The Arab Spring (Arabic: الربيع العربي) was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across the Middle East in late 2010. It began in response to oppressive regimes and a low standard of living, beginning with protests in Tunisia (Noueihed, 2011; Maleki, 2011). In the news, social media has been heralded as the driving force behind the swift spread of revolution throughout the world, as new protests appear in response to success stories shared from those taking place in other countries (see Howard, 2011). In many countries, the governments have also recognized the importance of social media for organizing and have shut down certain sites or blocked Internet service entirely, especially in the times preceding a major rally (see The Telegraph, 2011). Governments have also scrutinized or suppressed discussion in those forums through accusing content creators of unrelated crimes or shutting down communication on specific sites or groups, such as through Facebook (Solomon, 2011; Seyid, 2011).
A power struggle continued after the immediate response to the Arab Spring. While leadership changed and regimes were held accountable, power vacuums opened across the Arab world. Ultimately it resulted in a contentious battle between a consolidation of power by religious elites and the growing support for democracy in many Muslim-majority states. The early hopes that these popular movements would end corruption, increase political participation, and bring about greater economic equity quickly collapsed in the wake of the counter-revolutionary moves by foreign state actors in Yemen and of the Saudi-UAE-linked military deep state in Egypt, the regional and international military interventions in Bahrain and Yemen, and the destructive civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
Some have referred to the succeeding and still ongoing conflicts as the Arab Winter. As of May 2018, only the uprising in Tunisia has resulted in a transition to constitutional democratic governance.
The term "Arab Spring" is an allusion to the Revolutions of 1848, which are sometimes referred to as the "Springtime of Nations", and the Prague Spring in 1968. In the aftermath of the Iraq War, it was used by various commentators and bloggers who anticipated a major Arab movement towards democratization. The first specific use of the term Arab Spring as used to denote these events may have started with the American political journal Foreign Policy. Political scientist Marc Lynch described "Arab Spring" as "a term I may have unintentionally coined in a 6 January 2011 article" for Foreign Policy magazine.Joseph Massad on Al Jazeera said the term was "part of a US strategy of controlling [the movement's] aims and goals" and directing it towards western-style liberal democracy. When Arab Spring protests in some countries were followed by electoral success for Islamist parties, some American pundits coined the terms "Islamist Spring" and "Islamist Winter".
Some observers have also drawn comparisons between the Arab Spring movements and the Revolutions of 1989 (also known as the "Autumn of Nations") that swept through Eastern Europe and the Second World, in terms of their scale and significance. Others, however, have pointed out that there are several key differences between the movements, such as the desired outcomes, the effectiveness of civil resistance, and the organizational role of Internet-based technologies in the Arab revolutions.
Pressures from within
The world watched the events of the Arab Spring unfold, "gripped by the narrative of a young generation peacefully rising up against oppressive authoritarianism to secure a more democratic political system and a brighter economic future." The Arab Spring is widely believed to have been instigated by dissatisfaction, particularly of youth and unions, with the rule of local governments, though some have speculated that wide gaps in income levels and pressures caused by the Great Recession may have had a hand as well. Some activists had taken part in programs sponsored by the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy, but the U.S. government did not initiate the uprisings.
Some protesters looked to the Turkish model as an ideal (contested but peaceful elections, fast-growing but liberal economy, secular constitution but Islamist government). Other analysts blamed the rise in food prices on commodity traders and the conversion of crops to ethanol. Yet others have claimed that the context of high rates of unemployment and corrupt political regimes led to dissent movements within the region.
In the wake of the Arab Spring protests, a considerable amount of attention has been focused on the role of social media and digital technologies in allowing citizens within areas affected by 'the Arab Uprisings' as a means for collective activism to circumvent state-operated media channels. The influence of social media on political activism during the Arab Spring has, however, been much debated. Protests took place both in states with a very high level of Internet usage (such as Bahrain with 88% of its population online in 2011) and in states with some of the lowest Internet penetration (Yemen and Libya).
