A year to the day, Mohamed – Basboosa – Bouazizi’s self-immolation in the sleepy Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid kicked off a year of global revolt, the convulsions have spread further than Basboosa could ever have been imagined. The Arab Spring was born. A simple street seller, Basboosa had his vegetable cart confiscated by local officials and in protest set himself on fire. His actions ignited a string of anti-government demonstrations that have transformed the Arab world.
Within days of Basboosa‘s tragic protest, thousands of Tunisians lined the streets with a new found instant courage, demanding an end to the 23-year dictatorship of president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
The protests sparked a chain of events, and despite an offer to step down at the end of his term along with sweeping concessions, the unrest persisted. The demonstrations continued and by mid-January Ben Ali fled the country. A few days later protests erupted in nearby Egypt.
In Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and elsewhere, massive crowds turned out to complain of the poverty and repression they had endured for 30 years under Hosni Mubarak. Eighteen days later they too were celebrating the demise of a dictator – with Mubarak gone and an interim military regime in its place. Very soon the uprisings had spread across the Arab world – to Libya, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain and Syria – with mixed results.
Libya’s dictator Moamar Gaddafi was killed, but not before a bloody civil war that has left tens of thousands of Libyans dead.
In Yemen, president Ali Abdullah Saleh has finally signed a deal to hand power to his deputy, with presidential elections planned in February. But protests continue against an amnesty that would spare him from prosecution.
In Bahrain the Sunni-led regime has maintained power despite months of unrest that killed around 30 people, although King Hamad has vowed sweeping reforms.
The biggest unknown is still Syria where nine months of anti-government protest are slowly giving way to armed conflict between security forces and defected soldiers who have joined the opposition. But president Bashar al-Assad earlier this month denied any responsibility for his government’s actions and still refuses to step down.
In Egypt, voters still have another round of elections to install a new democratic government, with early signs that Islamist parties will take the biggest share of power.
And a year after Mohamad Bouazizi took his fateful stand, only Tunisia has so far made the transition to democracy.
Voters there elected a new government in October, dominated by moderate Islamist party, in a ballot most observers say was largely free and fair.
The turmoil started by Basboosa has spread to each corner of the globe, The Occupy Movement, Chinese Land Dissidents and most recently, civil unrest in Russia’s post election landscape . . .
12 months on, and the Arab Spring is still ongoing . . .
UPDATE: Tunisia. December 18,2011. Thousands of Tunisians rallied on Saturday to commemorate a young fruit seller’s desperate gesture a year ago which unleashed the pioneering revolution of the Arab Spring.
Newly-elected president Moncef Marzouki joined the crowds in the town of Sidi Bouzid, where Mohamed Bouazizi’s altercation with a policewoman and his subsequent self-immolation set off a wave of protests that toppled long-standing dictators and dramatically changed the Arab world.
“Thank you to this land, which has been marginalised for centuries, for bringing dignity to the entire Tunisian people,” said Mr Marzouki, who was sworn in as president this week after the country’s first post-revolution election.
“Our role is to bring back the joy of living which had been stolen by despots,” he said.
From daybreak on Saturday, Tunisians swarmed into Sidi Bouzid, where the streets were decked with Tunisian flags, pictures of “victims of the revolution” and a giant photograph of Mr Bouazizi.
“I look around me and see many young people in the crowd who braved the bullets of Ben Ali’s police last year to defend the values of freedom and dignity,” human rights activist Sabrine Ammari said.
A monument representing Mr Bouazizi’s street stall surrounded by wheelchairs symbolising ousted Arab dictators was unveiled to applause, while union leaders, rights activists and members of the new constituent assembly took to the microphone.
Ben Ali Ousted: The popular uprisings that spread from Tunisia across the Arab world in 2011 led to the ouster of Ben Ali as well as the leaders of Egypt, Libya and Yemen, while deadly anti-regime protests continue to convulse Syria.
Ben Ali was ousted on January 14 and went into exile in Saudi Arabia but is the subject of 18 trials in Tunisia on a string of charges including murder and destabilising the state, embezzlement, fraud and abuse of power. He has already been sentenced to 66 years in prison in total, and also has an international warrant out on his head.
Tunisia’s newly-elected constituent assembly – dominated by the moderate Islamists of Ennahda – on Monday elected former opposition leader Mr Marzouki as president. Prime minister-designate Hamadi Jebali, Ennahda’s number two is preparing to form a government which faces the challenge of creating jobs and developing the long-neglected interior regions of the country.
In Sidi Bouzid, demonstrators voiced their pride at Tunisia’s pioneering role in the Arab Spring but also their frustration that the promise of the revolution has yet to bear fruit.
“Nothing has been achieved yet. No jobs have been created and there has been no social or economic development,” unemployed 28-year-old Moncef Dridi said.
“The young people who understood Bouazizi’s gesture are impatient.”
UPDATE: Cairo. 18 December 2011. Violence raged for a second day in Egypt as troops and police deployed in force after clashes with protesters against continued military rule left 10 people dead.
Smoke billowed over Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the iconic focus of the protest movement that overthrew veteran president Hosni Mubarak in February, after two nearby government offices caught fire, an AFP correspondent said on Saturday (local time). Demonstrators pelted security forces with rocks and petrol bombs as they fought running battles in the streets around the square and an adjacent bridge across the River Nile.
Prime minister Kamal al-Ganzuri raised tensions by accusing the protesters of being counter-revolutionaries and denying security forces had opened fire as they broke up a sit-in against his nomination last month outside the nearby cabinet office. Troops and police moved to retake control of the area around the office early on Saturday, erecting razor-wire barriers.
After several hours of calm, new clashes erupted, overshadowing the count in the second phase of the first general election since Mubarak’s ouster. Abul Ela Madi, the vice-president of a civilian advisory council to the military set up in November after days of anti-army protests, said 11 of the council’s 30 members had resigned in protest by Saturday.
“Eleven people, including me, have resigned,” said Mr Madi, who heads the moderate Islamist Wasat party.
“We made recommendations yesterday (Friday) but today we were surprised that not only were they not implemented, but there were further casualties.”
By the afternoon, soldiers withdrew to the cabinet offices and began constructing a wall of concrete blocks, witnesses said. Following the resignations, the ruling military council expressed its “regret for the events that took place (on Saturday),” in a statement published by the official MENA news agency.
It added it was implementing the advisory council’s recommendations to stop the clashes by building a wall, and it would compensate the families of the dead and treat the wounded. The ruling military council had earlier said it had come under attack at dawn and its soldiers were shot at, causing injuries, forcing the military “to stop those outlaws”, in a statement published by MENA.
UPDATE: Syria. 18 December, 2011. A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Syrian soldiers were given orders to “shoot to kill” in the crackdown against anti-government protesters.
HRW says it has interviewed dozens of soldiers who have defected from the Syrian army to join the opposition forces. They reported their commanders had told them to use all means necessary to stop the anti-government uprising that began in March. The organisation says defectors gave names, ranks and positions of those who gave orders to shoot to kill.
“Normally we’re supposed to save bullets, but this time he said, ‘use as many bullets as you want.’,” one soldier is quoted as saying.
A sniper in the city of Homs said his commanders ordered that a specific percentage of demonstrators should die.
“For 5,000 protesters, for example, the target would be 15 to 20 people,” he told HRW.
The organisation identified 74 commanders who had ordered, authorised or condoned killings, torture and unlawful arrests during the anti-government protests.
“These abuses constitute crimes against humanity,” it said, calling on the United Nations Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.
Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has said most of the thousands killed since March were government forces, and that armed insurgent gangs are behind the violence. The United Nations says 5,000 people have been killed in Mr Assad’s crackdown on protests inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world. Assad has denied any orders were issued to kill demonstrators and says gunmen have killed 1,100 of his forces.
