#14 2014

While we are waiting

“The sound of cannons / Remind of books I haven’t read / Of words I haven’t written, stuffed in my head / Of a lover who dumped me, or whom I dumped / I can’t remember”

Syrian poet Amira Abul Husn is one of those who have chosen to remain in the war-torn country, using her pen to bear witness to all that is going on around her. In her poetry, she depicts fragments of everyday life from the horrible realities of Syria. The poem, published in The Dissident's Blog, is a new addition.

Can you tell me more about your expectations for your country?

During the so-called “Arab Spring” in 2011, we followed the uprisings, demonstrations and optimism through the anti-government blogs of Afrah Nasser (Yemen) and Lina Ben Mhenni (Tunisia). Three years later they are

The damned revolution

The thin line between the life of an individual and what is happening at large. Words juxtaposed with one person’s point of view have been the theme of some of the literature world's strongest opinions. Seldom are the words

I’m not an egg

What does “democratisation” actually mean? How long does it take for the new values in legislation and public debates to sink into the general public's consciousness? An anonymous Tunisian writer describes the difference

The spring of blood and ashes

“Blood and ash from the stolen Arabian spring / have penetrated the mornings, evenings and nights,” writes Syrian poet Bandar Abdulhamid in his collection of poems. The brutal reality of Syria is bleeding on the surface.

140 characters make you a terrorist

Saudi Arabia remains one of the countries untouched by the wave of democratic uproar which swept through many other Arab-speaking countries. The reason is the monopoly the ruling royal family holds over the media—a monopoly

Civil society in Tunisia between hopes and games of politics

The civil society was crucial for achieving the political changes wrought in Tunisia in 2011, but what role do those changes play today? Journalist Fatima Badri unravels this issue and discusses the problem of the shrinking

“The Facebook revolution”

What is known as the “Arab Spring” was allegedly the result of social media and its power to organise and mobilise demonstrations in 2011. But, how accurate is this picture? Poet and blogger Evronia Azer gives us her views

What happens to your mother is not your concern!

The cruelties and abuses taking place today in Syria defy all comprehension. Perhaps not even literature, or the language itself, is sufficient to be able to depict what is happening. But how then can we tell the rest of

Diary of the silent

Syrian poet, Housam Al-Mosilli, was forced to flee Syria in 2012 after he was imprisoned three times and repeatedly tortured. Today, he lives in exile in Turkey. In the poem, “Diary of the silent,” he does not just write

Yemen at ground zero

“Since the uprising, Yemen has become a place where you cannot live if you want to be free. This is particularly true for women but also for all who have dreams of another life.” The picture that writer Bushra al-Maqtari

The transformations of the Syrian revolution

The Syrian uprising against the al-Assad regime is now entering its fourth year with seemingly no end in sight. In fact, the conflict is now spreading to neighbouring countries such as Iraq. Writer Faraj Bayrakdar gives us

Tunisia's war on terrorism threatens the strive for democracy

Two steps forwards and one step back. That is how Tunisian journalist and freedom-of-speech activist Afef Abrougui describes the situation in Tunisia after the uprising in 2011. The country has undergone major upheaval,

What happened to “the Arab Spring”?

These days, “the Arab Spring” is an expression that has almost an emetic effect on many of those who were most heavily involved in the democracy movement that suddenly and, for many, unexpectedly swept through north Africa, into the Middle East and down towards the Arabian Peninsular. Their exasperation comes from the way it became such a media cliché and the way change in many societies either was thwarted or simply stopped. The situation in Syria and central Iraq has become a war of terror. But as many of the contributors to this issue point out, a “spring” is something that comes and goes—but none of what we witnessed would have happened in the first place without the years of hard, courageous and dangerous work that different groups of activists put into societal change. We’re talking more than just popular Facebook or Twitter campaigns, which Evronia Azer from Egypt discusses in her article; it’s about a slow, painstakingly constructed democracy movement, which, for sure, can use social media to enhance its message; but to believe that democracy is born of modern technology is to underestimate the necessity of commitment, work—and ideas.

In this issue, we’ve tried to bring together voices from as many of the nations affected by the democratic uprisings as we can. Beginning with Tunisia, which has been held up as the great success story—but where a new constitution and a new rhetorical recklessness might still only by the start of the dismantling of patriarchal and other stringent structures, as an anonymous Tunisian writer argues. From war-torn Syria, we publish three new poems and a lengthy analysis by one of today’s most important Arabic-speaking poets, Faraj Bayrakdar. Blogger Afrah Nasser from Yemen exchanges correspondence with Tunisian Lina Ben Mhenni on developments in their respective countries. And from Saudi Arabia, perhaps the most closed of all countries in the region, comes another anonymous yet cautiously optimistic report. All this is just a little of what can be found in this issue, had it been printed on paper it would probably have been unusually thick.