Occupy: the view from Tehran I

The article below was written in late 2013 by Arash Beidollahkhani, a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Tehran. It was originally submitted to the journal I co-edit, New Middle Eastern Studies (NMES), and is included here on Arcade with the permission of the author.

I wanted to give Beidollahkhani's paper this forum because it provides an important corrective to the issues I discussed in both a previous Arcade blog ("Turkey is Occupy not Spring"), and a recent short talk I gave at Stanford's Abbasi Program ("Summer of 2013: A Focus on Egypt and Turkey"). I had in both places downplayed the connections between the Occupy protests, the Arab Spring, and the protests in Brazil and elsewhere, while also remarking on the dangers of eliding the dynamics between each individual discourse; "Occupy" connects the protesting Turkish/Brazilian other to ourselves, whereas "Arab Spring" pushes Turkey and Brazil into a non-white liminal space of failed and failing states. Beidollahkhani, writing from Tehran, sees things very differently. He wants to connect all the protests, and he argues that they are all characterized by youth and bravery.

I have pasted the article Beidollahkhani submitted to NMES here in its entirety, unedited. I have not made any changes because the purpose of this re-publishing process is to give a different perspective virtual (!) presence in the Arcade space; my purpose is not to make Beidollahkhani's English meet the standards usually required in this space, or more accurately - to make his English sound like ours. In doing so, I am guided by a recent Arcade post by Irakli Zurab Kakabadze. Kakabadze wrote, when sharing the words of Georgian writer and critic Naira Gelashvili, "I will purposefully not change a word in the Georgian-English version of the address of one of the countries of Global South—this is the language—do we want to call it anti-colonial, or anti-modern, or alter-modern, it is for a reader to decide. This is the voice as it is. It is not edited in any PR or GR company—this is what it says".

Beidollahkhani's own blog, in Persian and English, can be found at:, and he can be reached at Arash_khani<at>

The Middle East Revolutions: courageous uprising of the youth against the current and entrance into the area of public policy

Arash Beidollahkhani*


Most of Analysts have considered the public movements of 2011 and 2012 in Middle East are originated from political and economical factors and then they have ignored the role of humanistic Variable and foundation of identity. Then, the critical point or the important factor in the public movements of the last two years has been the participation of some revolutionary youth of these countries in the front line of these movements. The commencement of these protests was ignited by the self-burning of a Tunisian youth. By having a close look to the events we come across this fact that the common and linking factor of these movements has been the maximum participation of youth as the main actors and leaders as the main demands of these movements. Thus, the public movements of 2011 in the Arab world can be considered the outcome of the youth courageous and awareness and their anew presence in the arena of public policy. This paper with examination of the Arab world movements as the rebel of courageous youth, the growth and progress of public spheres in civil society such as the media and social network has been the fundamental factor of youth awareness and their anew entrance to the spheres of public policies and their share wanting for life in the modern life. This is worth mentioning that that the media and the press have played the role of providing a political field for the youth toward the critique of policy.

Keywords: Middle East, Youth, Policy, against the current


Nowadays, under the conditions in which the main areas of political act have experienced inactivity and there is a low possibility for individuals to become directly involved in policy and organizing the social life, the urban society itself resorts to creating new public spheres under the politically stagnant conditions and social oppression. Today, in the urban society, a concept that has attracted the public attention more than anything else is the public spheres as suggested by Jurgen Habermas.[1]

The existing tyrannical governments in developing countries and their oppression of the urban society has led to the growth of social movements in public spheres including social networks. These public spheres in developing countries lead to creativity and the rise of courageous people in the movements headed by protest movements crossing the official borders and not being bound by governmental structures.[2] This has enabled them to move against the current using different areas of the public spheres. In a world in which everything has become commercialized and bravery has become simply part of financial management due to conservativeness of the capitalist and commercial systems, the public spheres has provided open and free spaces for the people to show bravery. Overall, the following characteristics can be mentioned for the new public spheres which are active in political areas and fights against the governments:

These spheres are like a new field for the people to gather in. Class differences and distinctions have no place in them. All the people are free and are encouraged to be present there. Politics appears in the mass form. The middle-class youth are more successful due to their higher cultural competency and awareness and self-regulation; therefore, they take over leadership of the mass very fast and readily. Policy remains at the mass level. The main purpose and goal is to change the overall structure of the policies by taking power back from those who are believed to have usurped it. They mainly demand is the establishment of democracy and promotion of urban and political freedom. These spheres also lead to the rise of bravery individual and public bravery movements against the main political current.[3]

The 2011 revolutions in the Middle East area and Northern Africa which are referred to as Arabian Spring were also originated by the ordinary people and from these public spheres. Arabian Spring was a set of public protests in the Middle East countries and Northern Africa which started at the end of 2010 and is still continuing. However, the type, method and result of these protests are different in the countries with the same language and the neighboring countries. But despite the differences, they have a lot in common; the most important commonality is their reliance on modern media and social networks. In addition, economic problems and demands had also an important role in starting these movements and revolutions.[4]

In all these revolutions, there was one important commonality: the strong presence of the youth in the front line of these protests.[5] The protests were first started in Tunisia by self-immolation of a young educated itinerant person and was spread in other countries as well. In Tunisia, a young man called Bu Azizi who self-immolated himself in city hall in protest against the difficult life conditions and the inhumane treatment of the police became the symbol of generational revolt which would groove no humiliation, poverty, and suppression.[6] Tunisian youths demonstrated against a corrupted and inefficient government by simple words and demands. They made Bin Ali quit power and open the path to future developments. In Egypt, the protest movement originated by the youth gained a global and local reputation. Altahrir Square in Cairo became the scene of gathering for the unhappy generation. Using creativity and without resorting to using the known strategies and to step up its demands, this generation used the virtual world and city as a symbol of protest against lack of democracy and humiliation of the civilians.[7]

After this event, the big turn-out of all the youth from different political groups and the use of modern media and social networks directed the protest movements towards changing the ruling systems.

