In this interview with Miriam Shabafrouz, the American-Iranian intellectual Hamid Dabashi talks about the democratic uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, their chances of success, their impact on geopolitics and on the global media
What are the biggest dangers for the Arab Spring?
Hamid Dabashi: The biggest dangers are precisely the forces that will lose from these democratic uprisings. What are they: the United States, the European Union, NATO more particularly, Israel and medieval Arab potentates like rulers of Saudi Arabia. But equally important is to keep in mind that a loser is also the Islamic Republic of Iran, which on the surface appears to be in opposition to the US and its regional and European allies, but in fact is part of the same political vocabulary, the same geopolitics. It has been increasingly made powerful in the region by virtue of the imperial adventures of the US and its allies.
So it is not just the latter that are losing and as a result posit a threat to these democratic uprisings, but also the Islamic Republic and its three subnational allies, namely Hamas, Hezbollah and the Mahdi militia in Iraq. It is not accidental, in my judgement, that under the influence of these democratic uprisings, Hamas has finally started a rapprochement with Fatah and the Palestinian national liberation has resumed more democratic, more genuine, more grassroot and more comprehensive dimensions.
What is the exact aim of those rising up against oppression in the Arab world?
Hamid Dabashi, who lectures in Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at New York’s Columbia University, is an Iranian-American historian, cultural critic and literary theorist
Dabashi: In an essay that I wrote for Al-Jazeera two months ago, I call it delayed defiance. These are all post-colonial societies, from Morocco to Syria, all sharing a kind of domestic tyranny that has emerged in the aftermath of European colonialism. They are fake and phony post-colonial state. The best examples of it are Gaddhafi or Mugabe, you can look at these tyrants that have posited themselves as anti-colonial and then for forty or fifty years have looted the country without any semblance of democratic institutions or change.
In effect, in these parts of the world, people are rising up against not only, number one, the colonialism that initiated this condition, not only, number two, against the domestic tyrannies that were the inheritors of this colonial past, but number three also against the current imperial project that wants to micromanage the globe. The fact of these revolts is predicated on the inoperative nature of global capitalism that systematically generates destitute.
Do you see reciprocities between the Iranian Green movement and the Arab uprisings?
Dabashi: I am not interested in who influenced what. In July 2009, I was part of an interview in the Empire programme of Al-Jazeera, in the course of which I said: If I were in a position of power anywhere from Morocco to Syria, I would watch what is happening in Iran very carefully, meaning, the demographic breakdown of Iran is identical to the demographic breakdown of the entire Arab world. We are talking about a young population: it is young by virtue of the dropping infant mortality rate without a corresponding increase in life expectancy.
A young audience that has no future in their country, they are sick and tired of being denigrated and denied a participation in the global society, they don’t want to emigrate to be subject of even more harassment and racism in Europe and North America, they want to reclaim their society, reclaim their culture, reclaim their politics. And as a result, what we saw in Iran in 2009 and what we saw in the Arab world in 2011 to me are identical expressions of a same sociological, economic and political environment rather than one influencing the other.
“The protestors want to reclaim their society, reclaim their culture, reclaim their politics.” Pictured: Green Movement protests in Iran
Dabashi: In my judgement, these democratic uprising in the Arab and Muslim world, by virtue of their being real democratic uprisings, show that the term of Arab and Islamic world is obsolete, we use it under errature. Now we are re-experiencing and re-teaching the world the meaning of democracy, we are reconvening the idea of democracy. Europeans and North Americans who are interfering and trying to interpret or over interpret or manipulate it, should stand up and behold that another people now is redefining, reconvening the idea of democracy.
Read complete interview at: Qantara de