Culture TEDx

6 talks for thinking about the Arab Spring

Zahra-LanghiTwo years ago, waves of revolution swept through the Middle East. On February 17, 2011 — two months after civil resistance began in Tunisia and less than a month after the people of Egypt rose up in Tahrir Square — revolt began in Libya to oust dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Zahra' Langhi: Why Libya's revolution didn't work -- and what might Zahra' Langhi: Why Libya's revolution didn't work -- and what might

Activist Zahra’ Langhi was part of the “day of rage” that eventually led to Gaddafi’s toppling. But the cost was high — a six month war in which almost 50,000 people lost their lives. In today’s powerful talk, Langhi turns her eye to the incredible task of rebuilding the country.

“Gaddafi left behind a heavy burden — a legacy of tyranny and corruption. For four decades, Gaddafi’s tyrannical regime destroyed the infrastructure, as well as the culture and moral fabric, of Libyan society,” says Langhi. “I was keen — along with many other women — to rebuild Libyan civil society, calling for an inclusive and just transition to democracy.”

To that end, Langhi co-founded the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace (LWPP), a group lobbying for women to be included as the Libyan government was reformed. In this talk, Langhi explains the “zipper list,” an initiative the group championed which called for political parties to alternate male and female candidates, weaving both genders onto their ballots. At first, this worked remarkably well.

“However, bit by bit, the euphoria of the elections — and of the revolution as a whole — was fading out, for every day we were waking up to the news of violence,” says Langhi. “Our society, shaped by a revolutionary mindset, became more polarized and driven away from the ideas and principles — freedom, dignity, social justice — that we first held. Intolerance, exclusion and revenge became the post-math of the revolution.”

Today, Langhi questions whether “rage” was the right path out of dictatorship. In this talk, she posits that perhaps what her country needed more than quantitative representation of women in government was the qualitative representation of traditionally feminine values like compassion, mercy and consensus building. To hear Langhi’s important thoughts on what needs to happen after a revolution, watch her talk.

Here, more TED Talks about revolution in the Middle East.

Wael Ghonim: Inside the Egyptian revolution Wael Ghonim: Inside the Egyptian revolution Wael Ghonim: Inside the Egyptian revolution
Google executive Wael Ghonim helped galvanize Egypt’s revolution by creating a Facebook page memorializing a man who was tortured by Mubarak’s regime. Still, he says, in the Egyptian revolution, no one was a hero — because everyone was a hero. In this talk from TEDxCairo, Wael Ghonim tells the story of the first two months of the revolution — a story we now know is still in progress.
Bahia Shehab: A thousand times no Bahia Shehab: A thousand times no Bahia Shehab: A thousand times no
In Arabic, there is a phrase: “No, and a thousand times no.”  As revolution spread through Egypt, art historian Bahia Shehab took up her stencil and proclaimed “a thousand times no” to dictators, to military rule, to violence against women. In this brave talk from TEDGlobal 2012, Shehab shares her previously anonymous work with the world.
Srdja Popovic: How to topple a dictator Srdja Popovic: How to topple a dictator Srdja Popovic: How to topple a dictator
Why was 2011 such a pivotal year for people-powered revolutions? In this talk from TEDxKrakow, Srdja Popovic — himself a part of the movement that toppled Milosevic in 2000 — looks at why these revolutions gained so much footing. He outlines the skills and tactics needed to oust a dictator. Most surprising: a sense of humor.
Wadah Khanfar: A historic moment in the Arab world Wadah Khanfar: A historic moment in the Arab world Wadah Khanfar: A historic moment in the Arab world
The former head of Al Jazeera, Wadah Khanfar has a unique perspective on the Arab Spring. “Change was imposed on us and people rejected that because they thought it was alien to the culture,” he says in this Talk from TED2011.  “Always, we believed, change should spring from within.” Here, Khanfar speaks with great optimism about revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and beyond.
Dalia Mogahed: The attitudes that sparked Arab Spring Dalia Mogahed: The attitudes that sparked Arab Spring Dalia Mogahed: The attitudes that sparked the Arab Spring
It’s the opposite of what one would expect: as Egypt grew in wealth, its people’s satisfaction plummeted. This was what Dalia Mogahed, the director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, saw even before the Arab Spring. In this talk from TEDxSummit, she shares some of the grievances she saw in survey data — which sprung not out of distrust of the West, but admiration.