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The Year of the Two Phenomena

The Year of the Two Phenomena

Monday, 30 December, 2019 - 11:15
Samir Atallah
Lebanese author and journalist, who worked for the Annahar newspaper, the Al Osbo' il Arabi and Lebanon’s Al-Sayad’s magazines and Kuwait’s Al-Anba newspaper.

Two phenomena dominated the past year: women and protests. Alaa al-Saleh led those unyielding and spontaneous protests that ended Omar al-Bashir’s reign that had run for thirty years and could have gone on forever, as the custom for Arabs and Africans, who grasp power through a coup and only come to lose it through another coup. Veiled Sudanese and Algerian women and veiled and unveiled Lebanese women took to the streets and squares to demand the rights of citizens, not women. They demanded the rule of law, freedom, and an end to militaristic abuses. They did so with bravery and boldness lacked by men. In Hong Kong, the island that stood up to the Chinese mainland and motherland, women rebelled against the notorious Chinese grip and played their role as though they were in the West, where the Finish prime minister became the world’s youngest female ruler and maybe the best one as well.

The century during which Western women were the subject of amusement has passed, as were Princess Diana and Princes Margret before her or Princess Caroline in Monte Carlo, the woman who was on the cover of every political magazine. Women are now present at the heart of governments, not just on the margins. After they were partners in science, traveling to space and winning major literary awards, women are now natural equal partners in government in many parts of the world. What makes the Finish prime minister interesting is not that she is a woman, but that she is thirty-four years old. It is not rare at all anymore for women to hold power, as was the case when Thatcher or Andrea Gandhi came to power; it has become normal and natural.

The phenomenon of governments falling as a result of protest reached its climax this year: Hong Kong altogether took to the streets in the face of the Communist regime ruling the mainland. Saad Hariri resigned in Beirut after protests covered the streets and squares of all of Lebanon’s cities. France has been overwhelmed by the yellow vest protests, which are leaderless like the ones in Lebanon, Hong Kong and Baghdad, for over a year. Some may argue that what is happening resembles the student protests of 1968, which, at the time, led to the resignation of a man of the magnitude of Charles De Gaulle. The main difference between the two is that in 1968 there were leaders as there were theorists like Regis Debray and Jean-Paul Sartre to endorse the Maoist faction of the revolutionaries.

Is the emergence of the two phenomena positive? Each phenomenon has two sides. The demonstrations in Iraq forced the Prime Minister to resign and also led to the president of the republic to announce his willingness to submit his resignation to parliament. But the bloodshed in Baghdad and Basra took away from all the positives and brought images of historical atrocities people had dreamed of forgetting back to the forefront of their minds. This is the nature of the years and days we are in.

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