Mr Assad, 46, whose family is from the minority Alawite sect that has held power in majority Sunni Muslim Syria for four decades, faces the most serious challenge to his 11-year rule. As evidence of the regime’s brutal tactics emerged, army deserters killed 27 soldiers in southern Syria, in some of the deadliest attacks on government forces since the start of an uprising nine months ago.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the clashes flared in Deraa, where protests against Mr Assad first erupted in March, and at a checkpoint east of the city where all 15 personnel manning it were killed. It did not say how they broke out, but the high casualties among security forces suggested coordinated strikes by the army rebels who have escalated attacks in recent weeks, raising the spectre of slippage towards civil war in Syria.
Army rebels have stepped up their campaign against security forces in the last month, ambushing military convoys, opening fire on an intelligence centre on the outskirts of Damascus and killing six pilots at an air base. Recent bloodshed has prompted the head of the main Syrian opposition group to call on the rebel forces’ Free Syrian Army to restrict operations against Assad’s military to defending protests.
“We want to avoid a civil war at all costs,” Burhan Ghalioun of the Syrian National Council said last week.
But his influence over the insurgents appears limited. One Free Syrian Army officer, speaking before Thursday’s clashes, said the rebels were justified in targeting Mr Assad’s forces and said Mr Ghalioun’s comments betrayed “a lack of knowledge of the military basis of this regime”.
“Anyone who bears arms against civilians, either army, security or shabbiha (pro-Assad militia), and kills civilians – we will respond and inflict whatever damage we can,” Major Maher Ismail al-Naimi said.
“In our view, that does not mean the revolution is abandoning its peaceful nature,” Major Naimi said, who deserted from the Republican Guards. He is now the spokesman for the Free Syrian Army but said he was giving his personal opinion.
UPDATE: Cairo, December 19, 2011. In the second straight day of clashes military leaders escalated the bloody crackdown on street protesters, chasing down and beating unarmed civilians, even while the prime minister was denying in a televised news conference that security forces were using any force.
There’s no reason to believe that there was anything special about this woman or even about the way that soldiers treated her. Members of the army, once beloved by Egypt’s activists for standing by their side during the revolution in February, have sent hundreds of men and women to the hospital over the last 48 hours and have killed at least 10, some with live ammunition fired into crowds.
There is something especially barbaric about this photo. The taboo of violence against unarmed women is unusually strong in the Arab world. But to watch three soldiers beat a defenseless woman with batons, their fists, and for one extraordinarily cruel soldier with his boot, is not even the most provocative part. For these men to pull her black abaya above her head and expose her midriff and chest is, for Egypt, a profound and sexually charged humiliation. And there is a certain awful irony of using that abaya, a symbol of modesty and piety, to cover her face and drag her on the street that, though probably not intentional, will not be lost on Egyptian eyes. Here, below, is part of the photo pulled out in detail.
The violence has cast a shadow over Egypt’s recent parliamentary elections and has fuelled a heated national debate about the military’s role during the transition to democratic rule. Many Egyptians fear the military will refuse to give up power. Some protesters brandished a newspaper showing military police beating one woman and ripping her clothes off down to her underwear.
UPDATE: Cairo, December 19, 2011. Outrage flared on again Sunday as furious protesters brandished the front page of a local paper showing military police clubbing a veiled woman after having ripped her clothes to reveal her bra.
In the picture, and in YouTube footage (below) of the incident, the woman is seen sprawled on the ground, with helmeted troops towering over her. One is seen kicking her, and later she appears unconscious, her stomach bared and her bra showing
WARNING! This video is difficult to watch! It contains Graphic Violence: She takes so many blows to her head, and one man stomps on her chest so forcefully, that it’s difficult to imagine she required anything less than hospitalization. Though one of the soldiers makes a half-hearted effort to cover her back up (after he is done beating her, of course, on the face and chest with a baton), she appears limp. Three soldiers pick her up from her arms and legs, and then the camera cuts away.
Outraged Egyptian Facebook users posted a composite of three photos from the above video. Taken together, they appear to show that a pair of bystanders – a man and a woman, both well dressed – watched the young woman’s beating, went to her side after the troops discarded her, and were then beaten themselves for their effort.
The Egyptian military, the strongest and most powerful institution in the country and perhaps the Arab world, has taken a dramatic and dark turn since winning power earlier this year. Though it initially safeguarded the revolution in February by protecting protesters from President Hosni Mubarak’s state security forces, it has gradually (if clumsily) consolidated power since his fall, declaring that it will retain independence from and control over any democratically elected government. As protests against the military have grown, the generals have abandoned their earlier pledges to support the people and refrain from violence against civilians. The SCAF — the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, a panel of top military leaders — increasingly looks like Egypt’s new dictator. Its troops, now openly attacking civilians, are unlikely to deescalate their war against democratic activism.
A historic library housing priceless national archives was set on fire in the latest disturbances, which began on Friday when demonstrators began protesting outside key government buildings to demand an end to military rule.
In the latest clashes demonstrators hurled rocks and pieces of metal over a concrete barricade erected by troops. Other pictures circulating on social media networks that have enraged protesters include one of a military policeman looming over a sobbing elderly woman with his truncheon. More footage showed army troops beating two protesters, a man and woman, before leaving their motionless bodies on the ground.
Late on Saturday the health ministry said 10 people had been killed and at least 500 wounded since Friday. On Sunday protesters reportedly set fire to the Institute of Egypt. The centre for the advancement of scientific research was founded in 1798 during Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt, and contained more than 20,000 precious documents and manuscripts. Some manuscripts were recovered from the scene of the fire. Culture minister Shaker Abdel Hamid called the fire that ripped through the institute “a catastrophe for science”.
“The building contained important manuscripts and rare books which have no parallel in the world,” Hamid said on state television late on Saturday.
The authorities have squarely blamed the protesters for the deadly unrest. The military council late on Saturday posted footage on its Facebook page and on YouTube of protesters ransacking a government office on Friday.
“Is it not our right to protect the people’s property?” said a brief message.
UPDATE: Cairo, December 20, 2011. Egypt’s military regime says it is investigating an incident where troops were filmed beating and kicking a veiled woman whose clothes were partially ripped off.
At least 12 people have died since the latest protests broke out on Friday and anger has been fuelled by video of the attack on the woman, which was posted on YouTube. The video (above) shows the woman sprawled on the ground with helmeted troops above her, one of whom is kicking her.
She later appears unconscious, with her clothes stripped back to show her underwear and a bare stomach. She is one of several people allegedly beaten by Egyptian troops in the recent days of violent protests.
Egypt’s military regime admits solders did beat the first woman, but says the circumstances must be taken into account. It says military authorities are investigating that incident, but they have nothing to hide.
UPDATE: Cairo, December 21, 2011. Egyptians trickled into polling stations on Wednesday in the run-off of a staggered election marred by clashes between protesters and security forces that have left 15 people dead in five days.
Voters went to the polls in a third of the country’s 27 provinces, with a visibly lower turnout than in previous rounds, AFP reporters said.
The run-off in the second phase of legislative polls, taking place over two days, will see the two largest Islamist parties go head to head for 59 seats in the lower house.
The ruling military has decided on a complex election system in which voters cast ballots for party lists, which will comprise two-thirds of parliament, and also for individual candidates for the remaining third of the lower house.
On Wednesday, voters were choosing individual candidates in nine provinces as well as party lists in three provinces where voting was postponed because of administrative problems in the opening phase.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has repeatedly pointed to the elections, the first parliamentary polls since a popular uprising ousted Hosni Mubarak in February, as proof of its intention to hand power to civilian rule.
