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"No Constitution Under Military Rule"

Protesters push Arab militaries off their pedestal

Protesters push Arab militaries off their pedestal

A decade of anti-government protests in the Arab world have thrown popular trust in the military into the garbage bin and undermined the military’s position as one of the most trusted institutions. Long gone are the days when protesters on Cairo’s Tahrir square chanted “the military and the people are one.” In 2011 it was the barriers of fear that protesters broke. Created by autocratic rulers, fear was what long kept the disgruntled from taking their grievances to the street. In 2019 and 2020 those barriers have been further reduced with protesters refusing to back down despite the use of brutal force by law enforcement and security forces in Lebanon and Iraq and occasional violence elsewhere in the Arab world. Changed popular perceptions of the military are the result. Increasingly, the military is seen at best as positioning itself to salvage what can be salvaged of an ancien regime and at worst the enforcer of a hated regime. “Iraqis broke the shackles of fear and reached the point of no return. The movement will not stop, and the Iraqi people will never be silenced…,” said Ali Hashim, a protester in Baghdad, speaking only a week after one night of mass killings in December. In increasingly violent clashes in Beirut earlier this month, protesters unsuccessfully sought to persuade the security forces they were attacking that their demands for a complete break with Lebanon’s political elite was also in the interest of men in uniform. “Among the most important lessons cited by Sudanese and Algerian protesters so far are…(that) transition plans designed by the military—particularly proposals for quick elections—can be a trap,” said Middle East scholar Michele Dunne.

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