Official structures and social suppression; uprising of the courageous youths against the current

In fact, 2011 is undoubtedly the time of the youth’s return to policy and society on the four angles of the world. The youth who seemed to have lost their role in forming protest movements after the 1960s, were once more at the center of new emerging movements in 2011 in many countries. Unlike the previous movements, the direction of these social movements was from public spheres of the southern countries (the Middle East and North of Africa) towards northern countries. These movements have some characteristics that distinguish them from the previous social movements in the history.[8] Many of the new social movements at the center of which are the youth are some novel forms of protest which can open up the horizon for the human society in the 21st century.

What gained reputation about the Arabian Spring more than any other aspects of it is all the young people in the tyrannical countries of the Middle East. In Tunisia, Egypt and some other Arabian countries the people spontaneously and via Internet social networks and demonstration on the streets formed comprehensive social movements revolutionizing the conditions in these suppressed countries.[9]

In a rather short time, protest movements in Tunisia and Egypt managed to put aside the closed and tyrannical governments who had been able to maintain their undemocratic power via suppression.[10]

In these countries, the youth could display bravery through rioting against the official structures, what others had not been able to do. They rose against the current and the government by finding the causes of the recent problems such as poverty, tyranny, etc.

The domain of these protests by the youth in the Middle East countries was extended to Western countries as well and protests such as the Wall Street movement and The Spanish Indignados movement are referred to as the movements that have been formed inspired by the Middle East youths. In Spain, a movement called M 15 (15 of May, 2011, the starting date of the movement) which started in Madrid and was extended to other cities in Spain demanded attention to the critical conditions of the unemployed and low-income young people.[11] The protest movements of the Spanish Indignados were against the negative effects of the current economical disaster on the young people’s lives. In America, the Wall Street movement which started on 17 of September in 2011 was going to speak and protest on behalf of those who are poor and unemployed in rich Northern countries and are financially under pressure, deprived of educational facilities and services and feel the heavy load of the current disaster on their shoulders. The youths protested against the financial performance and the problems caused by it and the negative effects of the economical disaster and economical anti-welfare policies on the lives of the middle-class and poor families. The protest movement of the young people in advanced countries against injustice in these capitalist societies especially in critical conditions afflicting the economy of the developed countries in the North should be understood and considered deeply.

These young people have one thing in common in that the official and legal structures could not solve their problems and they had to express themselves using social spheres such as social networks and protest locations and symbolic protest movements and demonstrate an exceptional bravery and generated a movement against the official structures with their demands being exactly opposite direction of the ruling official government.[12] All the youths, in the Middle East, Europe or America displayed bravery to simply say that they want to live a life of justice in this world and not to be humiliated.

Part II of this article will be published in a subsequent installment.

* Ph.D. Student Political Science, Faculty law and Political Science, University of Tehran, Iran.

[1] Jurgen Habermas, The Public Sphere: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2005): 53-4

[2] John. R, Ehrenberg, Civil Society: The Critical History of an Idea (NYU Press, 1999)

[3] Mohammad Mahmodian, Midan Besan sahneye Konesh siaasi (Persian Paper, 2012) linked available at:

[4] Michelle Pace and Francesco Cavatorta, "The Arab Uprisings in Theoretical Perspective: An Introduction," Mediterranean Politics 17 (2012): 126-8

[5] Rama Halaseh, Civil Society, Youth and the Arab Spring, in Change and Opportunities in the Emerging Mediterranean, ed. Stephen Calleya and Monika Wohlfeld (Malta University press, 2012): 254-273

[6] Mohammed Nuruzzaman, "Human Security and the Arab Spring," Strategic Analysis 37 (2013): 52–3

[7] For more information see: M. Abdelrahman, "A hierarchy of struggles? The economic and the political in Egypt's revolution," Review of African Political Economy 134 (2012): 614–628.

[8] Mohammad Mahmodian, Midan Besan sahneye Konesh siaasi (Persian Paper, 2012)

[9] For more information see: Alexander Kazamias , The ‘Anger Revolutions’ in the Middle East: an answer to decades of failed reform, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies 13 (2011): 146-148.

[10] For more information see: Arash Beidollah khani , Role of Islamic Aboriginal Identity in the New Islamic Movements in Arab World, (Persian Paper) Intercultural Studies Quarterly 18( spring 2012) Intercultural Studies Research Institute:59-88.

[11] For more information see: Year 2011;return of Youth with new social movements(Persian Paper 2012) , linked available at: _world_arab_spring_ youth _movements_democracy_civil_rights_2011/24436376.html.

[12] Tobias Thiel, "After the Arab Spring: power shift in the Middle East?: Yemen’s Arab Spring: from youth revolution to fragile political transition." IDEAS reports - special reports, Kitchen, Nicholas (ed.) SR011. LSE IDEAS (London School of Economics and Political Science2012).

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