The use of social media platforms more than doubled in Arab countries during the protests, with the exception of Libya. Some researchers have shown how collective intelligence, dynamics of the crowd in participatory systems such as social media, have immense power to support a collective action – such as foment a political change. As of 5 April 2011[update], the number of Facebook users in the Arab world surpassed 27.7 million people. Some critics have argued that digital technologies and other forms of communication – videos, cellular phones, blogs, photos, emails, and text messages – have brought about the concept of a 'digital democracy' in parts of North Africa affected by the uprisings.
Facebook, Twitter and other major social media played a key role in the movement of Egyptian and Tunisian activists in particular. Nine out of ten Egyptians and Tunisians responded to a poll that they used Facebook to organize protests and spread awareness. This large population of young Egyptian men referred to themselves as "the Facebook generation", exemplifying their escape from their non-modernized past. Furthermore, 28% of Egyptians and 29% of Tunisians from the same poll said that blocking Facebook greatly hindered and/or disrupted communication. Social media sites were a platform for different movements formed by many frustrated citizens, including the 2008 "April 6 Youth Movement" organized by Ahmed Mahed, which set out to organize and promote a nationwide labor strike, and which inspired the later creation of the "Progressive Youth of Tunisia".
During the Arab Spring, people created pages on Facebook to raise awareness about alleged crimes against humanity, such as police brutality in the Egyptian Revolution (see Wael Ghonim and Death of Khaled Mohamed Saeed). Whether the project of raising awareness was primarily pursued by Arabs themselves or simply advertised by western social media users is a matter of debate; Jared Keller, a journalist for The Atlantic, claims that most activists and protesters used Facebook (among other social media) to organize; However, what influenced Iran was "good old-fashioned word of mouth". Jared Keller argued that the sudden and anomalous social media output was caused from westerners witnessing the situation(s), and then broadcasting them. The Middle East and North Africa used texting, emailing, and blogging only to organize and communicate information about internal local protests.
A study by Zeynep Tufekci of the University of North Carolina and Christopher Wilson of the United Nations Development Program concluded that "social media in general, and Facebook in particular, provided new sources of information the regime could not easily control and were crucial in shaping how citizens made individual decisions about participating in protests, the logistics of protest, and the likelihood of success." Marc Lynch of George Washington University said, "while social media boosters envisioned the creation of a new public sphere based on dialogue and mutual respect, the reality is that Islamists and their adversaries retreat to their respective camps, reinforcing each other's prejudices while throwing the occasional rhetorical bomb across the no-man's land that the center has become." Lynch also stated in a Foreign Policy article, "There is something very different about scrolling through pictures and videos of unified, chanting Yemeni or Egyptian crowds demanding democratic change and waking up to a gory image of a headless 6-year-old girl on your Facebook news feed."
Social networks were not the only instrument for rebels to coordinate their efforts and communicate. In the countries with the lowest Internet penetration and the limited role of social networks, such as Yemen and Libya, the role of mainstream electronic media devices – cell phones, emails, and video clips (e.g. YouTube) was very important to cast the light on the situation in the country and spread the word about the protests in the outside world. In Egypt, in Cairo particularly, mosques were one of the main platforms to coordinate the protest actions and raise awareness to the masses.
Tunisia experienced a series of conflicts during the three years leading up to the Arab Spring, the most notable occurring in the mining area of Gafsa in 2008, where protests continued for many months. These protests included rallies, sit-ins, and strikes, during which there were two fatalities, an unspecified number of wounded, and dozens of arrests.
