Fostering Dialogue in the Arab Spring

The topic of “The Arab Spring” is as daunting as it is ambiguous and yet Ikram Ben Said was unfazed as she articulately navigated a group of civil participants through this treacherous topic last Thursday night. Ms. Ben Said used a dialogue that she orchestrated between secularists and islamists Tunisian women to elucidate the larger social tensions that were omnipresent in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Bahrain during the Arab Spring. Ms. Ben Said’s presentation dovetailed nicely with that of Dr. Ragui Assad which focused on the violations of social contracts which, he posits, catalyzed the Arab Spring. The question-answer period was particularly fruitful as Ms. Ben Said and Dr. Ragui Assad fielded questions from the audience. Topics ranged from the intersection of the Arab Spring and the presence or absence of oil in countries, the deficiencies of Arab Spring youth movements, the role of women in the Arab Spring, Western media manipulation of on the ground events, and the influence the Sunni-Shia dichotomy. Particularly interesting was an extended conversation on the possibility of a second wave of Arab Spring countries, with Dr. Ragui Assad indicating factors that may spur on this wave and Ms. Ben Said proposing initiatives that may help diminish the possibility of this second wave.