Deadly clashes that erupted on Friday pitting troops and police against protesters demanding an end to military rule have piled pressure on the SCAF, with liberals and Islamists uniting to condemn its handling of the transition.
UPDATE: Syria, December 22, 2011. Syrian opposition leaders have called for emergency meetings at the United Nations and the Arab League amid reports of worsening violence in the north-west of the country.
Activists say around 250 people have been killed by pro-regime forces in Idlib province this week, in some of the worst violence since the uprising against president Bashar al-Assad began in March.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 111 civilians and activists were killed in Idlib on Wednesday in addition to more than 100 army deserters who were killed on Tuesday.
The Observatory’s Rami Abdulrahman said the violence was the “bloodiest day of the Syrian revolution”.
“There was a massacre of an unprecedented scale in Syria on Tuesday,” French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
“It is urgent that the UN Security Council issues a firm resolution that calls for an end to the repression.”
Today an Arab League team of monitors will arrive in the country to begin a month-long task of assessing the situation on the ground.
Many of those killed this week appear to be army defectors who had tried to desert their posts and join the opposition forces.
But there are also reports that loyalist soldiers are among those killed.
The worst bloodshed has been Idlib province, near the Turkish border, but there were also heavy clashes in the central town of Homs.
One amateur video shows a house in Homs where 12 people were reportedly killed after it was shelled by Syrian troops.
Local activists say among the dead was a child whose body was virtually cut in half.
Syria’s main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, has accused Syrian authorities of carrying out an organised massacre.
It has called for emergency meetings at the UN Security Council and the Arab League to discuss the worsening violence.
A commander in the rebels’ Free Syria Army, Abu Mujaidin, has called on NATO to impose a no-fly zone similar to that imposed over Libya.
“We are, God willing, demanding a buffer zone,” he said “If we got this it would give us aerial cover. With aerial cover we will be able to liberate our country, God willing.”
The killings come comes weeks after Syria apparently agreed to an Arab League plan to end the violence.
Today the Arab League will send an advance team to Damascus to lay the groundwork for further monitors to visit the country over the next month, although Arab League officials say the agreement does not yet mean sanctions imposed on Syria last month are about to be lifted.
Despite the mounting pressure on Syria and the continuing unrest, president Bashar al-Assad still has support in parts of the country, especially the capital.
Tens of thousands of people turned out on the streets of Damascus on Wednesday waving Syrian flags and portraits of the president and denounce the opposition forces.
Islamists Win Big In Egypt Elections
UPDATE: Cairo, January 7, 2012. The Muslim Brotherhood has won more than a third of the votes in the last stage of elections for Egypt’s lower house of parliament, according to partial results on Friday, showing the Islamists are set to dominate the legislature. Banned under deposed president Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood has emerged as a major winner from the uprising that toppled him, exploiting a well-organised support base in the first free legislative vote in decades. The Brotherhood’s party list won 37.5 per cent of the vote in the third and final stage of voting.
Repeating a pattern seen in previous rounds, the hardline Islamist Nour Party list came second in most of the districts after this week’s vote, results on its party website showed. The Islamists now look set to wield major influence over the shape of a new constitution to be drafted by a 100-strong body that the new legislature will pick, though the Brotherhood has promised that Egyptians of all persuasions will have a say.
“We are happy with the results and are also happy that there are 15 or 16 parties in the parliament so far,” said Essam al-Erian, deputy head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.
“This means all voices will be heard in the parliament,” he said, speaking at a party rally which drew hundreds of supporters to a working class district of Cairo.
A banner at the rally, held in a tent decked out with Egyptian and party flags, declared: “Together we make the future of Egypt.” Though the success of the Brotherhood and Nour Party has alarmed some Egyptians and the Western governments which backed Mubarak, it is unclear to what extent the rival Islamists will cooperate or compete in the new legislature.The Nour Party seeks a strict application of Islamic law and some analysts believe the more moderate Brotherhood may seek an alliance with liberal groups to allay concerns about the prospect of an Islamist-led Egypt.
For now, the military generals who assumed Mubarak’s powers last February will stay in power. The military is set to rule until the end of June, by which time they say the country will have a new elected president to whom they will hand power.
Voting to come
Official results of the voting held this week are due on Saturday (local time), but it will take longer before the exact shape of the 498-seat lower house is known. There are run-offs for seats being contested by individuals in the latest round which will be held on January 10 and 11, and voting must also be held again in a district where the election was cancelled due to irregularities in the first round. According to a complex electoral system, a third of the seats are reserved for individuals. The other two thirds will be distributed among the lists on a proportional representation basis. As well as contesting the lists, both the Freedom and Justice Party and the Nour Party have fielded candidates for the individual seats. Polls for the upper house of parliament will follow later this month and conclude in February.
rolled backward or downward; rolled backward at the tip ormargin, as a leaf.
Origin: AD 1375–1425; late Middle English
Latin revolūtus, past participle of revolvere to revolve
Rolled or recurved on itself.
Having the edges rolled with the abaxial side outward.
third-person singular simple present revolutes,
present participle revoluting,
simple past and past participle revoluted
Etymology: Back-formation from revolution.
The Arab Spring (Arabic: الربيع العربي ar-Rabīʻ al-ʻArabiyy), otherwise known as the Arab Awakening, is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations andprotests occurring in the Arab world that began on Saturday, 18 December 2010. To date, there have been revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt; a civil war in Libya resulting in the fall of its government; civil uprisings inBahrain, Syria, and Yemen, the latter resulting in the resignation of the Yemeni prime minister; major protests in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan,Kuwait, Morocco, and Oman; and minor protests in Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Western Sahara. Clashes at the borders of Israel in May 2011 and the Palestine 194 movement are also inspired by the regional Arab Spring.
The protests have shared techniques of civil resistance in sustained campaigns involving strikes, demonstrations, marches and rallies, as well as the use of social media to organize, communicate, and raise awareness in the face of state attempts at repression and Internet censorship.
Many demonstrations have met violent responses from authorities, as well as from pro-government militias and counter-demonstrators. A major slogan of the demonstrators in the Arab world has been ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam (“the people want to bring down the regime”)
The series of protests and demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa has become known as the “Arab Spring”, and sometimes as the “Arab Spring and Winter”, “Arab Awakening” or “Arab Uprisings” even though not all the participants in the protests are Arab. It was sparked by the first protests that occurred in Tunisia on 18 December 2010 following Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in protest of police corruption and ill treatment. With the success of the protests in Tunisia, a wave of unrest sparked by the Tunisian “Burning Man” struckAlgeria, Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen, then spread to other countries. The largest, most organised demonstrations have often occurred on a “day of rage”, usually Friday after noon prayers. The protests have also triggered similar unrest outside the region.
As of November 2011, governments have been overthrown in three countries. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on 14 January following the Tunisian revolution protests. In Egypt,President Hosni Mubarak resigned on 11 February 2011 after 18 days of massive protests, ending his 30-year presidency. The Libyan leaderMuammar Gaddafi was overthrown on 23 August 2011, after the National Transitional Council (NTC) took control of Bab al-Azizia. He was killed on 20 October 2011, in his hometown of Sirte after the NTC took control of the city.
During this period of regional unrest, several leaders announced their intentions to step down at the end of their current terms. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced that he would not seek re-election in 2015, as did Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose term ends in 2014, although there have been increasingly violent demonstrations demanding his immediate resignation. Protests in Jordan have also caused the sacking of two successive governments by King Abdullah. Another leader, President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, announced on 23 April that he would step down within 30 days in exchange for immunity, a deal the Yemeni opposition informally accepted on 26 April; Saleh then reneged on the deal, prolonging the Yemeni uprising.
