Arab uprisings shift to political struggles

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Many of this year’s Arab uprisings are evolving from angry popular revolts into drawn-out political struggles to build democratic systems that will protect basic civic rights and social justice, analysts told a Harvard Kennedy School forum.

Rami G. Khouri, an associate in the school’s Dubai Initiative and a prominent Beirut-based journalist, said that in Egypt, citizens have taken to the streets again to challenge the ruling military council not to backtrack from the spirit of the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

“In February and March, you had the birth of Arab citizens,” said Khouri. “What you are seeing today in Egypt is the birth of Arab politics. You are seeing the birth of the contestation of power, peacefully by and large, with people in the streets, and the military has been forced to respond… What comes next is the birth of true sovereignty and self-determination.”

The John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum on Monday, Sept. 19, titled “Inside the Arab Awakening,” also included Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, a columnist based in the United Arab Emirates; Diana Buttu, a former spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization and a fellow at the Kennedy School’s Middle East Initiative; and Karim Makdisi, a professor at the American University of Beirut.

The moderator was R. Nicholas Burns, Kennedy School professor of the practice of diplomacy and international politics and director of the Middle East Initiative in the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, which co-sponsored the forum with the Institute of Politics. The webcast of the event is available for viewing here.