IB Tauris £12.99

Review: Writing the Revolution - The Voices from Tunis to Damascus, Ed. Layla Al-Zubaidi and others. Trs. by Robin Moger & Georgina Collins

Eight writers tell of the cruelty, corruption and poverty that provoked uprisings across the Arab world – and why the protests are far from over

For many, the Arab Spring is not yet over. Some believe that the wave of protests that toppled dictators in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen heralded a false dawn and they continue to agitate for change. This fascinating anthology of essays is authored by those who experienced, first hand, the recent revolutions or are still waiting for real democracy. The contributors have all played a part in documenting and witnessing injustice in their countries.

The eight writers illustrate the diversity of the issues behind the protests that include autocratic rule, human rights violations, political corruption, and extreme poverty. For Mohamed Mesrati, revolution in Libya seemed impossible because "we were a generation born from our fathers' defeats, a generation that first opened its eyes on a society that spoke in the language of oppression, where fear was an unalterable and undeniable destiny". His family fled to the UK in 2005 and Mesrati lived the revolution through the eyes of his childhood friends.

Fear is the predominant emotion described by the essayists. Gaddafi's authoritarian regime is compared to George Orwell's 1984. But for lawyer Khawla Dunia the Syrian Republic is more terrifying than Orwell's republic of fear: "Each morning we bid our loved ones goodbye as though it were the final farewell, and greet them again each evening as though they have returned from foreign lands."

Jamal Jubran, from Yemen eloquently describes the power of language, how words became his weapons and how writing stopped him "drowning in the fear that follows me every second of every day".

Malek Sghiri is a blogger, political activist and leader of the General Union of Tunisian Students. After participating in the protests, he was arrested on 11 January 2011 and detained for a week at the Ministry of Interior, where he was tortured. Sghiri offers an astute analysis of the uprising. He recognises that what should have taken 20 years to achieve happened in just a few days and that for this "process of becoming" to succeed it needs to be "protected at all times and its consciousness firmly implanted in the population". Sghiri underlines that the protests arose out of the student movement and sadly reflects that its leaders are not now part of the new order, "when they should be the strongest political force in the land".

Half of the contributors are women and one realises that they have the most to gain but also risk the greatest loss. The Saudi writer Safa Al-Ahmad displays immense courage in travelling to various hotspots in the region in order to cover the unrest. She illustrates the extent of what women are up against in Saudi Arabia when she describes being chased by a member of the religious police who demanded she close her abaya (cloak): "Saudi Arabia forces you to see yourself based on your gender …. And if you are female – your appearance alone is enough to get you in trouble."

Yasmine El Rashidi noticed a sense of dignity being restored among her neighbours but her account, written in May 2011, ends on a note of uncertainty that proved sadly prescient. In Egypt, the fight for women's rights continues.

Writing on Algeria, Ghania Mouffok observes: "We are not swallows. We're not just making spring but also winter, autumn and summer too, because we've been around for a long time." She takes her nine-year-old son along with her to watch the protests to show him that "being a citizen in Algeria can be joyous, chaotic and rebellious".

The technological advances of recent years have played their part in the uprisings with protesters able to send pictures and real-time accounts out to the wider world. Ali Aldairy describes how being able to use Twitter encouraged him to go to the protests and "follow events with my own eyes, to record them and transmit them myself". Tragically, Bahrain's demonstrations have been largely ignored by the outside world and woefully under-reported by the western media.

Inevitably, the final saddest and unfinished chapter is on Syria. President Bashar al-Assad has proved to be as brutal as his father in the suppression of dissent. Every day there is more bloodshed and new horrors are witnessed; Dunia calls it the revolution of the mobile phone versus the bullet.

Writing Revolution provides a terrifying insight into the world of authoritarian regimes where freedom and democracy are alien concepts. Each of the eight accounts in this impressive anthology is accessible and illuminating. The final outcome of the protests affects us all. Profound, progressive change won't happen overnight but by engaging with the Arab uprisings, understanding why they occurred and the protesters' hopes for the future, we take a stand against tyranny. It is equally important not to forget the aspirations of those who remain in the wings, still dreaming of, and desiring, change.

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game