Video Duration 24 minutes 54 seconds
From: UpFront

Has the Arab Spring failed Libya and Bahrain?

We ask if the Arab Spring has ultimately failed to bring change to Libya and Bahrain, or if there’s hope for the future.

In this week’s UpFront, we debate who is to blame for the chaos in Libya and whether the situation is better now than under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi.

And in a Special Interview, we ask activist Maryam al-Khawaja about Bahrain’s uprising seven years on, the state of the country’s opposition parties and whether charges of Iranian influence are true.

Arena: Libya: From Arab Spring to failed state?

A political solution appears to remain out of reach for Libya seven years after Gaddafi’s toppling. The country is grappling with civil war, humanitarian crises and the threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant  (ISIL, also known as ISIS), leading some to question the 2011 foreign intervention that removed Gaddafi from power.

“It [was] a huge mistake and I think both Libyans and the world is paying for it”, says Hafed Al-Ghwell, a columnist at Arab News and former senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

“It was a civil war between two sides of Libya in 2011. There [was], and still [is], significant tribal presence that is in support of Gaddafi and … still loyal to him,” he says. “NATO and Europe intervened on behalf of one side against another.”

Mustafa Abushagur, former deputy prime minister of the post-Gaddafi government, disagrees.

“What is going on today is really [that] we are paying for the legacy of the regime,” he says. “If the intervention had not happened, Libyans could have been killed, thousands by thousands by the hands Gaddafi.”

“When Gaddafi was toppled, there [were] no institutions in the country to be able to carry on,” says Abushagur. 

Special Interview: What happened to Bahrain’s revolution?

When the Arab Spring came to Bahrain in 2011, protesters took to the streets to demand reform, including a “real” constitutional monarchy, with an elected prime minister independent of the ruling Al-Khalifa family.

In response, neighbouring Saudi Arabia intervened to quash the Shia-led protests on behalf of Bahrain’s rulers, while authorities ordered the imprisonment of thousands of activists.

But Maryam al-Khawaja, a Bahraini activist in exile in The Netherlands, believes it remains to be seen whether the uprising can be deemed a failure.

“The people of Bahrain will continue to protest until they reach their … demands for civil and political rights,” says al-Khawaja.

When asked about Iran’s alleged role in the uprising, she calls it a “self-fulfilling prophesy.”

“The more Iran speaks out – saying that there’s oppression and torture in Bahrain, and the more there’s a failure from the West to do so – the more the Bahraini people are going to find themselves in a position where they don’t see any other way out or any other ally than Iran,” says al-Khawaja.

“Is it the best thing for Bahrain? Of course, it’s not.”

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