Arab Spring (Arabic: الربيع العربي ar-Rabīʻ
al-ʻArabī), also referred to as Arab revolutions (Arabic:
الثورات العربية aṯ-'awrāt al-ʻarabiyyah), was a
revolutionary wave of both violent and non-violent demonstrations,
protests, riots, coups, foreign interventions, and civil wars in North
Africa and the
Middle East that began on 18 December 2010 in Tunisia
with the Tunisian Revolution.
The effects of the Tunisian
Revolution spread strongly to five other
countries: Libya, Egypt, Yemen,
Syria and Bahrain, where either the
regime was toppled or major uprisings and social violence occurred,
including riots, civil wars or insurgencies. Sustained street
demonstrations took place in Morocco, Iraq, Algeria, Iranian
Khuzestan, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait,
Oman and Sudan. Minor protests
occurred in Djibouti, Mauritania, the Palestinian National Authority,
Saudi Arabia, and the Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara. A major
slogan of the demonstrators in the
Arab world is ash-shaʻb yurīd
isqāṭ an-niẓām ("the people want to bring down the regime").
The wave of initial revolutions and protests faded by mid-2012, as
Arab Spring demonstrations were met with violent responses from
authorities, as well as from pro-government militias and
counter-demonstrators. These attacks were answered with violence from
protestors in some cases. Large-scale conflicts
resulted—the Syrian Civil War, Iraqi insurgency and the
following civil war, the Egyptian Crisis, coup and subsequent
unrest and insurgency, the Libyan Civil War, and the Yemeni Crisis
and following civil war.
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 came down to
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
counterrevolutionary moves in
Yemen and of the Saudi-linked military
deep state in Egypt, the regional and international military
Bahrain and Yemen, and the destructive civil wars in
Libya and Yemen.
Some have referred to the succeeding and still ongoing conflicts as
the Arab Winter. As of January 2018, only the
Tunisia has resulted in a transition to constitutional
2.1 Pressures from within
Social media and the Arab Spring
4 Events leading up to the Arab Spring
5 The Arab Spring
5.1 Summary of conflicts by country
6 Major events
8 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
The term "Arab Spring" is an allusion to the Revolutions of 1848,
which are sometimes referred to as the "Springtime of Nations", and
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
Arab Spring as used to denote these events may have started with
the American political journal Foreign Policy.
Marc Lynch described "Arab Spring" as "a term I may have
unintentionally coined in a January 6, 2011 article" for Foreign
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
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
Numerous factors led to the protests, including issues such as
dictatorship or absolute monarchy, human rights violations,
political corruption (demonstrated by Wikileaks diplomatic
cables), economic decline, unemployment, extreme poverty, and a
number of demographic structural factors, such as a large
percentage of educated but dissatisfied youth within the entire
population. Catalysts for the revolts in all Northern African
Persian Gulf countries
Persian Gulf countries included the concentration of wealth in the
hands of autocrats in power for decades, insufficient transparency of
its redistribution, corruption, and especially the refusal of the
youth to accept the status quo.
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.
Social media and the Arab Spring
Social media and the Arab Spring
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
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
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
During the Arab Spring, people created pages on
Facebook to raise
awareness about alleged crimes against humanity, such as police
brutality in the Egyptian
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
Facebook (among other social media) to organize; However, what
Iran was "good old-fanshioned 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
Middle East and
North Africa used texting, emailing, and
blogging only to organize and communicate information about internal
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.
Main article: Timeline of the Arab Spring
Events leading up to the Arab Spring
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
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
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
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.
The Arab Spring
The series of protests and demonstrations across the
Middle East and
North Africa that commenced in 2010, became known as the "Arab
Spring", and sometimes as the "
Arab Spring and
Winter", "Arab Awakening" or "Arab Uprisings"
even though not all the participants in the protests were Arab. It was
sparked by the first protests that occurred in
Tunisia on 18 December
2010 in Sidi Bouzid, following Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation in
protest of police corruption and ill treatment. With the
success of the protests in Tunisia, a wave of unrest sparked by the
Tunisian "Burning Man" struck Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen,
then spread to other countries. The largest, most organised
demonstrations often occurred on a "day of rage", usually Friday
afternoon prayers. The protests also triggered similar
unrest outside the region.
Arab Spring caused the "biggest transformation of the Middle East
since decolonization."  By the end of February 2012, rulers had
been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and
Yemen; civil uprisings had erupted in Bahrain and Syria;
major protests had broken out in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan,
Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, and Sudan; and minor protests
had occurred in Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti,
Western Sahara, and Palestine. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine
Ben Ali fled to
Saudi Arabia on 14 January 2011 following the Tunisian
Revolution protests. In Egypt, President
Hosni Mubarak resigned on 11
February 2011 after 18 days of massive protests, ending his 30-year
presidency. The Libyan leader
Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown on 23
August 2011, after the
National Transitional Council
National Transitional Council (NTC) took
control of Bab al-Azizia. He was killed on 20 October 2011, in his
Sirte after the NTC took control of the city. Yemeni
Ali Abdullah Saleh
Ali Abdullah Saleh signed the GCC power-transfer deal in
which a presidential election was held, resulting in his successor Abd
al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi formally replacing him as the president of Yemen
on 27 February 2012, in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Weapons and Tuareg fighters returning from the Libyan Civil War stoked
a simmering conflict in Mali which has been described as 'fallout'
Arab Spring in North Africa.
During this period of regional unrest, several leaders announced their
intentions to step down at the end of their current terms. Sudanese
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
The geopolitical implications of the protests drew global
attention. Some protesters were nominated for the 2011 Nobel
Tawakkol Karman from
Yemen was co-recipient of the
Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize due to her role organizing peaceful protests.
In December 2011, Time magazine named "The Protester" its "Person of
the Year". Another award was noted when the Spanish photographer
Samuel Aranda won the 2011
World Press Photo
World Press Photo award for his image of a
Yemeni woman holding an injured family member, taken during the civil
Yemen on 15 October 2011.
Summary of conflicts by country
Government overthrown multiple times
Government overthrown Civil war
Protests and governmental changes
Major protests Minor protests
Other protests and militant action outside the Arab world
Status of protests
000000002010-12-18-000018 December 2010
Government overthrown on 14 January 2011
Overthrow of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali; Ben Ali flees into exile in
Resignation of Prime Minister Ghannouchi
Dissolution of the political police
Dissolution of the RCD, the former ruling party of
liquidation of its assets
Release of political prisoners
Elections to a Constituent Assembly on 23 October 2011
2013–14 protests against the interim Islamist-led government.
Adoption of a new constitution
On October 2014, election of a parliament, end of the transition,
Tunisia, becomes a unicameral parliamentary republic.
E Government overthrown
000000002010-12-29-000029 December 2010
Ended in January 2012
Lifting of the 19-year-old state of emergency
B Major protests
000000002011-01-14-000014 January 2011
On February 2011, King Abdullah II dismisses Prime Minister Rifai and
On October 2011, Abdullah dismisses Prime Minister Bakhit and his
cabinet after complaints of slow progress on promised reforms
On April 2012, as the protests continues, Al-Khasawneh resigned, and
the King appoints
Fayez al-Tarawneh as the new Prime Minister of
On October 2012, King Abdullah dissolves the parliament for new early
elections, and appoints
Abdullah Ensour as the new Prime Minister of
C Protests and governmental changes
000000002011-01-17-000017 January 2011
Ended in May 2011
Economic concessions by Sultan Qaboos
Dismissal of ministers
Granting of lawmaking powers to Oman's elected legislature
C Protests and governmental changes
000000002011-01-25-000025 January 2011
The governments overthrown on February 2011, the Egyptian Crisis
Overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, who is later convicted of corruption and
ordered to stand trial for ordering the killing of protesters.
Resignation of Prime Minister(s) Nazif and Shafik
Assumption of power by the Armed Forces
Suspension of the Constitution, dissolution of the Parliament
Disbanding of State Security Investigations Service
Dissolution of the NDP, the former ruling party of
Egypt and transfer
of its assets to the state
Arrest and prosecution of Mubarak, his family and his former
Lifting of the 31-year-old state of emergency
Democratic election held to replace Mubarak as the new president of
Mohamed Morsi elected and inaugurated
Mohamed Morsi overthrown
Constitutional referendum and new elections
Former Armed Forces commander,
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi elected President
Egyptian Armed Forces
Egyptian Armed Forces launch anti-terror military operations in the
Increase in violence and attacks by insurgents since the ouster of
000000002011-01-27-000027 January 2011
Government overthrown on February 2012. Yemeni Crisis follows.