The geopolitical implications of the protests have drawn global attention, including the suggestion that some protesters may be nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Tawakel Karman from Yemen was one of the three laureates of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize as a prominent leader in the Arab Spring.
Motivations: Numerous factors have led to the protests, including issues such as dictatorship or absolute monarchy, human rights violations,government corruption (demonstrated by Wikileaks diplomatic cables), economic decline, unemployment, extreme poverty, and a number of demographic structural factors, such as a large percentage of educated but dissatisfied youth within the population. Also, some attribute the 2009 Iranian protests as one of the reasons behind the Arab Spring. The catalysts for the revolts in allNorthern African and Persian Gulf countries have been the concentration of wealth in the hands of autocrats in power for decades, insufficient transparency of its redistribution, corruption, and especially the refusal of the youth to accept the status quo. Increasing food prices and global famine rates have also been a significant factor, as they involve threats to food security worldwide and prices that approach levels of the 2007–2008 world food price crisis. Amnesty International singled out Wikileaks’ release of US diplomatic cables as a catalyst for the revolts.
In recent decades rising living standards and literacy rates, as well as the increased availability of higher education, have resulted in an improved human development index in the affected countries. The tension between rising aspirations and a lack of government reform may have been a contributing factor in all of the protests. Many of the Internet-savvy youth of these countries have, increasingly over the years, been viewing autocrats and absolute monarchies as anachronisms. A university professor of Oman, Al-Najma Zidjaly referred to this upheaval as youthquake.
Tunisia and Egypt, the first to witness major uprisings, differ from other North African and Middle Eastern nations such as Algeria andLibya in that they lack significant oil revenue, and were thus unable to make concessions to calm the masses.
The current wave of protests is not an entirely new phenomenon, resulting in part from the activities of dissident activists as well as members of a variety of social and union organizations that have been active for years in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, and other countries in the area, as well as in the territory of Western Sahara.
Tunisia experienced a series of conflicts over the past three years, the most notable occurring in the mining area of Gafsa in 2008, where protests continued for many months. These protests included rallies, sit-ins, and strikes, during which there were two fatalities, an unspecified number of wounded, and dozens of arrests. The Egyptian labor movement had been strong for years, with more than 3,000 labor actions since 2004. One important demonstration was an attempted workers’ strike on 6 April 2008 at the state-run textile factories of al-Mahalla al-Kabra, just outside Cairo. The idea for this type of demonstration spread throughout the country, promoted by computer-literate working class youths and their supporters among middle-class college students. A Facebook page, set up to promote the strike, attracted tens of thousands of followers. The government mobilized to break the strike through infiltration and riot police, and while the regime was somewhat successful in forestalling a strike, dissidents formed the “6 April Committee” of youths and labor activists, which became one of the major forces calling for the anti-Mubarak demonstration on 25 January in Tahrir Square.
In Algeria, discontent had been building for years over a number of issues. In February 2008, United States Ambassador Robert Ford wrote in a leaked diplomatic cable that Algeria is ‘unhappy’ with long-standing political alienation; that social discontent persisted throughout the country, with food strikes occurring almost every week; that there were demonstrations every day somewhere in the country; and that the Algerian government was corrupt and fragile. Some have claimed that during 2010 there were as many as ‘9,700 riots and unrests’ throughout the country. Many protests focused on issues such as education and health care, while others cited rampant corruption.
In Western Sahara, the Gdeim Izik protest camp was erected 12 km south-east of El Aaiún by a group of young Sahrawis on 9 October 2010. Their intention was to demonstrate against labor discrimination, unemployment, looting of resources, and human rights abuses. The camp contained between 12,000 and 20,000 inhabitants, but on 8 November 2010 it was destroyed and its inhabitants evicted by Moroccan security forces. The security forces faced strong opposition from some young Sahrawi civilians, and rioting soon spread to El Aaiún and other towns within the territory, resulting in an unknown number of injuries and deaths. Violence against Sahrawis in the aftermath of the protests was cited as a reason for renewed protests months later, after the start of the Arab Spring.
The catalyst for the current escalation of protests was the self-immolation of Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi. A college graduate, he was unable to find work and was selling fruit at a roadside stand until the police confiscated his wares and added a slap on the face. The next day (December 17) he doused himself with gasoline and set himself afire. His death on January 4 brought together various groups dissatisfied with the existing system, including many unemployed, political and human rights activists, labor, trade unionists, students, professors, lawyers, and others to begin the Tunisian Revolution. As the movement spread to other nations, these groups have become an unprecedented movement that has built sufficient momentum to engender the current scope of events.
Tunisia: Following the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid, a series of increasingly violent street demonstrations through December 2010 ultimately led to the ouster of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January 2011. The demonstrations were preceded by high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, lack of freedom of speechand other forms of political freedom, and poor living conditions. The protests constituted the most dramatic wave of social and political unrest in Tunisia in three decades, and have resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, most of which were the result of action by police and security forces against demonstrators. Ben Ali fled into exile in Saudi Arabia, ending his 23 years in power.
Following Ben Ali’s departure, a state of emergency was declared and a caretaker coalition government was created, which included members of Ben Ali’s party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), as well as opposition figures from other ministries. However, the five newly appointed non-RCD ministers resigned almost immediately. As a result of continued daily protests, on 27 January Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi reshuffled the government, removing all former RCD members other than himself, and on 6 February the former ruling party was suspended; later, on 9 March, it was dissolved. Following further public protests, Ghannouchi himself resigned on 27 February, and Beji Caid el Sebsi became Prime Minister.
Egypt: Following the uprising in Tunisia and prior to his entry as a central figure in Egyptian politics, potential presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei warned of a ‘Tunisia-style explosion’ in Egypt.
Protests in Egypt began on 25 January and ran for 18 days. Beginning around midnight on 28 January, the Egyptian government attempted, somewhat successfully, to eliminate the nation’s Internet access, in order to inhibit the protesters’ ability to organize through social media. Later that day, as tens of thousands protested on the streets of Egypt’s major cities, President Mubarak dismissed his government, later appointing a new cabinet. Mubarak also appointed the first Vice President in almost 30 years.
On 10 February, Mubarak ceded all presidential power to Vice President Omar Suleiman, but soon thereafter announced that he would remain as President until the end of his term. However, protests continued the next day, and Suleiman quickly announced that Mubarak had resigned from the presidency and transferred power to the Armed Forces of Egypt. The military immediately dissolved the Egyptian Parliament, suspended the Constitution of Egypt, and promised to lift the nation’s thirty-year “emergency laws”. It further promised to hold free, open elections within the next six months, or by the end of the year at the latest. A civilian, Essam Sharaf, was appointed as Prime Minister of Egypt on 4 March to widespread approval among Egyptians in Tahrir Square. Protests have continued through the end of 2011, however, in response to Sharaf and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ perceived sluggishness in instituting reforms.
Lybia: After the success of the revolution in Tunisia, a protest on living conditions began on 14 January in Bayda, Libya, where protesters clashed with police and attacked government offices. Anti-government protests began in Libya on 15 February 2011. By 18 February, the opposition controlled most of Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city. The government dispatched elite troops and mercenaries in an attempt to recapture it, but they were repelled. By 20 February, protests had spread to the capital Tripoli, leading to a television address by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who warned the protestors that their country could descend into civil war. The rising death toll, numbering in the thousands, drew international condemnation and resulted in the resignation of several Libyan diplomats, along with calls for the regime’s dismantlement.
On 26 February 2011, amidst ongoing efforts by demonstrators and rebel forces to wrest control of Tripoli from the Jamahiriya, the opposition set up an interim government in Benghazi to oppose Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s rule. However, despite initial opposition success, government forces subsequently took back much of the Mediterranean coast.
