News / Europe

'Arab Spring' Inspires Protests in Europe

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
Henry Ridgwell

Mid-January in Tunisia and thousands of protestors throng the street of the capital Tunis. Anti-government demonstrations that began in the small town of Sidi Bouzid culminated in the resignation of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Then, similar protests took hold in Egypt, forcing President Hosni Mubarak from power.  And as demonstrations gathered momentum, they became known as the "Arab Spring."

Mary Kaldor was part of the opposition movement in Hungary during the Cold War.  She is now professor of global governance at the London School of Economics.

"People assumed that somehow the Middle East was different and that was based on assumptions that somehow Islam is different, 'It's not like us.' And that was an assumption that underpinned the war on terror, too. And I think what's so wonderful about the Arab Spring is that it's disproving that assumption. It's showing that Arabs are just a democratic as everyone else," noted Kaldor.

Just as the Arab Spring was building momentum, protests also erupted in parts of Europe.

In Athens, thousands of people demonstrated against the Greek government's package of spending cuts and privatizations - taking over Syntagma Square outside parliament.

"It's all about, I think, a failure of representation, a feeling that the political class is one class, 'We can't influence them, it's outrageous that they're suddenly saying that we have to pay for what the banks did.'  And I think that there's a similar feeling of outrage in the Arab world," added Kaldor.  "So I think there are very many similarities between what's happening in Europe and what's happening in the Arab world."

In London, British protesters railed against their government's austerity measures.  And such scenes played out in other parts of Europe, too.  In Madrid, protestors occupied the central Puerta del Sol square, in a self-proclaimed emulation of the demonstrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square a few months earlier.

"I think there are clear differences for what's going on in different countries," explained Owen Tudor, international secretary for the Trades Union Congress in Britain. "We're talking about democracies in Europe, dictatorships across much of north Africa.  But many of the causes of what's happened have been very similar. It's about the economic crisis."

Tudor says unions were key in instigating strikes in Egypt that led to the fall of President Mubarak.  European trade unions are increasing support for their Arab counterparts, and receiving advice from the Arab street.

"They have also, in their turn, been coming to Europe, talking to trade unionists in Britain, across Europe, and have been an inspiration in many cases to people and saying, 'You can build support, you can win these arguments,'" added Tudor.

Some observers see the Arab Spring grinding to a halt in Libya and Syria.  But Professor Kaldor says the protests have already changed the geopolitical landscape of the Arab world.

"1989 brought an end to the Cold War. I think what 2011 did was to sideline the war on terror. It marginalized al-Qaida. Osama bin Laden may have been physically killed in Pakistan, but he's been politically killed by the demonstrations in the Middle East," she said.

The end result of the protests in Europe and the Arab world remains uncertain.

But analysts say 2011 will be etched in the memory as a year of momentous change.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid