Witness to History

The future of the Middle East will be as rooted in the past as surely as we shall all be dead by its denouement

The Arab uprising, 2011: Revolutions and their histories are cyclical in nature. We journalists divide the past and present at our peril, says Robert Fisk

Saturday 21 December 2019 19:05
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Celebrations in Tahrir Square, Cairo, after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned on 11 February 2011
Celebrations in Tahrir Square, Cairo, after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned on 11 February 2011
T

he Arab revolution or Arab uprising – and please let me never hear that State Department-inspired nonsense about the “Arab Spring” again! – began around 2005 in Lebanon, moved to Egypt in 2006, touched non-Arab Iran in 2009, blossomed in Tunisia in 2010 and burst into fury in 2011 in Egypt (again), in Bahrain, in Syria and in Yemen. And this uprising of the Middle Eastern Muslim peoples will not even have run its course in our lifetime.

We journalists, politicians and historians suffer a major problem in our work. We insist on separating history from the present tense, in chopping off past events from today’s news, of imagining that there is a clear distinction between, for example, the “history” of revolutions and what we are told in the media tonight; and slicing history off from what took place before that history occurred. In fact, history doesn’t work in such time warps. It is a continuum that we divide up at our peril.

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