This House believes resistance to the Arab Spring is futile

Monday May 30 2011
MOTION PASSED by 73% to 27%


This House believes resistance to the Arab Spring is futile

Doha, Qatar, May 30, 2011

An overwhelming majority of Arabs are betting on reformist movements across the Middle East to win their battles with hardline governments - but they predicted tough times ahead.

That view emerged during the latest session of The Doha Debates, where 73 percent of the mainly-Arab audience backed the motion that resistance to the "Arab Spring" was futile.

Asked how long it would be before Libya's Colonel Gaddafi would be overthrown, one Libyan student replied: "I hope it's tonight."

"We all know that Gaddafi will leave soon," added a young woman from Qatar.

Despite the overwhelming vote, Arabs from the Gulf appeared less demanding when it came to human rights.

One student claimed Gulf citizens were generally content with their societies and saw no reason to protest. "Especially in Qatar, "she added, "where we have more rights than we actually deserve - including access to free education and healthcare."

But a Moroccan university professor disagreed with her saying: "Not everyone wants the same rights. I would like to enjoy freedom of expression and the right to make choices."

Supporting the motion, Anouar Boukhars, professor of international relations at McDaniel College in the US, said historic change in the region could not be reversed. "There will be setbacks...but the forces of change have been unleashed and there is no going back."

Nadim Houry, Human Rights Watch's researcher for Syria and Lebanon, warned that Arab dictators would not give in without a fight. But he predicted that the "Arab Spring" would be carried forward by a new generation who had "torn down the walls of fear".

"You cannot change countries that have been in an ice-box for 34 years in a week, in two months or in three months. But I am convinced that protestors will succeed."

Opposing the motion were Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow at the leading UK think-tank Chatham House, and Oman's Ahmed Ali al-Mukhaini, an independent researcher in political development and human rights.

Kinninmont acknowledged that each Arab country was moving at a very different pace.

She predicted concerted resistance from governments, ruling parties, the business elite and foreign powers. "These forces have a lot of tricks up their sleeve and they will have some successes even if they do not have them in the long term."

Al-Mukhaini said Arabs could not rely on the US and Europe for support. For now, he added, Arab governments "have the upper hand: money, power and the ability to manipulate laws, to curb momentum".

"We are dealing with animals that are very much in danger and they will use their survival instincts to stay in power."

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