The object of this paper is to provide insight into the Arab Spring. To do that, I will work to answer the following questions about the Arab Spring: what is it, when did it start, where did it happen, what changes have been made, and how did it happen. This paper will also address concerning issues as these countries keep moving forward. Answering these questions should provide enough insight to understand this historic change in the Middle East.
What is it?
The Arab Spring is largely seen as a wave of revolutionary grass roots uprisings that spread like wild fire through the Middle East and North Africa starting in 2010 and still continue to burn in many areas in the region today in 2011. For the most part, most of the demands throughout the Arab Spring had to do with human rights, anti-corruption, and democratic reforms.
When did it start?
On 7 December 2010, The Guardian UK reported a US diplomatic cable that was released by Wikileaks. The content of the cables were highly critical to Tunisia’s dictatorial regime and very concerned for the pressure boiling under the surface.
According to Reuters, The Arab Spring officially kicked off 19 December 2010 in Tunisia when a mob began to riot. Reuters reported,
“They were angered by an incident where a young man, Mohamed Bouazizi, had set fire to himself in protest after police confiscated the fruit and vegetables he was selling from a street stall, the witnesses said.”
Mahdi Said Horchani, a relative of Bouazizi told Reuters,
“People are angry at the case of Mohamed and the deterioration of unemployment in the region,” … “Regional authorities have promised to intervene.””
However, the notion of the democratic uprisings under the banner of the Arab Spring has been floating around since at least 2005. Charles Krauthammer wrote in the 30 April 2005 issue of Hoover Digest,
“People are now talking about the Arab Spring, an echo of the Prague Spring of 1968. Walid Jumblatt, a Druze leader in Lebanon, recently said that the Berlin Wall is falling and credited America’s liberation of Iraq as the start of a democratic process there.”
A little further into the article, Krauthammer noted,
“There was never any doubt that the will to freedom was lying in the bosom of the Arab people, it just needed some expression.”
On 25 April 2011, an Egyptian-American democratic-socialist activist who was highly active in the overthrow of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak , Gigi Ibraham said on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show that she had learned her skills and tools for her “work” at American University in Cairo where she “took a class” in “the social mobilization under authoritarian regimes.” An interesting article that points to the correlation of US overt action to spread democracy movements was written by David Ignatius in the Washington Post on 22 September 1991 in an article titled, Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups,
“Amazingly enough, these simple pro-democracy activities were once the exclusive province of the CIA. Back in the heyday of the Cold War, the wizards of Langley seemed to think it necessary to “recruit” the world’s democrats and give them code names.
The covert mentality penetrated nearly every aspect of American life. The mandarins decided that American students should attend international conferences and youth festivals to counteract Soviet propaganda. So the CIA secretly began funding the National Student Association. Anti-communist intellectuals in Europe were deemed worthy of aid, so the CIA subsidized the Congress for Cultural Freedom and Encounter magazine. It was decided that we should help democratic parties in Europe resist communist pressure. The CIA did it covertly. When these covert activities surfaced (as they inevitably did), the fallout was devastating. The CIA connection, intended to protect people and organizations from public embarrassment, had precisely the opposite effect. A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” agrees Weinstein.The biggest difference is that when such activities are done overtly, the flap potential is close to zero. Openness is its own protection.”
“Actually there are no grassroots revolutions, period. Any revolution is a byproduct of a highly-organized group of conscientious and professional organizers, but has nothing to do with grassroots.”
Defining the start of the Arab Spring is a bit difficult. The call for an Arab Spring came five years before the massive civil uprising that proved to be effective for the people to drive democratic reforms. If the US/ West was already actively pursuing the policy then it could be said it started years earlier. If one does not want to view it from the operational view rather than the surface view, then it started with the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouaziziin Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia on 18 December 2010.
Where did it happen and what changes have been made?
*Since the time of this maps creation the Libyan Dictator has been deposed.
How did it happen?
Like any event in life, there are multiple reasons for how this happened. In this case it was a natural evolution in technology and a little bit of stoking the flames of a burning fire.
Overt from the United States may have been the catalyst, but it was not the force that kept the Arab Spring moving forward. The ability for the populous to keep informed and maintain their social networks were what made many of their successes possible. Once again, technology found itself as a determining factor of revolution just as the fax machine allowed Boris Yeltsin to parry the KGB led putsch.
The technologies that played a role were cell phones, online social networking platforms, and satellite television. Cell phones allowed individuals to quickly mobilize and relay pictures and videos to the web. Online social networks allowed groups to organize their efforts and their messages to speak to the world. The role of satellite television allowed all of this to make it to hundreds of millions if not over a billion television sets around the world.
Concerning effects of the Arab Spring
The Middle East is still flaming hot right now. In Libya, Arab oppression against Blacks appears to be a problem that the media is playing down. Coptic Christians are still being persecuted and oppressed more often than before the revolution. The global media still seems to have turned their backs the role and oppression of Coptic Christians in Egypt to act as if they didn’t see them in the crowd with the Muslim Brotherhood. too. If true democratic reforms are wanted, a value system which can maintain the integrity of a democracy must be accepted with those reforms by the people and its institutions. Also, the raw truth must not be covered up or down played. In the preface of the book, Dismantling Tyranny: Transitioning Beyond Totalitarian Regimes the editors wrote,
“The initial “window of opportunity” created by regime change (usually the first country, year after liberation) must be used to the maximum to reform the rid it of the toxic structures of the old regime, and launch it in a new direction”
If the United States is going to “assist” people under tyranny to rise up, then we should be all the way in it, not only for our interests, not because it is what we believe, not because it is the only way for it to work, but we must do it because it is the right thing to do.
(In the order of use and by the title of their author or editors)
Arab spring: an interactive timeline of Middle East protests
Witnesses report rioting in Tunisian town
An Arab Spring?
Gigi Ibrahim, the Daily Show, 25 April 2011
Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups (1991)
Soviet defectors: the KGB wanted list
Interview with Yuri Bezmenov
(video can be seen here: https://developingtomorrow.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/hostile-propaganda/ )
Arab Spring Map
Al Jazeera: Muammar Gaddafi dead – video
Coups In The Age Of Big Macs And Fax Machines
In the Arab Spring’s Wake, Twitter Trolls and Facebook Spies
Arab Spring Reshapes Market for TV News
(My blog for Independent Study Course)