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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid