News / Middle East

Arab Spring Still a Work in Progress

Al Pessin
As Egyptians mark the second anniversary of their revolution, experts are assessing the actual impact of the Arab Spring, which many people expected to transform the Middle East.

The Egyptian revolution was a time of great hope and enthusiasm among millions of Egyptians.

But the second anniversary finds secular liberals protesting what they see as excesses by the new Islamist-led government.

Multiple Arab Springs

The contrast is emblematic of the disappointment and conflict that followed the euphoria of the uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and other countries.

“The word ‘revolution’ is a very romantic term,” said Stacy Gutkowski, a Middle East Expert at London’s King’s college.

“It conjures up images of something dramatic like the Berlin Wall falling. That isn’t what has happened in the region. These are rumblings, long-term rumblings. But not yet radical change.”

Gutkowski said people were bound to be disappointed, even where governments were overthrown. And the kind of dramatic change the North African countries have seen has not spread to other parts of the region, where activists face either lengthy violent conflict, as in Syria, or piecemeal changes meted out slowly by entrenched autocracies, as in the Persian Gulf states.

“To say that there is one Arab Spring is really a misnomer. In fact, there are three Arab Springs,” she said.

  • Anti-Gadhafi and proud: Libyans chronicle their uprising in Tripoli. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • A drummer is surrounded by flags in the heady hours before President Mubarak's speech, Cairo, February 10, 2011 (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • Egypt's military allowed for presidential elections in mid-2012. Rallies were held for candidates across the country. Photo taken in Edwa, April 23, 2012 (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a few months before his ouster, September, 2010. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • Pope Shenouda's photograph outside the Hanging Church in Coptic Cairo, March 2012. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • Mohamed Morsi was the second choice candidate of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • The few classes that are in session are light on studying. Photo taken in Benghazi, June 26, 2011. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • Hunkering down: a poster of Syria's president at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus, January 2012. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • Voters scan the lists at a polling station in Sana'a, February 21, 2012. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • Women played an unusally large role in the uprising leading to Yemen's elections. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • Febuary 19, 2012 - One year after the Arab Spring hit Yemen, youths on both sides are hopeful. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • The head of the UN mission in Syria, General Robert Mood, in Hama, May 3, 2012. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • Courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, January 2012. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • Made in the USA: A tear gas canister is displayed by a protestor on Tahrir square, November 2011. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • A rally on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi on Tahrir Square, June 24, 2012. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • Sept 4, 2011 - Waiting for action in the Gadhafi-held town of Bani Walid. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • Neighbor and rebel Mohammed Arab guards Mohammed Gadhafi's abandoned home in Tripoli, August 29, 2011. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • Getting a good view of the festivities in Tripoli, August 30, 2011. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in better times -- celebrating 40 years in power, August 29, 2009 in Tripoli. (E. Arrott/VOA)
  • Egypt's military took control, but some said it marked little change from the old system. Military ruler Hussein Tantawi's face merged with Hosni Mubarak, Cairo, April 2012. (E. Arrott/VOA)

Work in progress

Considering the different types of governments and the variety of local cultures in the vast region, that’s not surprising. It certainly is not to the former British ambassador to Libya and Iran, Richard Dalton, who spoke to VOA via Skype.

“The Arab Awakening was always going to be the work of a generation. It’s not a surprise that there are different rates of change. But nowhere in the Arab World has the population been untouched,” said Dalton.

Not only is change slow and uneven, in some cases it is in the wrong direction - as people deal with issues the former autocrats covered up, like economic problems that have made life worse for many, rather than better. There also are concerns about the rights of women and members of minority groups.

And while the region’s new leaders are being tougher on the West and Israel, the autocrats’ pro-Western policies have not been changed as dramatically as many had hoped.

“Whatever government is in power, countries have interests and there’s a narrow range of options for maximizing advantage to both government and people,” said Dalton.

So, whether in the presidential palaces or in the streets, two years later the Arab Spring still is very much a work in progress.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs