Accounting for Differences in Outcome of the Arab Spring


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Why did the Arab Spring effect states differently? What accounts for these differences in outcome? This article seeks to address that very question.

Globally, no state is a “perfect democracy” but some are obviously closer and more exemplary than others. Democracy is multi-dimensional meaning that there are components therein, all of which are necessary for its sustenance.

Regionally, this is also true – that some states are more or less democratic than others. Of all the MENA states only Tunisia is considered a “successful” democracy. Both Tunisia & Egypt enjoy more developed institutions than Libya & Syria, for example. One might attribute development to geography & history, given Egypt has been more autonomous than other Arab counterparts, but this doesn’t apply across the board, given Tunisia was part of the Ottoman Empire while Egypt was not.

Why did revolution fail to break-out in Saudi Arabia?

Libya is also an oil-rich state, but it was left ravaged. Oil was not a stabilizing force in Libya.

Saudi Arabia has a notoriously strong security apparatus, one that is tied directly to the ruling family, the House of Saud. The same is true in Syria, where an Alawite-dominated military has direct links with the ruling Assad “clan”. However the major difference is that Saudi Arabia is supported by America, unlike Syria.

States which experienced military invasions endured the worst outcome of the Arab Spring, versus countries that maintained autonomy. Compare the violence in Yemen, Syria & Libya to Saudi, Egypt & Tunisia, and the claim carries weight.

This can be extended to Iraq & Afghanistan, invaded by the US.

But why then has America stood by Saudi Arabia & flip-flopped on Syria?

The US switched from mildly opposing the Syrian regime under Obama to supporting it tacitly under Trump. This underscores that US policy is not monolithic, and there are two forces contending, with one seeking further democratization & the other benefitting from authoritarian neoliberal (neocolonial) constructs such as the Saudi or Syrian state.

Perhaps the extent of political development and institutionalization in Arab states like Egypt prevented foreign countries from being able to influence the trajectory of the demonstrations, whereas thoroughly guarded states like Saudi Arabia & Syria with almost no degree of democratic institution were able to suppress without much attention. Not only does Egypt have a sizable minority, it has institutional provisions & a political infrastructure which make it less vulnerable to chaos. Clearly Egypt is no democracy, and has in fact continued as an authoritarian state, but it also experienced peaceful revolutions, ousted two leaders. A mere change in the face of executive leadership is reassuring to the people about at least some sense of accountability and connect. This is arguably the result of the political infrastructure of the state which has democratic features such as separation of powers & independent judiciary.

Ultimately than it can be argued that while culturally Saudi Arabia and Syria are different, they are politically underdeveloped to a comparable degree, with few to no provisions in place meant to separate powers of the state or establish a mild sense of accountability among officials.

Thus the failure of the Arab Spring to overwhelm Saudi Arabia can be traced to the US decision to stand by the government, despite its authoritarian character.

If the neoliberal face of the Middle East is to be defeated, it must also be defeated in the US, meaning Trump must be replaced with a Democrat who is not at all inclined towards authoritarian governments.

Perhaps this why there was such a coordinated effort by various authoritarian governments across the world to influence the 2016 election in favor of Trump, who is more or less sympathetic to authoritarianism than his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton. Autocrats have no consistent agenda but self-preservation at any expense, so coordinating on this delicate issue even with “enemies” occurred.

Globalization has rendered the world inextricably linked no matter how much anti globalist nationalists tout otherwise. Since America is the world’s most powerful state, it is only sensible that changes in its domestic politics would have ripple effects, especially in the Middle East where it has been involved so long & the politics are so volatile.

Is it safe to conclude then that the chapter of revolution has not yet ended in the region?

Perhaps it will be easier to tell in 2020, unless of course Trump doesn’t make it that far.

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A Country I Could Call Home, an open letter from an Armenian-Syrian DACA recipient


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Since the “victory” of Donald J. Trump, white nationalism has removed its own veil.

Layers and layers.

It has always existed. In fact, it is the original sin of America.

Even when I arrived here in 1995, I felt it.

It was all around me. I could smell it. I could taste it.

I hated it; and I knew what it was responsible for.

My fellow minorities. My own people. Me.

I didn’t learn I was “undocumented” until I turned 16.

My mother turned to me and said “Danny you aren’t like the other kids. You don’t have … papers… you can’t work.”

I was quite emotional. I didn’t take it well. How could anyone? The strange thing is, I kind of knew the implications. I always knew something was off about our stay here in America. Something was always wrong.

