It has been 10 years since the Arab Spring erupted in Tunisia, toppling multiple generations of dictatorial rule and bringing hopes for an era of democracy to the Arab World. But the desired change did not come, and the Arab Spring gave way to wars and new dictators. Despite its failure, the dreams that fueled that righteous unrest persist today. In Lebanon, they live on in the heritors of the movement who usher in hope for the future amid a crisis that threatens to consume the country.
Lara Sabra, 22, serves as president of the Secular Club at the American University of Beirut (AUB) which recently won student elections, the first club unaffiliated with the country’s sectarian rulers to do so in the AUB. “I never imagined we would win the number of seats we did...Even though the political ideology of the club has become more popular now, it was still surprising,” said Sabra, as quoted by Joseph Hincks of Time magazine. Election polls in universities often reflect national sentiment. The Secular Club’s win marks a rising independent streak, a trend that is not unique to the AUB but is echoed in student elections across Lebanon. As cited by Hincks, at Rafik Hariri University, independents won 4 of 9 seats, while claiming 14 of 30 and 85 of 101 at the Lebanese American and St. Joseph Universities respectively.
These victories arise out of Lebanon’s current acute crisis, which began in October 2019 with protests calling for the resignation of political representatives. The crisis enlarged as the country’s economy faltered and the August 4 Port explosion claimed at least 200 lives. A rise in independent groups inspires hope, especially when, according to Sabra, the patronage-based system of Lebanon’s politics is also heavily ingrained in student politics.
Sabra is only one of the many “heirs” to the Arab Spring, which Time magazine profiles in its current edition. Across the Arab world, others steadfastly push for change — from Nada Majdalani of the Palestinian territories, who works towards combating environmental crises, to Ali Mnif of Tunisia, representing the sole country to emerge from the Arab Spring successfully. Though the Arab Spring did not bring the revolutions many had hoped for, its failure did not dampen the resolve to create a better future.
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