The Arab uprisings of 2011, once a great source of hope for democracy enthusiasts, have given way to sectarian clashes and political instability. The Middle East has not yet shed its authoritarian yoke, and the United States needs a policy that reflects that reality.
It’s easy to be pessimistic about the Arab Spring, given the post-revolutionary turmoil the Middle East is now experiencing. But critics forget that it takes time for new democracies to transcend their authoritarian pasts. As the history of political development elsewhere shows, things get better.
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Detail of an untitled mural by students at the Fine Arts Academy. Zamalek, Cairo.
The 25 January Egyptian Revolution opened the floodgates for a wave of street art, which had been impossible under Mubarak’s regime, where the Ministry of Culture controlled all public expression. The eighteen days of mass revolts that finally toppled the stagnant regime of President Hosni Mubarak became an emotional earthquake for the country. Decades of oppression and despair suddenly were turned into optimism, a newborn vitality and energy, allowing people to explore new freedoms -- including the right to make art freely.
Revolution Graffiti: Street Art of the New Egypt by Mia Gröndahl (American University in Cairo Press, 2013).