Even in the Middle East, we lived in Riyadh, and for a Syrian mother and Syrian-Armenian father, nothing could be further out of place for us.

It was as though America  was always our destination. Our salvation.

But even upon our coming here – the struggle persisted.

20 years later, 2017 it continues.

2008 was our 1960. President Obama was elected. For the bitter colonial minded minorities it was “nothing to be proud about”. They’d returned to the slave mentality. For white nationalists, it was spelling the beginning of their doom.

His middle name was Hussein. And for a brown (olive) kid like me, it warmed my heart a little.

Then he passed DACA.

For a decade, I had lived as a ghost in a country that rejected me.

I worked under the table jobs.

But I cherish those moments. Some of the best moments of my life.

It was my version of the American Dream, the only difference is, my story would never be told. It would never be embraced. Because the majority of America is white, and doesn’t sympathize with the minority struggle.

That is precisely why the current president is a white supremacist.

I remember working with hispanics, moroccans, Jews, Tunisians & Libyans. We come from the Middle East (West Asia) where taboos prevent women from working and such. But America was much different. My mother could barely speak english. In less than 5 years, she became the manager of a jewelry store, financed my entire education and my sister’s education, cooked and cleaned for us, while my father worked tirelessly. All this and could barely make ends meet. I remember countless arguments over debts and money shortages. It was traumatic as a kid. I think I still have anxiety as a result of it. But the love was there. And so was our faith. We could never be separated. Not then, not now, not ever!

Things were different back then. Before 9/11 – people could find work opportunities and even go to school if their papers weren’t exactly “straight”. After 9/11 everything changed.

When I found out I could not attend university after high school I was devastated. All the work I put in meant nothing.

In my younger days my parents worked so much and my older sister was so occupied with school I spent most of days with friends, most of whom were ethnic of the lower stratum of the American socio-economic sphere.

That’s when I started diving into my creative side, inspired by my grandfather. Yervant Krikorian was the first Armenian-Syrian to ever attend MIT. Yes, you read that right. MIT, the famed technological institute in Boston. The problem was he didn’t stay long enough in the US for us to earn citizenship through him. He returned to Syria due to family circumstances and financial shortcomings. He earned his PhD; but his dreams were never realized.

I was meant to live out that dream.

My father would always tell me tales of our “fabled” Armenian royal ancestry and the magnificent wonder of my grandfather; the elegance of my great grandmother, a Cypriot-Armenian. I appreciated this all so much, but tragically it didn’t match up to the reality I faced as an immigrant at the bottom of the barrel.

Fast forward to 2017.

Currently I am a graduate student of political science at the University of Central Florida. It was Obama’s legislation that made this possible. Before DACA, I was even denied entry to a community college. It was literally through the miraculous help of a sympathetic hispanic lady that I managed to register at a local community college. But when Obama passed DACA, I was finally able to attend university. Even though I had the grades, I couldn’t before. I was in AP classes in high school. But it didn’t matter. Anyway, I was finally in at UCF – although at first, they too almost denied me for bureaucratic reasons. They literally didn’t even know what DACA was at the registration office it seemed. When I handed them my “Employment Authorization ID” they were dumbfounded. It was amazing that I could finally attend a major university. But because I was denied all forms of scholarships or federal financial aid which I overwhelmingly qualified for, I had to work during my college career, and my academic performance suffered. It did not stop me however. I was totally broken when I was denied entry to UCF’s MA program initially. After 3 years of just waiting I decided to reapply and was admitted. Now, I am in my final semesters in the program, and without any form of financial aid let me tell you it has been the most difficult journey. My family lives just near the poverty line…they can barely afford to help; themselves at best.

Trump’s government is “reassuring” ‘Dreamers’ all will be well but none of this was necessary to begin with. I’ve experienced and educated myself on racism far too long to be blind to the agendas of the current regime & its voter base.

A close friend introduced me to Hip-Hop when I was in my teenage years. Perhaps they saw my interest in poetry and music and thought to mold it into something more tangible and culturally relevant. I was learning to speak the Hip-Hop language.

It wasn’t until my dreams of educating myself and being a political leader were dashed that I retreated to Hip-Hop.

It was my outlet of expression. My solidarity. My refuge.

Just recently I released a song that captures much of what I am trying to say here. But I still felt the need to write this.

I am an Armenian-Syrian and I am a descendant of genocides, exiles & exoduses. I have seen my people subject to occupation and indignation, and I have experienced alienation literally in a country that denied my humanity for so long. Even after alleviating our pain and suffering and granting us some sense of normalcy, Obama’s legacy is being insulted and reversed by this white nationalist megalomania. Furthermore, American and global indifference towards the plight of those around the world engaged in similar struggles for liberation has delegitimized the image of this nation and & the value of liberty itself.

