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Arab Spring Dreams: The Next Generation Speaks Out for Freedom and Justice from North Africa to Iran Paperback – May 8, 2012
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“Some of these young writers possess more clarity than all the pundits combined.” ―Times Literary Supplement
“Arab Spring Dreams scratches well beneath the surface of the societies concerned and probes into their psychological and social fabric. And in doing so, it proves that contrary to the claims of so many Arab politicians, not everything that is wrong with the region is someone else's fault.” ―The Telegraph, London
“A slim volume that successfully presents 'treasures, surprises, and rewards.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“The genesis of this lean essay anthology actually preceded the protests in Tunis and Cairo by more than five years…Many of those visions now appear prescient…Arab Spring Dreams is a powerful boost for young people in the Middle East who seek to lift the curtain of obscurantism from a region desperate for daylight.” ―Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs
“. . . Immediate and raw, the essays in this collection provide glimpses of daily life in countries where civil rights do not exist. Though the essay contest seemed like a quixotic gesture at its inception in 2005, it turns out to have been prescient.” ―Publishers Weekly
“You are now holding an exceptional book. It is particularly now when the eyes of the whole world are anxiously set on the Middle East that I am so eagerly looking forward to getting to know the stories which often do not make themselves heard among the brouhaha in the media. The essays collected here are a particularly important testimony and close to my heart as they are written by young courageous people who dare to dream of the things their parents never dreamt of. The book clearly demonstrates that no matter where we live or what religion we follow, certain fundamental values are universal.” ―Lech Walesa, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and the former President of Poland
“This is a wonderful book, and a stirring testament to the truth that the desire for freedom and democracy transcends the boundaries of nationalities, religion, ethnicity, race and gender.” ―Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran
“For too long, American readers have looked to unreliable intermediaries to learn what's on the minds of the Arab youth. But now two of the most promising young thinkers from the region have offered up a gem, Arab Spring Dreams, giving us access to their generation's most authentic voices. To further their worthy plight for freedom, let us begin by lending an ear to their moving narratives.” ―Roya Hakakian, author of Journey from the Land of No and Assassins of the Turquoise Palace
“These are extraordinary and ordinary stories that underline an immutable truth: people want to live as free beings with dignity and equal rights. This collection of powerful testimonies is gripping, heart-breaking, and inspiring, offering the only antidote to the abyss of a society lacking rule of law: educated hope. These pages reveal that the struggle for civil rights in the Middle East is still ongoing--and will require allies the world over who recognize the universality of the struggle for human rights and the responsibility borne by those of us living in freedom.” ―Thor Halvorssen, President, Human Rights Foundation
“Arab Spring Dreams offers a compelling journey through the hearts, minds and souls of the generation that rocked the world's most repressive region. A first-hand account of the struggle for democracy in the Middle East, and a terrific roller coaster of burning frustrations and passionate aspirations. Buckle up!” ―Ahmed Benchemsi, Stanford University Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law
“Sohrab Ahmari and Nasser Weddady have assembled a chorus of new voices from across the Arab and Iranian Middle East, and all of the voices are young, and all of them are plaintive. Not everyone among the contributors to this anthology sees things the same way, but everyone is filled with yearning for a better future, and the yearning is touching. Will the better future come about? One thing is certain: a better future for the Middle East and for the larger world will come about only if people from different corners of the world do a better job of speaking to one another. Arab Spring Dreams contributes to that noble cause. And Ahmari and Weddady are writers to watch.” ―Paul Berman, author of Terror and Liberalism and The Flight of the Intellectuals
“This book is the essential portrait of a generation, an intimate explanation of the forces and frustrations that are shaping the Middle East. If you care about women's rights, religious freedom, or basic human dignity, then these are stories you need to hear.” ―Lara Setrakian, Foreign Correspondent, ABC News/Bloomberg
About the Author
Nasser Weddady is the Civil Rights Outreach Director of the American Islamic Congress. He helped design and administer the "Dream Deferred" essay contest, and has helped lead several high-profile campaigns to free imprisoned dissidents in North Africa, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and beyond.
Sohrab Ahmari is an Iranian-American journalist. His columns, feature stories, and reviews have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, The New Republic, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, among others.
Top customer reviews
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What I found most compelling about the book was the diversity of the featured essayists, which inevitably leads to a wide variety of experiences and tales that need telling. You have Arabs and Persians, Amazighs and black Africans, Sunnis and Baha'is, artists and writers, the faithful and the inquisitive. The muted voice of the gay Arab population is also well-represented in this anthology, and theirs are among the most poignant stories in the collection.
"Arab Spring Dreams" is, indeed, a brilliantly comprehensive sample of the complex social strata that comprise the Middle East and is a clear window into the minds of its contemporary youth.
Lawrence Alschuler, Professor of Political Science
The editor's introduction clarifies the objective as individual expression, in opposition to erstwhile Secy of State Clinton, who promoted the Arab Spring as an exercise in American style democracy. That approach has resulted in loss of security throughout the ME with extensions to America in the form of foreign contempt.
Perhaps best, each entry is preceded by a short but well written informative introductory section. There are entries from Egypt, Iran, Kuwait, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, with one each from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, UAR, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Mauritania. The editors don't explain why there are no entries from Libya. Each entry presents the objective of the writer along with a unique perspective of the Arab Spring movement.
I found it instructive to catalog a listing of entries and subject matter.
1.Egypt – repression of gays
2.Saudi Arabia – welfare state trade-off of security for subsistence
3.Kuwait – government bureaucratic corruption
4.Algeria – physical repression by FIS security police
5.Morocco – homelessness
6.Egypt – polling discrepancies
7.Egypt – polling problems creating difficulties
8.Yemen – excessive punishment for perceived blasphemy
9.Iran – limits on restrictive education
10.Egypt – civil rights (human rights) and police repression
11.Morocco – women's clothing restrictions
12.Egypt – perilous position of Egyptian artists
13.Sudan – repression of blacks, including slavery
14.Iran – second class status of women
15.Egypt – discrimination against women, particularly writers
16.Morocco – repressive social mores, unequal status of women
17.Tunisia – envy of a female cat that could travel alone
18.Jordan – honor murders of female relatives
19.Iraqi in UAR – immigration, bribery, corruption
20.Mauritania – need for anonymity in blog about genital mutilation and forced marriage
21.Yemen – ultra dependence of females on male relatives and teachers
22.Morocco – girls are humiliated
23.Egypt - “Mr. Society” severely restricts women
24.Saudi Arabia – restrictions under Wahhabi domination of education
25.Egypt – judicial repression of perceived apostasy
26.Iran – difficult to be a Sunni in Iran
27.Egypt – can't be friends with non-conformists
28.Yemen – financial support enables control of human rights
29.Egypt – Sharia law is difficult to circumvent, especially for women in marriage
30.Lebanon -manipulation of thought by education system
31.Iraq – story of brutal suppression under Saddam, then hinting that he would be welcome back for the security he provided
32.Iran – another advocate of free speech who needs to stay anonymous
33.Syria – loss of human rights in Syria (2004) Has the writer managed to survive the war?
34.Saudi Arabia – gender apartheid
35.Egypt– human rights improving (2013). Now it's traffic to complain about.
36.Egypt – anonymous author now able to identify herself
The writers are all young, with the stated objective of speaking to young Americans, vaguely a form of discrimination. There's the dream, probably forlorn, of a liberal awakening in the ME. The book is limited to “dreams,” omitting any political effects of the Arab Spring. Also missing is any mention of education preaching hatred of the West or of any tolerance of minority religions. I wonder how many expressions of Arab nationalism or Islamic ascendancy were rejected for this selection. Kudos for a thought provoking compilation, but there's a lot missing. Is there a hidden agenda here?
At times it was possibly a bit naively optimistic.
I will give it four stars as I did enjoy it and I did quite like its optimism and warm heartedness.