In Egypt, the labor movement had been strong for years, with more than 3,000 labor actions since 2004, and provided an important venue for organizing protests and collective action. One important demonstration was an attempted workers' strike on 6 April 2008 at the state-run textile factories of al-Mahalla al-Kubra, just outside Cairo. The idea for this type of demonstration spread throughout the country, promoted by computer-literate working class youths and their supporters among middle-class college students. A Facebook page, set up to promote the strike, attracted tens of thousands of followers and provided the platform for sustained political action in pursuit of the "long revolution." The government mobilized to break the strike through infiltration and riot police, and while the regime was somewhat successful in forestalling a strike, dissidents formed the "6 April Committee" of youths and labor activists, which became one of the major forces calling for the anti-Mubarak demonstration on 25 January in Tahrir Square.
In Algeria, discontent had been building for years over a number of issues. In February 2008, United States Ambassador Robert Ford wrote in a leaked diplomatic cable that Algeria is 'unhappy' with long-standing political alienation; that social discontent persisted throughout the country, with food strikes occurring almost every week; that there were demonstrations every day somewhere in the country; and that the Algerian government was corrupt and fragile. Some claimed that during 2010 there were as many as '9,700 riots and unrests' throughout the country. Many protests focused on issues such as education and health care, while others cited rampant corruption.
In Western Sahara, the Gdeim Izik protest camp was erected 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) south-east of El Aaiún by a group of young Sahrawis on 9 October 2010. Their intention was to demonstrate against labor discrimination, unemployment, looting of resources, and human rights abuses. The camp contained between 12,000 and 20,000 inhabitants, but on 8 November 2010 it was destroyed and its inhabitants evicted by Moroccan security forces. The security forces faced strong opposition from some young Sahrawi civilians, and rioting soon spread to El Aaiún and other towns within the territory, resulting in an unknown number of injuries and deaths. Violence against Sahrawis in the aftermath of the protests was cited as a reason for renewed protests months later, after the start of the Arab Spring.
The catalyst for the escalation of protests was the self-immolation of Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi. Unable to find work and selling fruit at a roadside stand, Bouazizi had his wares confiscated by a municipal inspector on 17 December 2010. An hour later he doused himself with gasoline and set himself afire. His death on 4 January 2011 brought together various groups dissatisfied with the existing system, including many unemployed, political and human rights activists, labor, trade unionists, students, professors, lawyers, and others to begin the Tunisian Revolution.
During this period of regional unrest, several leaders announced their intentions to step down at the end of their current terms. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced that he would not seek re-election in 2015 (he ultimately retracted his previous announcement and ran anyway), as did Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose term was ending in 2014, although there were violent demonstrations demanding his immediate resignation in 2011. Protests in Jordan also caused the sacking of four successive governments by King Abdullah. The popular unrest in Kuwait also resulted in resignation of Prime Minister Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah cabinet.
In April 2011, King Abdullah creates the Royal Committee to Review the Constitution with directions to review the Constitution in accordance with calls for reform. On September 30, 2011, King Abdullah approves changes to all 42 articles of the Constitution
On October 2011, Abdullah dismisses Prime Minister Bakhit and his cabinet after complaints of slow progress on promised reforms
A state of emergency was declared and a caretaker coalition government was created following Ben Ali's departure, which included members of Ben Ali's party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), as well as opposition figures from other ministries. However, the five newly appointed non-RCD ministers resigned almost immediately. As a result of continued daily protests, on 27 January Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi reshuffled the government, removing all former RCD members other than himself, and on 6 February the former ruling party was suspended; later, on 9 March, it was dissolved. Following further public protests, Ghannouchi himself resigned on 27 February, and Beji Caid Essebsi became Prime Minister.
On 23 October 2011, Tunisians voted in the first post-revolution election to elect representatives to a 217-member constituent assembly that would be responsible for the new constitution. The leading Islamist party, Ennahda, won 37% of the vote, and managed to elect 42 women to the Constituent Assembly.
On 26 January 2014, a new constitution was elected. The constitution is seen as progressive, increases human rights, gender equality, government duties toward people, lays the ground for a new parliamentary system and makes Tunisia a decentralized and open government.