On 17 March, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 was adopted, authorising a no-fly zone over Libya, and “all necessary measures” to protect civilians. Two days later, France, the United States and the United Kingdom intervened in Libya with a bombing campaign against pro-Gaddafi forces. A coalition of 27 states from Europe and the Middle East soon joined the intervention. The forces were driven back from the outskirts of Benghazi, and the rebels mounted an offensive, capturing scores of towns across the coast of Libya. The offensive stalled however, and a counter-offensive by the government retook most of the towns, until a stalemate was formed between Brega and Ajdabiya, the former being held by the government and the latter in the hands of the rebels. Focus then shifted to the west of the country, where bitter fighting continued. After a three-month-long battle, a loyalist siege of rebel-held Misrata, the third largest city in Libya, was broken in large part due to coalition air strikes. The four major fronts of combat were generally considered to be the Nafusa Mountains, the Tripolitanian coast, the Gulf of Sidra, and the southern Libyan Desert.
In late August, anti-Gaddafi fighters captured Tripoli, scattering Gaddafi’s government and marking the end of his 42 years of autocracy. Many institutions of the government, including Gaddafi and several top regime officials, regrouped in Sirte, which Gaddafi declared to be Libya’s new capital. Others fled to Sabha, Bani Walid, and remote reaches of the Libyan Desert, or to surrounding countries. However, Sabha fell in late September, Bani Walid was captured after a grueling siege weeks later, and on 20 October, fighters under the aegis of the National Transitional Council seized Sirte, killing Gaddafi in the process.
Syria: Protests in Syria started on 26 January, when one case of self-immolation was reported. Protesters have been calling for political reforms and the reinstatement of civil rights, as well as an end to the state of emergency, which has been in place since 1963. A “day of rage” was set for 4–5 February, but it was uneventful.
On 6 March, the Syrian security forces arrested about 15 children in Daraa in Southern Syria for writing slogans against the regime. Children were tortured brutally. Daraa is the first city to protest against the Baathist regime, which has been ruling Syria since 1963.
Thousands of protestors gathered in Damascus, Aleppo, al-Hasakah, Daraa, Deir ez-Zor, and Hama on 15 March, with recently released politician Suhair Atassibecoming an unofficial spokesperson for the “Syrian revolution”. The next day there were reports of approximately 3000 arrests and a few martyrs, but there are no official figures on the number of deaths. On 18 April 2011, approximately 100,000 protesters sat in the central Square of Homs calling for the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad. Protests continued through July 2011, the government responding with harsh security clampdowns and military operations in several districts, especially in the north.
On 31 July, Syrian army tanks stormed several cities, including Hama, Deir Ez-Zour, Al-Bukamal, Daraa, Medmah. At least 136 people were killed in the most violent and bloody day since the uprising started.
Yemen: Protests occurred in many towns in both the north and south of Yemen starting in mid-January. Demonstrators initially protested against governmental proposals to modify theconstitution of Yemen, unemployment and economic conditions, and corruption, but their demands soon included a call for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been facing internal opposition from his closest advisors since 2009. A major demonstration of over 16,000 protesters took place in Sana’a on 27 January, and soon thereafter human rights activist and politician Tawakel Karmancalled for a “Day of Rage” on 3 February. According to Xinhua News, organizers were calling for a million protesters. In response to the planned protest, Ali Abdullah Saleh stated that he would not seek another presidential term in 2013. On 3 February, 20,000 protesters demonstrated against the government in Sana’a, others participated in a “Day of Rage” in Aden that was called for by Tawakel Karman, while soldiers, armed members of the General People’s Congress, and many protestors held a pro-government rally in Sana’a. Concurrent with the resignation of Egyptian president Mubarak, Yemenis again took to the streets protesting President Saleh on 11 February, in what has been dubbed a “Friday of Rage”. The protests continued in the days following despite clashes with government advocates. In a “Friday of Anger” held on 18 February, tens of thousands of Yemenis took part in anti-government demonstrations in the major cities of Sana’a, Taiz, and Aden. In the capital, Sana’a, the crowd marched towards the Presidential Palace, chanting anti-government slogans, despite the attempts of riot police to stop them. Three people were killed in the demonstrations, one of whom was killed by a hand grenade in Taiz. There were also reports of gunfire in Aden during a rally, and as the riots continued overnight protesters set fire to a local government building. Security forces killed one demonstrator, and killed another demonstrator during protests the following day. Protests continued over the following months, especially in the three major cities, and briefly intensified in late May into urban warfare between Hashid tribesmen and army defectors allied with the opposition on one side and security forces and militias loyal to Saleh on the other.
After Saleh pretended to accept a Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered plan allowing him to cede power in exchange for immunity only to back away before signing three separate times, an assassination attempt on 3 June left him and several other high-ranking Yemeni officials injured by a blast in the presidential compound’s mosque. Saleh was evacuated to Saudi Arabia for treatment, but he handed over power to Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi, who has largely continued his policies and ordered the arrest of several Yemenis in connection with the attack on the presidential compound. While in Saudi Arabia, Saleh kept hinting that he could return any time and continued to be present in the political sphere through television appearances from Riyadh starting with an address to the Yemeni people on 7 July. On 12 September, Saleh issued a presidential decree while still receiving treatment in Riyadh authorizing Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi to negotiate a deal with the opposition and sign the GCC initiative. On 23 September, three months since the assassination attempt, Saleh returned to Yemen abruptly, defying all earlier expectations. Pressure on Saleh to sign the GCC initiative eventually led to his signing of it in Riyadh on 23 November, effectively ending his 33-year-old rule of Yemen and setting the stage for the transfer of power. Tawakul Karman got 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her role in supporting women rights and involvement in the Arab Spring.
Bahrain: The 2011 protests in Bahrain were initially aimed at achieving greater political freedomand respect for human rights, and were not intended to threaten the monarchy. Lingering frustration among the Shiite majority with being ruled by the Sunni government was a major root cause, but the protests in Tunisia and Egypt are cited as the inspiration for the demonstrations. The protests began in Bahrain on 14 February and were largely peaceful, until a raid by police on the night of 17 February against protestors sleeping at the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, in which police killed three protestors. Following the deadly raid, the protestors’ aims expanded to a call for the end of the monarchy. On 18 February, government forces opened fire on protesters, mourners, and news journalists, prompting protesters to begin calling for the overthrow of the Bahraini monarchy and government. On 19 February, protesters occupied Pearl Roundabout after the government ordered troops and police to withdraw. On 22 February, an estimated one hundred thousand people, one fifth of the nation’s population, marched. On 14 March, at the request of the Crown Prince,GCC Saudi Arabian troops entered the country, and opened fire on the protesters, several of whom were killed. Later thousands of Shia protesters arose in Iraq and Qatif in opposition to the Saudi-led intervention in Bahrain.
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa declared a three-month state of emergency on 15 March and asked the military to reassert its control as clashes spread across the country. It was later lifted on 1 June 2011. On 16 March 2011, the protesters’ camp in the Pearl Roundabout was evacuated, bulldozed, and set on fire by the Bahraini Defense Force, riot police, and the Peninsula Shield Force, the military arm of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which intervened reportedly at King Hamad’s behest. Later on 18 March, the Pearl Roundabout monument was torn down as part of the crackdown on protesters.
Since the lifting of emergency law on 1 June, several large rallies have been staged by the Shi’ite community demanding the release of detained protesters, greater political representation, and an end to sectarian discrimination. As of July 2011, medical personnel are being prosecuted for treating injured protesters, and several human rights groups and news organizations have alleged they have been deliberately targeted by the Bahraini government.
Concurrent with the events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen, protests flared up in other parts of the region, some becoming violent, some facing strong suppression efforts, and some resulting in political changes.
