Ahmed Gatnash is an author, activist and co-founder of the Kawaakibi Foundation. In this interview, we discuss how the hope of the Arab Spring has been ruthlessly suppressed, meaning the middle east is further from democracy than ever. It’s a breathtaking story of brave activists fighting Twitter’s exploitation, Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and the blackmailing of Jeff Bezos.
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The history of the Middle East is a modern tragedy: the cradle of civilisation has been exploited by powerful Western interests that have enabled corrupt and cruel authoritarian rule to dominate the region. Democratic movements have long struggled to gain any traction. However, a wave of optimism spread through the region in 2011 as the Arab Spring saw numerous popular uprisings. The ruthless response indicated that the region’s path to freedom will be a long one.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Except in the Middle East. The wave of protests predicated on the pent-up anger at decades of corruption and economic stagnation heralded an era of extreme brutality against citizens throughout the region. The cruel irony is that the Western social media technology that enabled the coordination of demonstrations, has now been effectively harnessed by those seeking to protect the established centres of power.
The cruelty lies in the knowing actions of those directly involved in the violent repression of dissent. It also lies in the wanton ignorance of those living in the West. Those who marginalise a continent of people. Those who prioritise profit over other considerations. Those who talk of freedom but know nothing of those who are staking their lives for freedom in today’s world.
This is a tale about brave activists fighting for the rights we in the West take for granted to be provided to their peers in the Middle East. It is a story of an outsized fight where those fighting for democracy are facing entrenched and ruthless authoritarians, self-interested Westerners and a largely indifferent media. It is an interview you need to hear. We all need to check our privilege.