On 26 October 2014, the country held its first parliamentary elections since the 2011 Arab Spring and its presidential election on 23 November 2014, finishing its transition to a democratic state. These elections were characterized by the fall in popularity of Ennahdha, for the secular Nidaa Tounes party, which became the first party of the country.
Protests in Egypt began on 25 January 2011 and ran for 18 days. Beginning around midnight on 28 January, the Egyptian government attempted, somewhat successfully, to eliminate the nation's Internet access, in order to inhibit the protesters' ability to use media activism to organize through social media. Later that day, as tens of thousands protested on the streets of Egypt's major cities, President Hosni Mubarak dismissed his government, later appointing a new cabinet. Mubarak also appointed the first Vice President in almost 30 years.
The U.S. embassy and international students began a voluntary evacuation near the end of January, as violence and rumors of violence escalated.
Anti-government protests began in Libya on 15 February 2011. By 18 February the opposition controlled most of Benghazi, the country's second-largest city. The government dispatched elite troops and militia in an attempt to recapture it, but they were repelled. By 20 February, protests had spread to the capital Tripoli, leading to a television address by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who warned the protestors that their country could descend into civil war. The rising death toll, numbering in the thousands, drew international condemnation and resulted in the resignation of several Libyan diplomats, along with calls for the government's dismantlement.
Amidst ongoing efforts by demonstrators and rebel forces to wrest control of Tripoli from the Jamahiriya, the opposition set up an interim government in Benghazi to oppose Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's rule. However, despite initial opposition success, government forces subsequently took back much of the Mediterranean coast.
On 17 March, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 was adopted, authorising a no-fly zone over Libya, and "all necessary measures" to protect civilians. Two days later, France, the United States and the United Kingdom intervened in Libya with a bombing campaign against pro-Gaddafi forces. A coalition of 27 states from Europe and the Middle East soon joined the intervention. The forces were driven back from the outskirts of Benghazi, and the rebels mounted an offensive, capturing scores of towns across the coast of Libya. The offensive stalled however, and a counter-offensive by the government retook most of the towns, until a stalemate was formed between Brega and Ajdabiya, the former being held by the government and the latter in the hands of the rebels. Focus then shifted to the west of the country, where bitter fighting continued. After a three-month-long battle, a loyalist siege of rebel-held Misrata, the third largest city in Libya, was broken in large part due to coalition air strikes. The four major fronts of combat were generally considered to be the Nafusa Mountains, the Tripolitanian coast, the Gulf of Sidra, and the southern Libyan Desert.
Protests occurred in many towns in both the north and south of Yemen starting in mid-January 2011. Demonstrators initially protested against governmental proposals to modify the constitution of Yemen, unemployment and economic conditions, and corruption, but their demands soon included a call for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been facing internal opposition from his closest advisors since 2009.
On 3 February, 20,000 protesters demonstrated against the government in Sana'a, others participated in a "Day of Rage" in Aden that was called for by Tawakel Karman, while soldiers, armed members of the General People's Congress, and many protestors held a pro-government rally in Sana'a. Concurrent with the resignation of Egyptian president Mubarak, Yemenis again took to the streets protesting President Saleh on 11 February, in what has been dubbed a "Friday of Rage". The protests continued in the days following despite clashes with government advocates. In a "Friday of Anger" held on 18 February, tens of thousands of Yemenis took part in anti-government demonstrations in the major cities of Sana'a, Taiz, and Aden. Protests continued over the following months, especially in the three major cities, and briefly intensified in late May into urban warfare between Hashid tribesmen and army defectors allied with the opposition on one side and security forces and militias loyal to Saleh on the other.
