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

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

This forum has been closed.
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs