The Arab Spring came under scrutiny Monday night as 100 students, faculty and community members gathered in Linsly-Chittenden Hall to hear a prince of Morocco speak about developments in the Middle East.
At the talk, which the Arab Students’ Association has been working for over a yearto organize, Prince Moulay Hicham ben Abdallah el-Alaoui discussed the causes of the Arab Spring and his predictions for nations that have experienced revolutions in recent months. After the talk, he took questions from audience members, many of whom were eager to question his views.
Ben Abdallah el-Alaoui said outcomes of the Arab Spring will include successes, failures and perceived successes in which power will actually fall back into the hands of the regimes that were initially overthrown.
“Tunisia seems like it’s in the most promising phase for democracy,” he said, adding that Egypt is in a state of incomplete transition, while Libya faces the greatestchallenges in democratizationbecause of the previous regime’s totalitarianism.
Though many have emphasized the importance of social technology like Facebook and Twitter in enabling people to mobilize during the Arab Spring, ben Abdallah el-Alaoui said the role of social technology should not be exaggerated. Many regimes have had the power to blackout “liberation technology,” he said. The true power behind the uprisingslies inthe capacity of citizens to mobilize onthe ground, he added.
The largest demographic leading the protests and rebellions over the last year has been the “new young generation,” ben Abdallah el-Alaoui said, which is motivated by disillusionmentwithregimesthat have tried to overstay their welcome.
He added that all monarchies in the Middle East and North Africa will eventually face calls fordemocratic change, though they may be able to buy time before this happenswith monetary incentives or cultural symbolism.
During the question-and-answer period, a member of the audience compared the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to those in the Arab Spring — a comparisonben Abdallah el-Alaouirejected as invalid because the regime changes in those countries did not come from“within the fabrics of society” but rather from external interventions.
“[Iraq and Afghanistan] are a totally different animal,” he said. “We need to be conscious of outside intervention. With outside intervention you lose legitimacy in the eyes of the people.”
Three audience members said they wishedben Abdallah el-Alaouihad discussed Morocco’s current political state more during the talk.
Khadija El-Hazimy, a staff member at Sterling Memorial Library who lived in Morocco until the age of 13, said she identifiedwith ben Abdallah el-Alaoui’s perspective.Still, she said he should have talked more about current issues in Morrocco, such as new youth organizations.
Ben Abdallah el-Alaoui attended Princeton for his undergraduate years and Stanford for graduate school.