Modern technology has won widespread praise for being a driving force behind the current Arab popular uprisings taking place in our region. Ever since Google decided to provide the demonstrators in Egypt with a special service that allowed them to dial a phone number and leave a voicemail that would then be uploaded on twitter [during the period when the internet was blocked in Egypt], Google and indeed other communication technology companies have been a focus of the discussion. Indeed the US in particular has been boasting of its contribution to the Arab youth revolutions.
The Arab Youth uprisings, termed by some as the “Google revolution”, shows that the US has influenced these revolutions; even if this is only technologically-speaking, although this [US influence on Arab uprisings] is something that these authoritarian regimes have tried to play up. These authoritarian regimes continue to try to portray everything that is happening in our region as being part of a western conspiracy, with mobile phones and laptops being surreptitiously distributed to our citizens as part of a Washington conspiracy to provide demonstrators with technological “weapons” to topple the Arab regimes that reject US hegemony.
Today, some US newspapers and media outlets are leaking reports about the Obama administration financing a clandestine “shadow” internet and phone system that such authoritarian regimes cannot block or monitor, so that political dissidents and opposition figures can circumvent government censorship.
The leaked information also suggests that the US effort would aim to support the protest movement in Iran, Syria, Libya and all Arab states where popular uprisings are taking place and where communication tools, particularly the internet, are intentionally disrupted and blocked by the authorities.
Although the technological tools that are being used by the demonstrators who have taken to the streets in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Libya, and Bahrain are primarily American, however these same uprisings have not been on America’s diplomatic agenda, particularly as Washington had close relations with the regimes being revolted against. However the major dilemma being faced by the demonstrators in several Arab countries is that they lack a focal point, these demonstrations are a revolution without a leader.
The Arab Spring was inspired by weapons that cannot easily be disarmed, nor can they be attributed to any one single person or group, not even those who created these weapons [i.e. technology]. Those demonstrators who have taken to the streets in Syria, for example, are aware that they could be killed or arrested; nevertheless they continue to demonstrate and record their uprising. Indeed, the Syrian regime continues to suppress the demonstrations today, whilst not long ago US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton described Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as being a “reformer.”
These demonstrators may be being provided with tools to communicate by the outside world, recording and broadcasting the violence they are being subject to, however this is not enough for anybody to attribute their revolutions to others. The Western culture might have provided such tools to these demonstrators, yet their feelings of frustration and anger at the despotism and corruption of the regimes they are protesting against solely belongs to them.
These despotic regimes, along with their supporters, will be eagerly anticipating the arrival of such new technology, for they will claim that anybody who uses this is taking part in a Western backed conspiracy!
However this claim will by no means curb the revolutionaries’ desperate desire to protect the significance of their revolution, and determine its nature and importance.
These demonstrators have raised their voices to allow their beliefs and convictions to be heard by the entire world; they alone have the right to determine the future of these uprisings and revolutions.