After Saleh pretended to accept a Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered plan allowing him to cede power in exchange for immunity from prosecution only to back away before signing three separate times, an assassination attempt on 3 June left him and several other high-ranking Yemeni officials injured by a blast in the presidential compound's mosque. Saleh was evacuated to Saudi Arabia for treatment, but he handed over power to Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi, who has largely continued his policies and ordered the arrest of several Yemenis in connection with the attack on the presidential compound. While in Saudi Arabia, Saleh kept hinting that he could return any time and continued to be present in the political sphere through television appearances from Riyadh starting with an address to the Yemeni people on 7 July. On Friday 13 August, a demonstration was announced in Yemen as "Mansouron Friday" in which hundreds of thousands of Yemenis called for Ali Abdullah Saleh to go. The protesters joining the "Mansouron Friday" were calling for establishment of "a new Yemen". On 12 September, Saleh issued a presidential decree while still receiving treatment in Riyadh authorizing Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi to negotiate a deal with the opposition and sign the GCC initiative.
On 23 September, three months since the assassination attempt, Saleh returned to Yemen abruptly, defying all earlier expectations. Pressure on Saleh to sign the GCC initiative eventually led to his signing of it in Riyadh on 23 November, in which Saleh agreed to step down and set the stage for the transfer of power to his vice-president. A presidential election was then held on 21 February 2012, in which Hadi (the only candidate) won 99.8 percent of the vote. Hadi then took the oath of office in Yemen's parliament on 25 February. By 27 February, Saleh had resigned from the presidency and transferred power to his successor. The replacement government was overthrown by Houthi rebels on 22 January 2015, starting the Yemeni Civil War and the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.
Protests in Syria started on 26 January 2011, when a police officer assaulted a man in public at "Al-Hareeka Street" in old Damascus. The man was arrested right after the assault. As a result, protesters called for the freedom of the arrested man. Soon a "day of rage" was set for 4–5 February, but it was uneventful. On 6 March, the Syrian security forces arrested about 15 children in Daraa, in southern Syria, for writing slogans against the government. Soon protests erupted over the arrest and abuse of the children. Daraa was to be the first city to protest against the Ba'athist government, which has been ruling Syria since 1963.
Thousands of protesters gathered in Damascus, Aleppo, al-Hasakah, Daraa, Deir ez-Zor, and Hama on 15 March, with recently released politician Suhair Atassi becoming an unofficial spokesperson for the "Syrian revolution". The next day there were reports of approximately 3000 arrests and a few casualties, but there are no official figures on the number of deaths. On 18 April 2011, approximately 100,000 protesters sat in the central Square of Homs calling for the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad. Protests continued through July 2011, the government responding with harsh security clampdowns and military operations in several districts, especially in the north.
On 31 July, Syrian army tanks stormed several cities, including Hama, Deir Ez-Zour, Abu Kamal, and Herak near Daraa. At least 136 people were killed, the highest death toll in any day since the start of the uprising. On 5 August 2011, an anti-government demonstration took place in Syria called "God is with us", during which the Syrian security forces shot the protesters from inside the ambulances, killing 11 people consequently.
By late November – early December, the Baba Amr district of Homs fell under armed Syrian opposition control. By late December, the battles between the government's security forces and the rebel Free Syrian Army intensified in Idlib Governorate. Cities in Idlib and neighborhoods in Homs and Hama began falling into the control of the opposition, during this time military operations in Homs and Hama stopped.
By mid-January the FSA gained control over Zabadani and Madaya. By late January, the Free Syrian Army launched a full-scale attack against the government in Rif Dimashq, where they took over Saqba, Hamoreya, Harasta and other cities in Damascus's Eastern suburbs. On 29 January, the fourth regiment of the Syrian Army led by the president's brother Maher al-Assad and the Syrian Army dug in at Damascus, and the fighting continued where the FSA was 8 km away from the Republican palace in Damascus. Fighting broke out near Damascus international airport, but by the next day the Syrian government deployed the Republican Guards. The military gained the upper hand and regained all land the opposition gained in Rif Dimashq by early February. On 4 February, the Syrian Army launched a massive bombardment on Homs and committed a huge massacre, killing 500 civilians in one night in Homs. By mid-February, the Syrian Army regained control over Zabadani and Madaya. In late February, Army forces entered Baba Amr after a big military operation and heavy fighting. Following this, the opposition forces began losing neighborhoods in Homs to the Syrian Army including al-Inshaat, Jobr, Karm el-Zaytoon and only Homs's old neighborhood's, including Al-Khalidiya, Homs|al-Khalidiya, remained in opposition hands.
