News / Middle East

Arab Spring Brought Major Change, Challenges to Middle East in 2011

Elizabeth Arrott

The wave of popular uprisings that swept the Arab world were as unexpected as they were cataclysmic.  Long-reigning rulers fell, others teeter on the brink, and the region is forever changed.

The Arab Spring started with a death: in early January, protesters took to the streets of Tunisia in solidarity with a young fruit vendor who, despairing of the brutal system under which he lived, set himself on fire.

It was a death that gave life to a movement that was to alter the course of the Middle East and North Africa.

For decades, political life in the region was stagnant.  Nominal republics were the realm of a wealthy few, with kingly aspirations to see their sons carry on the business of state.  It seemed nothing would change, but then it all did all at once.

The revolt against tyranny, simmering for years, reached a breaking point.  For many, there was no turning back.

"One of the scenes that we've seen in many of the Arab Spring countries, first in Tunisia, then in Egypt, then in Libya and Syria are these images, usually of young men, who are willing to die for ideals of freedom, for notions of rights in front of security officials with guns in city after city and this new courage to stand up to abuse we have seen, really is what has fueled the Arab Spring," noted Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch.

The protesters learned from each other, for to a large extent, they were fighting the same thing.  The very nature of leaderships that were so repressive proved to be their mutual undoing.

"They all had the same system - a military, intelligence, police state - like in Tunisia, like in Egypt, like in Yemen, like in Syria, like in Libya, the same system, so it is catching," noted Said Sadek of American University in Cairo.  "Once you have something affecting the domino, the whole dominoes is affected."

The uprisings changed not only the rulers of these states, but unsettled long-standing alliances.

"It's brought in this sort of sense of unpredictability about the Middle East which seemed to be such a stable region: authoritarian rulers would hand on power to their children in many cases and where the international community could rely upon having certain friends in the region who would guarantee stability.  I think those understandings of the Middle East have been broken," Morayef explained.

The jury is still out on whether the protests will bring the hoped for transition to representative governments.  Some see the rise of Islamist parties in Tunisia and Egypt as a threat to a democratic transition.

And for others in the region, the struggle continues.

But one thing is certain, these fearless young people have become a constituency, one every new Arab leader from now on must deal with.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs