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A Revolution: The Arab Spring

posted on: Jul 5, 2020

By: Arab America Contributing Writer

The Arab Spring was a sequence of anti-government protests and uprisings across the Arab world involving the nations of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and others. In the early 2000s, there were many armed rebellions, riots, and even insurgencies across the Arab world. The Arab Spring consisted of groups of protestors demanding change within their nation’s regime, ultimately aiming for democratic and cultural freedom. Arab Spring protests addressed a variety of different issues ranging from improving economic circumstances, pushing for social justice, and addressing corruption, among other goals. These pro-democracy protests began in Tunisia as a result of an oppressive regime and low standards of living. After Tunisia, these protests spread to more Arab nations and soon grew to become a regional concept.

This revolutionary wave of protests shined a light on the power of Arab voices and encouraged many citizens to rebel against their government regimes. The widespread phenomenon attracted the attention of international media and sparked a growing interest around the world. It was not the external influences of the media that transformed these peaceful protests into violent ones, but the internal reactions by government authorities in the Arab countries.

Image from Oxford Islamic Studies

The Role of Social Media

Around the time of the Arab Spring, social media sites such as Facebook were widely popular; these sites served as one of the most prominent means of communication. Facebook and Twitter connected activists and were used to spread awareness. Protests were organized through polls on social media and many activists gained information through these sites. During the Arab Spring, many people were taking advantage of Facebook groups and created pages to raise awareness on issues such as police brutality. Arabs used social media as a powerful tool to expose the mistreatment by authorities and ensure their stories and voices were heard. The governments in many Arab countries blocked some of these sites and even took measures to shut down internet services amidst the protests, in an attempt to restrain the power of the protestors. Social media has the power to shine a light on the true, undisclosed impact and reality of political and social conflicts. With the government limiting social media use through temporary shutdowns and blockages, they were able to form a barrier for communication between protestors, and limit new events.

Undisclosed Challenges

As protestors continued to challenge their nation’s totalitarian systems, many of them were faced with brutally violent responses from the government authority in their countries. One instance of police violence took place in Morocco, where thousands of protestors were beaten. Protestors and activists had hoped to promote peaceful protests, have their voices heard, and find justice and equality. Unfortunately, the violent responses from police caused protestor outrage and resulted in violent reactions. The struggles were not able to be shut down by governments and there were countless protests and uprisings. As regimes were held responsible and government leadership shifted, new influential leaders continued to emerge throughout the Arab world. This led to a struggle of control between religious leaders and supporters of democracy.

The Results of the Arab Spring

The consequences of the Arab Spring are still unfolding. Arabs’ high expectations of changes and social justice seem to be unmet as many questions remain from the public. In a policy brief from A. Kadir Yildirim and Meredith McCain, they discuss the aftermath of the Arab Spring and their public survey used to analyze the results of protests. This survey questioned Arabs from 10 different countries about whether or not they believed that their region was better off after the protests.

In the survey, a good majority of the respondents concluded that protests did not lead to the change Arabs were hoping for. Countries such as Libya, Palestine, and Syria had a low percentage of respondents viewing their country as better off. Many Arabs believe that the upper-class elites unfairly benefitted from the Arab Spring at the cost of the lower class. Along with this, there was also a low percentage (less than 20%) who believed that protest goals—such as economic and social development—were delivered.

An exception to the results were Arabs residing in countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Algeria. Respondents from these countries expressed a more positive evaluation of the protests with the majority of the respondents agreeing that their country was better off after the Arab Spring. In these countries, their goal of political freedom was met.

A Step Forward Post-Arab Spring

The results of the survey indicate that although there was a small response from the Arab government in certain countries, for the most part, many governments did not reach the expectations Arabs were hoping for through the Arab Spring protests and uprisings. This in no way is meant to detract from the political freedom gained through these protests, alongside a significant improvement in economic situations. The aftermath of the demonstrations in the Arab Spring further strengthened the people of the Arab world. Looking to the future, governments should work alongside Arabs to eliminate the stereotypes of minority groups and proactively work toward social justice. Moreover, governments should continue to reduce corruption and improve morale.

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