Algeria: On 29 December, protests began in Algiers over the lack of housing, quickly escalating to violent confrontations with the police. At least 53 people were reported injured and another 29 arrested. Over the course of the Algerian protests, three demonstrators were killed, over 800 were injured, and at least 1,100 were arrested. From 12–19 January, a wave of self-immolation attempts swept the country, beginning with Mohamed Aouichia, who set himself on fire in Bordj Menaiel in protest at his family’s housing. On 13 January, Mohsen Bouterfif set himself on fire after a meeting with the mayor of Boukhadrain Tebessa, who had been unable to offer Bouterfif a job and a house. Bouterfif reportedly died a few days later, and about 100 youths protested his death, resulting in the mayor’s dismissal by the provincial governor. At least ten other self-immolation attempts were reported that week. On 22 January, the RCD party organised a demonstration for democracy in Algiers, and though illegal under the State of Emergency enacted in 1992, it was attended by about 300 people. The demonstration was suppressed by police, with 42 reported injuries. On 29 January, at least ten thousand people marched in the northeastern city of Béjaïa.
In an apparent bid to stave off unrest, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced on 3 February that the 19-year state of emergency would be lifted, a promise fulfilled on 22 February, when Algeria’s cabinet adopted an order to lift the state of emergency. Bouteflika said on 15 April that he would seek revisions to the country’s constitution as part of a broad push for democratic reforms.
Iraq: In an effort to prevent unrest, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced that he would not run for a third term in 2014. Nevertheless, hundreds of protesters gathered in several major urban areas (notably Baghdad and Karbala) on 12 February, demanding a more effective approach to national security, to the investigation of federal corruption cases, as well as increased government involvement in making public services fair and accessible. In response, the government promised to subsidize electricity costs.
Israel’s Haaretz reported that a 31-year-old man in Mosul died from self-immolation, while protesting high unemployment. Haaretz also reported a planned ‘Revolution of Iraqi Rage’ to be held on 25 February near the Green Zone.
On 16 February, up to 2,000 protesters took over a provincial council building in the city of Kut. The protesters demanded that the provincial governor resign because of the lack of basic services such as electricity and water. As many as three people were killed and 30 injured. On 24 February, Hawijah, Mosul, and Baghdad featured violent protests.
Israel Border: Palestinians used Facebook to call for mass protests throughout the region on 15 May 2011, the 63rd annual commemoration of the Palestinian exodus, locally known as Nakba Day. A page calling for a “Third Palestinian Intifada” to begin on 15 May garnered more than 350,000 “likes” before being taken down by Facebook managers at the end of March after complaints from the Israeli government that the page encouraged violence. The page called for mass marches to Palestine from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan to commemorate the Nakba and demand the right of return for all Palestinian refugees. Palestinians from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank attempted to reach and cross the Israeli border. However, they were all stopped and 12 were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces. Lebanese security forces also made efforts, including the use of live fire according to some reports, to stop protesters from approaching the Israeli border. Almost 300 people were injured, including 13 Israeli soldiers. There were also clashes across east Jerusalem.
On 5 June, 23 Syrian demonstrators were killed and over a hundred injured by Israeli troops after attempting to enter the Israeli-held part of the Golan Heights. “Anyone who tries to cross the border will be killed,” Israeli soldiers warned through megaphones as people waving Palestinian flags streamed towards the frontier. When protesters tried to cut the razor wire several meters short of the frontier fence, Israeli troops opened fire. Several people were seen being carried away on stretchers. In the aftermath, thousands began a sit-in near the frontier, resulting in Syrian security forces creating a security buffer zone to prevent more demonstrators from approaching the border. Lebanese President Michel Sleiman accused Israel of genocide over the incident, UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navanethem Pillay condemned the Israel Defense Forces’ use of force against unarmed, civilian protesters, and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party called for an international response to the incident, calling it a “massacre”. An Israeli military spokeswoman called the violence “an attempt to divert international attention from the bloodbath going on in Syria.” Michael Weiss, a spokesperson for Just Journalism, claimed that he had received leaked Syrian state documents showing that the Syrian government organized the Nakba Day protests to draw attention away from the uprising in Syria proper. US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. believes President Bashar Assad’s government was actively supporting the Palestinian protests near the Israeli border.
Jordan: On 14 January, protests commenced in the capital Amman, as well as at Ma’an, Al Karak, Salt and Irbid, and others. The protests, led by trade unionists and leftist parties, occurred after Friday prayers, and called for the government of Prime Minister Samir Rifai to step down. The Muslim Brotherhood and 14 trade unions said that they would hold a sit-down protest outside parliament the next day to “denounce government economic policies”. Following the protest, the government reversed a rise in fuel prices, but 5,000 protested on 21 January in Amman despite this effort to alleviate Jordan’s economic misery.
On 1 February, the Royal Palace announced that King Abdullah had dismissed the government on account of the street protests, and had asked Marouf al-Bakhit, a former army general, to form a new Cabinet. King Abdullah charged Bakhit to “take quick, concrete and practical steps to launch a genuine political reform process”. The monarch added that the reforms should put Jordan on the path “to strengthen democracy”, and provide Jordanians with the “dignified life they deserve”. This move did not end protests, however, which peaked with a rally of between 6,000 and 10,000 Jordanians on 25 February. A protest camp led by students calling for democratic reforms was established on 24 March in Gamal Abdel Nasser Circle in downtown Amman, but at least one person was killed and over 100 injured the next day after pro-government vigilantes clashed with the protesters in the camp, forcing police to intervene. These clashes and belated police interventions have become a hallmark of the Jordanian protests, with a major rally in central Amman planned for 15 July being derailed by belligerent regime supporters.
As of November 2011, protests are ongoing. Under pressure from street demonstrations, Parliament called for the ouster of the Bakhit government. King Abdullah duly sacked Bakhit and his cabinet and named Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh to head the new government on 17 October.
Kuwait: Protests by stateless Bedouins began in January and February, concurrent with many protests in the region. By June, protests grew in size from dozens to hundreds.
Thousands protested in September, and in October, oil workers went on strike. Protests continued into October, with the largest demonstrations since the start of the unrest early in the year. In response, Prime Minister Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah said the protests were “going too far” and threatened a security crackdown.
Late on 16 November, protesters occupied the National Assembly of Kuwait for several minutes and rallied in nearby Al-Erada Square. Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah called the brief occupation “an unprecedented step on the path to anarchy and lawlessness”.
The largest political protest in Kuwaiti history was scheduled for 28 November to pressure the prime minister to resign, but he and his cabinet submitted their resignation to the emir hours ahead of it. Late November, the emir selected Defense Minister Sheik Jaber Al Hamad Al Sabah as the new prime minister, replacing the long-serving Sheik Nasser Al Mohammad Al Sabah, who had survived several no-confidence votes in parliament and was the target of opposition groups calling for his dismissal.
Morocco: In early February 2011, protests were held in Rabat, Fez and Tangier in solidarity with the Egyptian revolution. Subsequently, a day of protest in favour of Moroccan constitutional reform and social justice was planned for 20 February and advertised on social networking sites. Among the demands of the organisers was that the constituional role of the king should be “reduced to its natural size”. The interior minister Taib Cherkaoui affirmed the right of the protests to take place. On 20 February, around 37,000 people participated in demonstrations across Morocco, according to government sources. Some protests were marred by violence and damage to property. In Al Hoceima, five people died after protesters set fire to a bank. On 26 February, a further protest was held in Casablanca.
On 9 March, in a live televised address, King Mohammed announced that he would begin a comprehensive constitutional reform aimed at improving democracy and the rule of law. He promised to form a commission to work on constitutional revisions, which would make proposals to him by June, after which a referendum would be held on the draft constitution.
