these acts of violence. As the narrator reminds and urges her audience,
We will not be silenced
We will not be broken
We will not shy away
There are mob sexual assaults in Tahrir Square
Come and stand against the rapists because we do not plan to hide in our homes
This is our square, this is our revolution, and we will fight this battle to the last breath
The following images are from Afreecan, a Tunisian organization that aims to encourage volunteerism in the country.
Project to Educate (pictured below) is dedicated to improving educational opportunities for Tunisian children. The project works to rehabilitate decaying schools, ensure that children are not forced to drop out of school to financially support their families, and provide students with the necessary school supplies, among other activities.
Operation Stop Thirst (pictured below) supplied 300 familiar in 2 regions of Tunisia with water. People in these parts of the country have particularly high rates of Hepatitis A because until recently they did not have access to clean drinking water.
Volunteer Libya works to create “prosperity and wealth” for Libya through public service. Among its various projects, the organization has spearheaded an initiative to revitalize Tripoli’s crumbling Old City. The following flyer was from an event held at the end of Ramadan to teach people about how eid was celebrated in the past in the Old City.
CIVIC ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN ART & CULTURE
Creative Resistance in Syria:
The following image from the Rebel Painter of Houran, an anonymous cartoonist inside Syria, depicts President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem. To see more of this cartoonist’s work, visit his Facebook page.
The liberated Syrian village of Kafr Nabl has received international recognition for the funny, sarcastic, and often poignant posters about the conflict, including the image below. To see more creations from village residents, visit the Kafr Nabl Facebook page.
Ali Ferzat is one of Syria’s most well-known cartoonists. Ferzat spoke out against the Assad regime early on in the conflict and, in August 2011, was attacked by government thugs, who left him for dead on the side of the road. Shortly before his attack, Ferzat created the cartoon below while Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi was on the run from opposition forces in his country. At the time, Ferzat believed Assad would soon face a similar fate. Ultimately, this cartoon caused the most problems for Ferzat and may have led to his attack.
Egyptian graffiti artist, Ganzeer, was active in the country’s graffiti movement, even before the revolution began. The photo below captures one of Ganzeer’s stencils, held by a man in Tahrir Square during the eighteen day upriring from January to February 2011.
The Egyptian graffiti scene has flourished since the start of the revolution. The following video, produced for MOCATV by Soraya Morayef, an expert on the Egyptian graffiti scene, provides a nice overview of the state of graffiti in the country.
Soraya Morayef also produced this video for MOCATV on the Libyan graffiti movement. She described the film as follows:
The Libyan video was shot by Osama AlFitory, who heard about a graffiti project organised by the Faculty of Fine Arts in Tripoli. The aim was to create a 2km long mural that would enter the Guinness Book of Records, but more importantly, the mural would be made on a wall facing Muammar Gaddafi’s compound, now a pile of rubble after Nato missile attacks. It was a great opportunity to capture artists and students participating in something that would have been completely impossible under Gaddafi’s tyrannical rule.
Colors of Life is an artist collective based in Taiz, Yemen devoted to beautifying the city through street art. The black and white drawing pictured below contrasts with the colorful background in one Colors of Life mural.
Created by the anonymous film collective, Masasit Mati, “Top Goon: Diaries of a Life Dictator” pulls no punches when it comes to satirizing the Assad regime. The YouTube series, which uses finger puppets, began in November 2011 and has run for two seasons so far. Click the video below to watch the first episode.
Support Yemen is a grassroots collective that works on social justice campaigns in the country. Film is an important part of the group’s work. The following video is part of the organization’s Break the Silence campaign, which aimed to call attention to the peaceful protest movement against Ali Abdullah Saleh during the revolution’s first year.
Mosireen is a non-partisan,independent film collective that has been using video to raise awareness, educate, and enlighten Egyptians about political and social issues since the start of the revolution.The Mosireen video on the violent crackdown against the Mohamed Mahmoud Street protests in November 2011, shown below, was particularly noteworthy.
“Rais Lebled,” by Tunisan rapper El General, is considered the anthem of the Arab Spring revolutions
The Egyptian hip hop group, Arabian Knightz, has been performing since the mid-2000s. When the revolution began, the group immediately threw its support behind the protesters, penning the song “Not Your Prisoner” early in the eighteen-day uprising.
Egyptian musician, Ramy Essam, wrote “Irhal” or “Leave”, during the country’s eighteen-day uprising. Directed at President Hosni Mubarak, the song was a compilation of the various chants popularized during the protests.
Founded in 2008, Guys Underground is a Libyan rock band that went from the underground Benghazi music scene to the middle of the country’s revolution almost overnight. The group’s song, “Revolution,” was dedicated to the effort to topple Muammar Ghaddafi.
Founded in November 2011, Mini Mobile Concert is a traveling music collaborative that holds small musical concerts on the streets of Alexandria, Egypt. The video below is from Mini Mobile Concert’s 23rd event in the city and features violinist, Ayman Asfour.
Founded by Tunisian art collective Art Solutions, Danseurs Cityoens is a group that brings dance to the country’s streets. As captured in the video below, the group’s street performances sometimes include music and careful choreography, inspiring passersby to join in the dancing.
CIVIC ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN TECHNOLOGY STARTUPS
Saphon Energy is a Tunisian startups that is working to revolutionize the sustainable energy industry through an innovative new wind turbine developed by company co-founder Anis Aouini, known as the “saphonian” (pictured below).
SouriaLi is a web-based Syrian radio station launched in October 2012 to help heal Syrian society and lay the building blocks for a new country. The station broadcasts a number of different shows, including “Days of Pearl” (Ayam LouLou) a program that discusses culture, tradition, politics, and stories from different eras in Syria’s past. The following episode, hosted by the station’s co-founder, Honey Al Sayed, looks at how Syrians have overcome crisis throughout the country’s history
Qabila Media Productions is an Egyptian startup that creates animated video content to bridge the gap between education and entertainment with a particular focus on topics such as political science, history, economics, and culture. To date, the group’s work has included creating a citizen’s guide to politics (included below) among other civically oriented video productions.