By March 2012, the government began military operations against the opposition in Idlib Governorate including the city of Idlib, which fell to the Army by mid-March. Saraqib and Sarmin were also recaptured by the government during the month. Still, at this time, the opposition managed to capture al-Qusayr and Rastan. Heavy fighting also continued in several neighborhoods in Homs and in the city of Hama. The FSA also started to conduct hit-and-run attacks in the pro-Assad Aleppo Governorate, which they were not able to do before. Heavy-to-sporadic fighting was also continuing in the Daraa and Deir ez-Zor Governorates.
By late April 2012, despite a cease-fire being declared in the whole country, sporadic fighting continued, with heavy clashes specifically in Al-Qusayr, where rebel forces controlled the northern part of the city, while the military held the southern part. FSA forces were holding onto Al-Qusayr, due to it being the last major transit point toward the Lebanese border. A rebel commander from the Farouq Brigade in the town reported that 2,000 Farouq fighters had been killed in Homs province since August 2011. At this point, there were talks among the rebels in Al-Qusayr, where many of the retreating rebels from Homs city's Baba Amr district had gone, of Homs being abandoned completely. On 12 June 2012, the UN peacekeeping chief in Syria stated that, in his view, Syria has entered a period of civil war.
The protests in Bahrain started on 14 February, and were initially aimed at achieving greater political freedom and respect for human rights; they were not intended to directly threaten the monarchy.(pp162–3) Lingering frustration among the Shiite majority with being ruled by the Sunni government was a major root cause, but the protests in Tunisia and Egypt are cited as the inspiration for the demonstrations.(p65) The protests were largely peaceful until a pre-dawn raid by police on 17 February to clear protestors from Pearl Roundabout in Manama, in which police killed four protesters.(pp73–4) Following the raid, some protesters began to expand their aims to a call for the end of the monarchy. On 18 February, army forces opened fire on protesters when they tried to reenter the roundabout, fatally wounding one.(pp77–8) The following day protesters reoccupied Pearl Roundabout after the government ordered troops and police to withdraw.(p81) Subsequent days saw large demonstrations; on 21 February a pro-government Gathering of National Unity drew tens of thousands,(p86) whilst on 22 February the number of protestors at the Pearl Roundabout peaked at over 150,000 after more than 100,000 protesters marched there and were coming under fire from the Bahraini Military which killed around 20 and injured over 100 protestors.(p88) On 14 March, GCC forces (composed mainly of Saudi and UAE troops) were requested by the government and entered the country,(p132) which the opposition called an "occupation".
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa declared a three-month state of emergency on 15 March and asked the military to reassert its control as clashes spread across the country.(p139) On 16 March, armed soldiers and riot police cleared the protesters' camp in the Pearl Roundabout, in which 3 policemen and 3 protesters were reportedly killed.(pp133–4) Later, on 18 March, the government tore down Pearl Roundabout monument.(pp150) After the lifting of emergency law on 1 June, several large rallies were staged by the opposition parties. Smaller-scale protests and clashes outside of the capital have continued to occur almost daily. On 9 March 2012, over 100,000 protested in what the opposition called "the biggest march in our history".
