A debate at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas asks What next for the Arab Spring?

"The idea that the Middle East's democrats will be grateful to the West is misguided; old suspicions remain."

Glen Rangwala

Western hopes that the Middle East's new democrats will be grateful for their support in ousting dictatorial regimes is misguided, a leading researcher will tell a debate on the aftermath of the first wave of the Arab Spring.

Glen Rangwala, lecturer in the Department of Politics at the University of Cambridge, will be speaking at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas debate Where Next for the Arab Spring? on 25th October.

He says: "Old suspicions in the region of Western powers have not ended with the Arab Awakening - this was seen most obviously in the 'video riots' last month. Many politicians here and in the US assume that because Western governments are helping with democratic transitions or participated in the ousting old rulers, this will bring closer relations between the West and the Middle East. That is wrong: democrats throughout the Arab world saw the West as supporting the old autocrats until the very last moment, and even then remaining only lukewarm to the prospect of democratic revolution. The idea that the Middle East's democrats will be grateful to the West is misguided; old suspicions remain."

Rangwala will argue that despite the fact that many of the countries that experienced popular revolution, particularly Egypt and Tunisia, are currently going through large-scale economic change and seeking external investment this will not necessarily bring closer relationships with outside powers. In fact, economic problems mean many are seeing new waves of migration to Europe, and the rise of nationalist and leftwing parties that challenge more vocally than the Islamists the alliances with Western countries.

He will also touch on Western suspicions about popular political forces in the Arab world, particularly the Islamic parties, even when they are not totally justifiable. He says: "The Arab Awakening has the potential to perpetuate, even deepen, the awkward relations between the Arab world and the West, even as their political systems come to resemble one another all the more."

Also taking part in the debate, which will be chaired by Ed Kessler, Executive Director of the Woolf Institute, is Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. He will argue that the Arab Spring promises much that will prove difficult to realise.

He says: "Continuing resistance from autocracies, high expectations of reform and deep societal divisions all make the  process fraught. If the Arab Awakening does succeed it will also serve to marginalise radical Islamists.  If it fails their power will be renewed."

Other speakers include writer and commentator Nesrine Malik, who will talk about the impact on women of the Arab Spring, and Dr Toby  Matthiesen, Abdullah al-Mubarak Research Fellow in Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He will be talking about how the Arab Spring protests affected the Gulf states, particularly Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and how these states responded to protests both at home and in the wider Arab world.

The debate is one of many at this year's Festival of Ideas, a 12-day celebration of the arts, humanities and social sciences.

The biggest free festival of its type in the UK, it takes place from October 24-November 4, and features more than 170 mostly free events in and around Cambridge.

With a theme of ‘Dreams and Nightmares’, this year’s festival features talks and presentations from a range of leading academics, journalists and thinkers, including renowned BBC correspondent Kate Adie, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Radio 4 Controller Gwyneth Williams and Executive Editor of The Economist Daniel Franklin.

As well as discussions and debates on some of the biggest issues facing mankind, this year’s Festival of Ideas includes opera at the Fitzwilliam Museum, real ghost stories at the Scott Polar Research Institute and ‘Just a Minnow’ at the Zoology Museum.

It will also feature dozens of events and activities for children, including a performance by children’s poet Benjamin Zephaniah and a talk by Charlie and Lola creator Lauren Child, as well as live graffiti demonstrations, storytelling and print workshops.

The Festival of Ideas is supported by Cambridge University Press, Arts Council England, Barclays, Cambridge City Council, Anglia Ruskin University, ESRC Festival of Social Science, Irwin and Joan Jacobs, Heffers and Darwin Anniversary Festival.

*Where next for the Arab Spring? takes place at the McCrum Lecture Theatre in Bene't Street on 25th October from 7.30-9pm. More information: www.cam.ac.uk/festivalofideas/

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