The protests reveal a widespread disaffection with all existing political factions. New slogans calling for the “death” of “the dictator” and for a “referendum” alternated with those in favor of the Pahlavi monarchist regime that ruled Iran before the 1979 revolution. This public enunciation of an all-or-nothing approach to political change in Iran is an unexpected development, and is indicative of a new level of rejectionist “blue” alienation, especially among Iranian youth.
An examination of women’s struggles to gain the right to vote in Kuwait, and ongoing efforts to promote women’s football in Qatar, provide useful in-depth case studies. They cannot predict the future course of change in Saudi Arabia, but they illustrate the need for ongoing political engagement and social activism to secure gains, and the limitations of state-led efforts to remake isolated aspects of Gulf societies while failing to reckon with the complex web of social regulations that underpin present gender divides.
One need not cast one’s mind too far back to see that both the Egyptian government and the Coptic Orthodox Church are worried more about the December 11 church bombing’s destabilizing potential than about the national unity they spoke of during the state-run funeral.