The police response has been described as a "brutal" crackdown on peaceful and unarmed protestors, including doctors and bloggers. The police carried out midnight house raids in Shia neighbourhoods, beatings at checkpoints, and denial of medical care in a "campaign of intimidation". More than 2,929 people have been arrested, and at least five people died due to torture while in police custody.(p287,288) On 23 November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry released its report on its investigation of the events, finding that the government had systematically tortured prisoners and committed other human rights violations.(pp415–422) It also rejected the government's claims that the protests were instigated by Iran. Although the report found that systematic torture had stopped,(pp417) the Bahraini government has refused entry to several international human rights groups and news organizations, and delayed a visit by a UN inspector. More than 80 people had died since the start of the uprising.
In the aftermath of the Arab Spring in various countries, there was a wave of violence and instability commonly known as the Arab Winter or Islamist Winter. The Arab Winter was characterized by extensive civil wars, general regional instability, economic and demographic decline of the Arab League and overall religious wars between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
Although the long-term effects of the Arab Spring have yet to be shown, its short-term consequences varied greatly across the Middle East and North Africa. In Tunisia and Egypt, where the existing regimes were ousted and replaced through a process of free and fair election, the revolutions were considered short-term successes. This interpretation is, however, problematized by the subsequent political turmoil that emerged, particularly in Egypt. Elsewhere, most notably in the monarchies of Morocco and the Persian Gulf, existing regimes co-opted the Arab Spring movement and managed to maintain order without significant social change. In other countries, particularly Syria and Libya, the apparent result of Arab Spring protests was a complete societal collapse.
Social scientists have endeavored to understand the circumstances that led to this variation in outcome. A variety of causal factors have been highlighted, most of which hinge on the relationship between the strength of the state and the strength of civil society. Countries with stronger civil society networks in various forms underwent more successful reforms during the Arab Spring; these findings are also consistent with more general social science theories such as those espoused by Robert D. Putnam and Joel S. Migdal.
One of the primary influences that have been highlighted in the analysis of the Arab Spring is the relative strength or weakness of a society's formal and informal institutions prior to the revolts. When the Arab Spring began, Tunisia had an established infrastructure and a lower level of petty corruption than did other states, such as Libya. This meant that, following the overthrow of the existing regime, there was less work to be done in reforming Tunisian institutions than elsewhere, and consequently it was less difficult to transition to and consolidate a democratic system of government.
Also crucial was the degree of state censorship over print, broadcast, and social media in different countries. Television coverage by channels like Al Jazeera and BBC News provided worldwide exposure and prevented mass violence by the Egyptian government in Tahrir Square, contributing to the success of the Egyptian Revolution. In other countries, such as Libya, Bahrain, and Syria, such international press coverage was not present to the same degree, and the governments of these countries were able to act more freely in suppressing the protests. Strong authoritarian regimes with high degrees of censorship in their national broadcast media were able to block communication and prevent the domestic spread of information necessary for successful protests. Morocco is a case in point, as its broadcast media at the time of the revolts was owned and operated almost exclusively by political elites with ties to the monarchy.
Countries with greater access to social media, such as Tunisia and Egypt, proved more effective in mobilizing large groups of people, and appear to have been more successful overall than those with greater state control over media. Although social media played a large role in shaping the events of revolutions social activism did not occur in a vacuum. Without the use of street level organization social activists would not have been as effective. Even though a revolution did take place and the prior government has been replaced, Tunisia's government can not conclude that another uprising will not take place. There are still many grievances taking place today.
Due to tourism coming to a halt and other factors during the revolution and Arab Spring movement, the budget deficit has grown and unemployment has risen since 2011. According to World Bank, "Unemployment remains at 15.3% from 16.7% in 2011, but still well above the pre-revolution level of 13%." Large scale emigration brought on by a long and treacherous civil war has permanently harmed the Syrian economy. Projections for economic contraction will remain high at almost 7% in 2017.
