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Will the Virus Trigger a Second Arab Spring?

On a recent visit to Libya, I met a family living in an improvised shelter in a displaced persons camp east of Tripoli. One of the tens of thousands of Libyan families uprooted by war, the family of seven was living in a room barely 20 paces long and half as wide. A clothesline, a pile of mattresses, a hot plate and the stench of body odor filled the room. Outside, they faced a shortage of potable water and abusive taunts from locals.

The spread of the novel coronavirus will have a devastating effect on the Middle East’s communities of refugees and migrants. The pandemic may also bring into focus the legitimacy and governance deficit of increasingly troubled Middle Eastern regimes.

A swift public health and economic response could strengthen authoritarian rule by these regimes, but not indefinitely. A critical lesson of the 2011 Arab uprisings and the protests that erupted last year is that without more inclusive governance, less corruption and greater economic equity, technocratic and coercive tools are only stopgap measures. The demands for citizen buy-in are likely to grow in the Middle East in the pandemic’s aftermath.

The pandemic’s most immediate and ruinous impact will be felt in the region’s active civil wars: Libya, Yemen and Syria.

Read entire article at The New York Times