We must look in the mirror and ask ourselves about our own complicity in manufacturing these global crises which have devastated lives.

There is no time.

Please support me by listening & sharing my new song which reflects on the plight of all DREAMers seeking to protect DACA. The link is below. A special thanks to all community leaders, members of faith, friends, family, legislators & business executives for expressing solidarity, compassion & resistance in the face of this human atrocity. I pray for our deliverance and trust in the Almighty that it will be achieved. And for those who utter the Lord’s name hypocritically, for their own narrow agenda, are among the gravest of sinners. Amen.

New Music: Danny K – “A Country Called Home”


Danny Krikorian is an Armenian-Syrian immigrant who came to the US at the age of 7. He is now 28. A DACA recipient, he is threatened by the new presidency’s announcement of DACA’s repeal. Upon this revelation, Danny K prepared and has released a short & sweet lyrical ballad – a traditional Hip-Hop record, lacing a looped-sample with charged lyricism. This one, is dedicated to all #DREAMers.

“The World to Come” by Danny K – Out Now!


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You can now purchase or stream the entire album “The World to Come by Danny K via Apple Music, iTunes or TIDAL. Click the album cover art (image) or apple music badge for a direct link to the album. Thank you! It will be available on YouTube & Spotify quite soon. Watch the video for the single, Lavash, via YouTube below:

The World to Come (Cover Art) & release date revealed!


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You can purchase my debut self-produced album #TheWorldtoCome on May 15th. I will share the links then! It will be available for purchase via @iTunes & streamable via @AppleMusic @Spotify @TIDAL & more. Don’t forget to also watch the video for #Lavash – the single off the album, below! You can also here the second single off the album #OntheInside (Love & Pomegranates) below. Show dates, merch & more available at www.DannyKrikorian.com. Stay tuned for an official write-up/review on my album & artistry. Thank you for your patience & enjoy!

Credits:

Produced by Danny K (Krikorian & Company) (c)

A Neo-imperial Menace – The Great Game for the Middle East


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A comparative study of Syria & Iraq wars, makes it evident that the cause of instability is not authoritarianism, nor radicalism in either of these states, and the entire ME region.

Rather these are symptoms of a greater menace inciting them – neo-imperialism.

Enough with associative-thinking  – ‘this has to be true because of this.’

We don’t need Putin to be boogieman in order to vilify a US president.

Trump & the GOP that created him are war criminals, racists & rabid, hawkish interventionists.

With or without Putin.

Even Egypt’s case of the ‘Arab Spring’ was arguably a direct rejection of neo-imperial vision of a colonial-outpost in the Middle East.

Democracy may be the end-goal even in the Middle East – but democracy is impossible without sovereignty. Democracy has neither been achieved in Iraq or Syria. In one case, an authoritarian was overthrown, the other, preserved. Both cases resulted in utter chaos, unprecedented terrorism and religious radicalization. This implies the specter is foreign intervention, not domestic.

Sovereignty is a precondition for political development. One does not need to be a ‘political scientist’ or expert to understand that simple notion.

The cases of Bahrain, Yemen & Egypt serve as controls for other purported variables that may be influencing the outcome of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’. Bahrain indicates that while Sunni-Shia hatreds are strong – they are not sufficient to incite a full-fledged civil war along sectarian lines. In Egypt, the political climate made it apparent that radicalism was exploiting any attempt at political development, contrary to the claim that reduced authoritarianism might mitigate religious fundamentalism. Finally, the case of Yemen indicates the double-standard exhibited by interventionists in the region – namely the US & Europe, who on one end funnel arms and finances to prop up dictators such as in Yemen; & in others devote the same efforts to toppling them.

Libya too, like Iraq, demonstrates the vulnerability of a nation without a state.

These are all indications that the primary menace to peace, stability and progress in the Middle East is foreign intervention, or neo-imperialism.

Ultimately, a truly democratic movement – the future of the Middle East, depends as much on internal efforts at deinstitutionalizing & wholly dismantling authoritarianism as it does on mitigating foreign support for these very institutions. Only then, can global hegemonies like Russia, America & China be kept at bay regarding any excessive ambitions in the Middle East and beyond (Latin America, Africa, Central & Southeast Asia).

Only through unity of indigenous cultures and nation-states can regions afflicted with imperialism overcome & develop. Dignity, prosperity, culture & innovation are best preserved under these conditions.