Still to this day, in countries affected by the Arab Spring, there is great division amongst those who prefer the status quo and those who want democratic change. As these regions dive ever deeper into political conflict time will show if new ideas can be established or if old institutions will still stand strong. The largest change from the pre-revolution to the post-revolution was in the attempt to break up political elites and reshape the geopolitical structure of the middle east. It is speculated that many of the changes brought on by the Arab Spring will lead to a shifting of regional power in the Middle East and a quickly changing structure of power.
The support, even if tacit, of national military forces during protests has also been correlated to the success of the Arab Spring movement in different countries. In Egypt and Tunisia, the military actively participated in ousting the incumbent regime and in facilitating the transition to democratic elections. Countries like Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, exhibited a strong mobilization of military force against protesters, effectively ending the revolts in their territories; others, including Libya and Syria, failed to stop the protests entirely and instead ended up in civil war. The support of the military in Arab Spring protests has also been linked to the degree of ethnic homogeneity in different societies. In Saudi Arabia and Syria, where the ruling elite was closely linked with ethnic or religious subdivisions of society, the military sided with the existing regime and took on the ostensible role of protector to minority populations. Even aside from the military issue, countries with less homogeneous ethnic and national identities, such as Yemen and Jordan, seem to have exhibited less effective mobilization on the whole. The apparent exception to this trend is Egypt, which has a sizable Coptic minority.
The presence of a strong, educated middle class has been noted as a correlate to the success of the Arab Spring in different countries. Countries with strong welfare programs and a weak middle class, such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as well as countries with great economic disparity and an impoverished working class—including Yemen, Libya, and Morocco—did not experience successful revolutions. The strength of the middle class is, in turn, directly connected to the existing political, economic, and educational institutions in a country, and the middle class itself may be considered an informal institution. In very broad terms, this may be reframed in terms of development, as measured by various indicators such as the Human Development Index: rentier states such as the oil monarchies of the Persian Gulf exhibited less successful revolutions overall.
Some trends in political Islam resulting from the Arab Spring noted by observers (Quinn Mecham and Tarek Osman) include:
Repression of the Muslim Brotherhood, not only in Egypt by the military and courts following the forcible removal of Morsi from office in 2013; but also by Saudi Arabia and a number of Gulf countries (not Qatar). The ambassadors crisis also seriously threatened the GCC's activities, adversely affected its functioning and could arguably even have led to its dissolution.
Rise of Islamist "state-building" where "state failure" has taken place—most prominently in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. Islamists have found it easier than competing non-Islamists trying to fill the void of state failure, by securing external funding, weaponry and fighters – "many of which have come from abroad and have rallied around a pan-Islamic identity". The norms of governance in these Islamist areas are militia-based, and the governed submit to their authority out of fear, loyalty, other reasons, or some combination. The "most expansive" of these new "models" is the Islamic State.
Increasing sectarianism (primarily Sunni-Shia) at least in part from proxy wars and the escalation of the Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict. Islamists are fighting Islamists across sectarian lines in Lebanon (Sunni militants targeting Hezbollah positions), Yemen (between mainstream Sunni Islamists of al-Islah and the Shiite ZaydiHouthi movement), in Iraq (Islamic State and Iraqi Shiite militias)
Increased caution and political learning in countries such as Algeria and Jordan where Islamists have chosen not to lead a major challenge against their governments. In Yemen, al-Islah "has sought to frame its ideology in a way that will avoid charges of militancy".
In countries where Islamists did choose to lead a major challenge and did not succeed in transforming society (particularly Egypt), a disinterest in "soul-searching" about what went wrong, in favor of "antagonism and fiery anger" and a thirst for revenge. Partisans of political Islam (although this does not include some prominent leaders such as Rached Ghannouchi but is particularly true in Egypt) see themselves as victims of an injustice whose perpetrators are not just "individual conspirators but entire social groups".
"The repercussions of the 2011 uprisings have influenced Middle Eastern youth’s experiences providing impetus for questioning perennial sacred beliefs and positions, and forging ahead avant-garde views and responses to the constraints they face."
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