As Tunisia descends into dictatorship once again following its experiment with democracy, the Arab Spring which started in Tunis in 2010 when Mohamed Bouazizi burnt himself, is now closing its chapter with a sad ending. What started as a revolutionary wave for democracy from Tunisia that spread to all corners of the Arab world ended in a tragic catastrophe. Ironically, of all the products of the Arab Spring, only Libyan democracy stands still, disproving the fake conspiracy theories peddled by Russian and Chinese propaganda that the West ruined Libya. Now, Tunisia closes the curtain which it had previously opened.
And once again the tragic state of the Arab lands takes a backseat in our concerns and this leads their fascistic dictators to have a greater sway to oppress and kill their own people. Israel too feels confident it can increase its bullying and oppression of Palestinians as it moves towards an illiberal and right-wing authoritarian state. Even Bashar Al-Assad is beginning to be legitimised once again after he butchered his own people and destroyed his own country simply so as to remain in power.
Personally, I find it greatly important to amplify Arab voices, especially today that the ugly head of dictatorship and brutality looms once again over the Arab lands. One of these voices is Walid Nabhan, with his impeccable novel, Exodus of the storks and having been originally published in Maltese, before the Arab Spring, Exodus of the storks recounted a lot of the misery, dysfunction and oppression that afflicted the Arab world that led to the tumultuous revolutions later. It is written with a sardonic, satirical and cynical bent with a strong political sense that says, “Things look so bad that only a revolution could change anything”, and in fact, the revolution did arrive but the afflictions remained as well. Today, Walid Nabhan’s lament becomes ever more relevant once again, especially with relevance to what is going on in Palestine, today. Walid writes,
“This writing is a prejudiced testament of a man who was born under the tent of an agency of the So-Called United Nations, a stone’s throw from his homeland. And then he grew up, and Palestine just stayed there, across the way, like a magic doll in a shop window guarded by soldiers on horseback.”
The Palestinians have constantly been negated the right to their own nation, while Arabs elsewhere are negated their nation too as it is replaced by brutal monarchies that displace anyone against them. Dictatorship and oppression are common political factors throughout the Arab world and we should let these dictators know that foreigners are watching. It is with this beaten spirit that Walid Nabhan’s novel watches the Arab world, just like Handala, the popular character by the Palestinian cartoonist and artist Naiji al-Ali. Handala is one of Walid Nabhan’s greatest influences as he tries to write what Handala is seeing. And Handala is seeing the Arab world burn in front of his own eyes as he stands there, anonymous, unimportant and irrelevant to the ongoing events, barefoot, beaten down and tattered.
If you would like to meet Walid Nabhan, come join us on April 20th at Freedom Bookshop, 84b Whitechapel High Street London E1 7QX United Kingdom at 19.00HRs.