On 20 March, a further protest was held in Casablanca to mark the end of the first month since the original 20 February demonstrations and to maintain pressure for reform. Protesters, numbering 20,000, demanded the resignation of a number of senior politicians, including the prime minister, Abbas El Fassi, who they regarded as corrupt. On the same day, around 6,000 people demonstrated in Rabat.
In June, a referendum was held on changes to the constitution, which became law on 13 September. Some protesters felt that the reforms did not go far enough. On 18 September, 3,000 people demonstrated in Casablanca and 2,000 in Tangier, demanding an end to the king’s roles as head of the army and of religious affairs. In October, around 50 imams protested in Rabat against state control of their activities.
Elections were held on the basis of the new constitution in November 2011, with electoral lists reserved for young and female candidates and with the post of prime minster, previously an appointment of the king, being decided by the outcome of the vote.
Oman: In the Gulf country of Oman, 200 protesters marched on 17 January 2011, demanding salary increases and a lower cost of living. The protest shocked some journalists, who generally view Oman as a ‘politically stable and sleepy country’. Renewed protests occurred on 18 February, with 350 protesters demanding an end to corruption and better distribution of oil revenue. Some protesters also carried signs with slogans of support for the Sultan.
On 26 February, protesters in Sohar called for more jobs. On the following day, tensions escalated with protesters burning shops and cars. The police responded using tear gas to contain and disperse the crowds of protesters. Demonstrations also spread to the region of Salalah, where protesters had reportedly been camping outside the provincial governor’s house since 25 February. In Sohar, witnesses claimed that two protesters were killed when police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowds. Witnesses further reported that protesters burnt a police station as well as the Wali’s house (where the representative of the Sultan to Sohar stays). The Omani protesters insisted that they were not challenging the rule of Sultan Qaboos, who has been in power since 1970, but were merely calling for jobs and reform. The protesters even apologized to the Sultan for allowing violence rattle the city of Sohar on 28 February 2011.
The Sultan continued with his reform campaign by dissolving the Ministry of National Economy, setting up a state audit committee, granting student and unemployment benefits, dismissing scores of ministers, and reshuffling his cabinet three times. In addition, nearly 50,000 jobs are being created in the public sector, including 10,000 new jobs in the Royal Oman Police.) The Omani Ministry of Manpower has furthermore directed various companies (both private and public) to formulate their own employment plans. The Royal Army of Oman has also initiated employment drives by publishing recruitment advertisements in newspapers, etc. The government’s efforts largely placated protesters, and Oman has not seen significant demonstrations since May 2011, when increasingly violent protests in Salalah were subdued.
Saudi Arabia: In Saudi Arabia hundreds of people protested against the poor infrastructure in Jeddahfollowing flooding. At the same time, an online campaign began calling for major political and economic changes. On 5 February, forty women demonstrated for the release of prisoners held without trial. Several protests of a few hundred demonstrators each took place in late February, and also in early March in the north-east, mostly in Qatif but also in Hofuf, in al-Awamiyah, as well as in Riyadh. Security in the north-east was tightened on 5 March, and a ‘significant’ police presence in Riyadh and Jeddah prevented protests from occurring on 11 March. A day earlier, three protesters were injured by police gunfire in Qatif. Nonetheless, protests calling for the release of prisoners took place outside the Ministry of the Interior in Riyadh on 12 March.
Following the crackdown during the 2011 Bahraini uprising, frequent demonstrations of a few hundred to a few thousand people occurred in and around Qatif from 15 to 25 March, which demanded the release of prisoners and the withdrawal of thePeninsula Shield Force from Bahrain. On 22–23 March, men-only municipal elections to elect half the members of local councils were announced for 22 September 2011.
On 17 June, the anti-government movement “Women2Drive” has organized a drive-in to demand fairer treatment of women in the country. It was sparked by the arrest and imprisonment of Manal al-Sharif for driving a vehicle with another woman. al-Sharif has been called a modern Rosa Parks. Reports of desperation within the government surfaced as the rally is expected to highlight one of the worst gender rights’ regimes in the world. On 9 June, several women were arrested north of Riyadh for practicing in a parking lot. On 15 June, female drivers in the United States have organized a protest in solidarity with Saudi women, planning to encircle the Saudi embassy in Foggy Bottom. During the month three females from Minnesota, supported by an advocacy group, announced a gender discrimination complaint against the kingdom’s livery services in Rochester to coincide with the “Women2Drive” campaign.
Lebanon: hundreds or protesters rallied in Beirut on 27 February in a march referred to as “The Laique pride”, calling for reform of the country’s confessional political system. At the same time, a peaceful sit-in took place in Saida. On 13 March, tens of thousands of supporters of the March 14 Alliance called for the disarmament of Hezbollahin Beirut, rejecting the supremacy of Hezbollah’s weapons over political life. They also showed support for the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) after the fall of the Hariri government and the creation of the Mikati government. The Syrian Uprising also has leaked over the border
Mauritania: Yacoub Ould Dahoud, a protester, burned himself near the Presidential Palace on 17 January, in opposition to the policies of Mauritanian presidentMohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. The following week, hundreds of people took to the streets of the capital Nouakchott. The mayor of the city of Aoujeft, Mohamed El Moctar Ould Ehmeyen Amar, resigned from the ruling party to politically support what he called “the just cause of youngsters”. In addition to the capital Noukchott, cities such as Atar, Zouerate, and Aleg also organised sporadic protests. Despite minor economic concessions by the authorities, on 25 April protesters again took to the streets to call for the resignation of the prime-minister, Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf.
Sudan: Protests took place on 30 January and 1 February, when hundreds called for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to step down. On 21 February, President Omar al-Bashir announced that he would not seek to run in the next presidential election (in 2015).
United Arab Emirates: A group of intellectuals petitioned their ruler for comprehensive reform of the Federal National Council, including demands for universal suffrage. About 160 people signed the petition, many of whom were academics and former members of the FNC. On 12 April, Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent blogger and pro-democracy activist, was charged with possession of alcohol. According to his lawyer, two other men, a blogger and a political commentator, were detained a few days earlier, a charge denied by the police. In May, the government started expanding its network of surveillance cameras, as a preventive measure against revolts. In June, Mansoor and four other reform activists, including an economics professor, Nasser bin Gaith, pleaded not guilty to insulting the ruling family, endangering national security and inciting people to protest, after being charged. On 13 November they began a hunger strike, while on 27 November they were sentenced, Ahmed Mansoor receiving three years in prison, while the others being sentenced to two-year jail terms, only to be pardoned the following day.
Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority prevented demonstrations in support of protesters in Tunisia and Egypt. On 3 February, Palestinian police dispersed an anti-Mubarak demonstration in downtown Ramallah, detaining four people, confiscating a cameraman’s footage, and reportedly beating protesters. A smaller pro-Mubarak demonstration was permitted to take place in the same area and was guarded by police. On 15 October, an anti-Assad protest expressing solidarity with Palestinian refugees in Syria affected by the unrest there took place in the Gaza Strip, and was attended by 150 people. Hamas police forces dispersed the demonstration, claiming that it was held without a permit.
On 1 February, the Palestinian Authority announced that it would hold municipal elections in July. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that this announcement was a reaction to the anti-government protests in Egypt. The elections were postponed to 22 October, then suspended indefinetely due to an internal division within the Palestinian Authority over candidates for many of the municipalities and councils, and fears that Hamas supporters would back Palestinian Authority opponents. On 14 February, amid pan-Arab calls for reform, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad submitted his resignation along with that of his cabinet to President Mahmoud Abbas. After consultations with other factions, institutions, and civil society groups, Abbas asked him to form a new government. The reshuffle had long been demanded by Fayyad as well as members of Abbas’s Fatah faction.
