The Arab Revolution rendered in intimate vignettes from the young people organizing, demonstrating and suffering for their yearning for freedom.
Born in countries experiencing revolutionary turmoil from Algeria to Yemen, many of these Arab-language journalists and writers were forced out of their respective countries by political oppression in order to pursue educational opportunities elsewhere. Editors Al-Zubaidi, Cassel and Roderick have effectively elicited the raw emotion from these voices—e.g., journalist Yasmine El Rashidi, who left her native Cairo at age 19 in 1997 for the dazzle of America, then was gradually pulled back in 2008, despite the inertia that had paralyzed the Egyptians for so long, by the sense of an unfolding, the “possibility of a romance.” In Tunisia, where the revolution dawned, Malek Sghiri had been expelled from university for his political activism against the government of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Sghiri’s father had been imprisoned years before, and as unrest began to gather in Sidi Bouzid in the wake of Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation, Sghiri and his friends felt themselves take revolutionary “fire,” united by a sense of comradeship and purpose that carried them through demonstrations, imprisonment and beatings, and into freedom. Self-conscious about her accent, Saudi-born filmmaker Safa Al Ahmad writes poignantly about the oppression toward women in her country and its shadowy “interests” that are “beyond the reach of the average citizen.” Reading these accounts, which also emerge from Bahrain, Algeria and Libya, one gets the sense that only the first steps have been boldly taken. Unfortunately, the essays mostly conclude by 2011, while efforts to endure fear and division enforced by the governments, for example by President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, result in ongoing violence.
While there have been numerous good works chronicling the revolution, this adds an emotional, personal layer to the myriad voices.