Western Sahara: Young Sahrawis held a series of minor demonstrations to protest labour discrimination, lack of jobs, looting of resources, and human rights abuses. Although protests from February 2011 onward were related to a series of Sahrawi demonstrations outside El Aaiun that originated in October 2010 and died down the following month, protesters cited inspiration from the events in other parts of the region. Noam Chomsky, viewed the October protests as the starting point from which ‘the current wave of protests actually began’.
Ethnic Scope: Many analysts, journalists, and involved parties have focused on the protests as being a uniquely Arab phenomenon, and indeed, protests and uprisings have been strongest and most wide-reaching in majority-Arabic-speaking countries, giving rise to the popular moniker of Arab Spring—a play on the so-called 1968 Prague Spring, a democratic awakening in what was then communist Czechoslovakia—to refer to protests, uprisings, and revolutions in those states. However, the international media has also noted the role of minority groups in many of these majority-Arab countries in the revolts. In addition, this series of revolutions has been marked by the absence of Arab Nationalist banners and rhetoric among the masses in favor of principles of human rights, freedom, democracy and cultural diversity, even in absolute majority Arab countries.
In Tunisia, the country’s small Jewish minority was initially divided by protests against Ben Ali and the government, but eventually came to identify with the protesters in opposition to the regime, according to the group’s president, who described Jewish Tunisians as “part of the revolution”. While many in the Coptic minority in Egypt had criticized the Mubarak government for its failure to suppress Islamic extremists who attack the Coptic community, the prospect of these extremist groups taking over after its fall caused most Copts to avoid the protests, with Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria calling for them to end. The international media pointed to a few Copts who joined the protests.
Owing to the fact that the uprisings and revolutions erupted first in North Africa before spreading to Asian Arab countries, and that theBerbers of Libya participated massively in the protests and fightings under Berber identity banners, some Berbers in Libya often see the revolutions of North Africa, west of Egypt, as a reincarnated Berber Spring and some call it the “Berber-Arab Spring”. In Morocco, through a constitutional reform, passed in a national referendum on 1 July, among other things,Amazigh—a standardized version of the 3 Berber languages of Morocco was made official alongside Arabic. During the civil war in Libya, one major theater of combat has been the western Nafusa Mountains, where the indigenous Berbers have taken up arms against the regime while supporting an interim government based in the majority-Arab eastern half of the country.
In northern Sudan hundreds of non-Arab Darfuris have joined anti-government protests while in Iraq and Syria, the ethnic Kurdishminority has been involved in protests against the government, including the Kurdistan Regional Government in the former’s Kurdish-majority north, where at least one attempted self-immolation was reported.
Impact: The regional unrest has not been limited to countries of the Arab world. The early success of uprisings in North Africa was inspired by the uprisings of disenchanted people in the Middle Eastern states of Iran and Turkey to take to the streets and agitate for reforms. These protests, especially those in Iran, are considered by many commentators to be part of the same wave that began in Iran and later Tunisia and has gripped the broader Middle Eastern and North African regions.
In the countries of the neighboring South Caucasus—namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia as well as some countries in Europe, including Albania, Croatia, and Spain; countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Burkina Faso,Djibouti, and Uganda; and countries in other parts of Asia, including the Maldives and the People’s Republic of China, demonstrators and opposition figures claiming inspiration from the examples of Tunisia and Egypt have staged their own popular protests.
The bid for statehood by Palestine at the UN on 23 September 2011 is also regarded as drawing inspiration from the Arab Spring after years of failed peace negotiations with Israel. In the West Bank, schools and government offices were shut to allow demonstrations backing the UN membership bid in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron; echoing similar peaceful protests from other Arab countries.
The 15 October 2011 global protests and the Occupy Wall Street movement, which started in the United States and has since spread to Asia and Europe, drew direct inspiration from the Arab Spring, with organizers asking U.S. citizens “Are you ready for a Tahrir moment?” The protesters have committed to using the “revolutionary Arab Spring tactic” to achieve their goals of curbing corporate power and control in Western governments.
Reaction: Protests in many countries affected by the Arab Spring have attracted widespread support from the international community, while harsh government responses have generally met condemnation. In the case of the Bahraini, Moroccan, and Syrian protests, the international response has been considerably more nuanced.
Some critics have accused Western governments, including those of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, of hypocrisy in the way they have reacted to the Arab Spring. Noam Chomsky accused the Obama administration of endeavoring to muffle the revolutionary wave and stifle popular democratization efforts in the Middle East.
Protests have also affected oil prices, contributing to the 2011 energy crisis. The International Monetary Fund said oil prices were likely to be higher than originally forecast due to unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, major regions of oil production.
Kenan Engin, a German-Turkish political scientist, identified the new uprising in Arab and Islamic countries as the “fifth wave of democracy” because of evident features qualitatively similar to the “third wave of democracy” in Latin America that took place in the ’70s and ’80s.
- Browers, Michaelle (2009). Political Ideology in the Arab World: Accommodation and Transformation. New York: Cambridge University Press.ISBN 978-0-521-76532-9.
- Gardner, David (2009). Last Chance: The Middle East in the Balance. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84885-041-5.
- Goldstone, Jack A.; Hazel, John T., Jr. (14 April 2011). “Understanding the Revolutions of 2011: Weakness and Resilience in Middle Eastern Autocracies”. Foreign Affairs.
- Kaye, Dalia Dassa (2008). More Freedom, Less Terror? Liberalization and Political Violence in the Arab World. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. ISBN 978-0-8330-4508-9.
- Ottaway, Marina; Choucair-Vizoso, Julia, eds (2008). Beyond the Façade: Political Reform in the Arab World. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. ISBN 978-0-87003-239-4.
- Pelletreau, Robert H. (24 February 2011). “Transformation in the Middle East: Comparing the Uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain”. Foreign Affairs.
- Phares, Walid (2010). Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1439178379.
- Posusney, Marsha Pripstein; Angrist, Michele Penner, eds (2005). Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Regimes and Resistance. Boulder: Lynne Rienner. ISBN 1-58826-317-7.
- Struble, Jr., Robert (22 August 2011). “Libya and the Doctrine of Justifiable Rebellion”. Catholic Lane.
- Tomita, Hiroshi (1 April 2007). “An Arab Spring”. San-shoku-ki (Tricolore Flag) (Keio University Press).
- Ongoing coverageLive blogs
- Middle East at Aljazeera English
- Middle East protests at BBC News
- Arab and Middle East protests live blog at The Guardian
- Middle East Protests at The Lede blog at The New York Times
- Middle East protests live at Reuters
- Unrest in the Arab World collected news and commentary at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
- Issue Guide: Arab World Protests, Council on Foreign Relations
- Arab Spring collected news and commentary at The Economist
- Middle East protests collected news and commentary at The Financial Times
- Arab and Middle East unrest collected news and commentary at The Guardian
- Arab and Middle East unrest – interactive timeline collected news and commentary at The Guardian
- Rage on the Streets collected news and commentary at Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review
- Middle East Unrest collected news and commentary at The National
- Middle East Uprisings collected news and commentary at Showdown in the Middle East
- The Arab Revolution collected news and commentary at Spiegel.de
- The Middle East in Revolt collected news and commentary at Time
- The Shoe Thrower’s index, An index of unrest in the Arab world, The Economist, 9 February 2011
- Interview with Tariq Ramadan: “We Need to Get a Better Sense of the Trends within Islamism”, Qantara.de, 2 February 2011
- Tracking the wave of protests with statistics, RevolutionTrends.org
- Arab Spring at the Best of the Web Directory