Overthrow of Ali Abdullah Saleh; Saleh granted immunity from
Resignation of Prime Minister Mujawar
Resignation of MPs from the ruling party
Occupation of several areas of Yemeni territory by al-Qaeda and Houthi
Restructure of the military forces by sacking several of its
Approval of Saleh's immunity from prosecution by Yemeni
Presidential election held to replace Saleh as the new president of
Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi
Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi elected and inaugurated
Yemeni Crisis Begins
Al-Hadi ousted by
Start of Yemeni Civil War
EGovernment overthrown Eand ECivil War
000000002011-01-28-000028 January 2011
Ended in March 2011
A Minor protests
000000002011-01-30-000030 January 2011
000000002013-10-26-000026 October 2013
President Bashir announces he will not seek another term in 2015
President Bashir nevertheless chosen as Ruling Party candidate for
A Major protests
000000002011-02-12-000012 February 2011
Ended 23 December 2011, instability and eventually civil war follows
Prime Minister Maliki announces that he will not run for a 3rd
Resignation of provincial governors and local authorities
Two-third wage increase for Sahwa militia members
Elections held and
Haider al-Abadi is elected
ISIL insurgents take broad swathes of Iraq
Start of Iraqi Civil War
Coalition of Countries and the Iraqi Army battle ISIL insurgents.
B Protests and a beginning of a civil war
000000002011-02-14-000014 February 2011
000000002011-03-18-000018 March 2011
Economic concessions by King Hamad
Release of political prisoners
GCC intervention at the request of the Government of Bahrain
Head of the National Security Apparatus removed from post
Formation of a committee to implement BICI report recommendations
D Sustained civil disorder and government changes
000000002011-02-17-000017 February 2011
Government overthrown on 23 August 2011, crisis follows
Overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi; Gaddafi killed by rebel forces
Government defeated by armed revolt with UN-mandated military
Assumption of interim control by the National Transitional Council
Beginning of sporadic low-level fighting and clashes
Government overthrown and civil war
000000002011-02-19-000019 February 2011
Ended in December 2012
Resignation of Prime Minister Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah
Dissolution of the Parliament
C Protests and governmental changes
000000002011-02-20-000020 February 2011
Ended in March–April 2012
Political concessions by King Mohammed VI;
Referendum on constitutional reforms;
Respect to civil rights and an end to corruption
C Protests and governmental changes
000000002011-02-25-000025 February 2011
A Minor protests
000000002011-02-27-000027 February 2011
Ended in December 2011
D Protests and governmental changes
000000002011-03-11-000011 March 2011
Economic concessions by King Abdullah
Male-only municipal elections held 29 September 2011
King Abdullah announces women's approval to vote and be elected in
2015 municipal elections and to be nominated to the Shura Council
Commitment to the expansion of women's rights in Saudi Arabia,
especially after ascension of Mohammad bin Salman to position of Crown
A Minor protests
000000002011-01-26-000026 January 2011
Civil uprising, which transformed into
Syrian Civil War
Syrian Civil War in
Release of some political prisoners
Dismissal of Provincial Governors
Resignation of the Government
End of Emergency Law
Resignations from Parliament
Large defections from the
Syrian army and clashes between soldiers and
Formation of the
Free Syrian Army
Free Syrian Army and full-scale civil war
Formation of ISIL who take broad swathes of Syria
Ongoing violence in
Syria caused millions to flee their homes
000000002011-04-15-000015 April 2011
Ended on 18 April 2011
2011 Khuzestan Protests
B Major protests
Borders of Israel
000000002011-05-15-000015 May 2011
Ended on 5 June 2011
Arab demonstrations on the borders of Israel
B Major protests
000000002011-02-10-000010 February 2011
000000002012-10-05-00005 October 2012
Then Palestinian prime minister
Salam Fayyad states that he is
"'willing to resign"
Fayyad resigns on 13 April 2013 but because of political differences
between him and the Palestinian president
Mahmoud Abbas over the
C Minor protests
Total death toll and other consequences:
hundreds of thousands killed (combined estimate of events)
4 governments overthrown as part of the events
Six protests leading to governmental changes
Five major protests
Four minor protests
2 governments overthrown in the aftermath
Four civil wars in the aftermath (Syria, Iraq,
Libya and Yemen)
Arab Spring concurrent incidents
Main article: Tunisian Revolution
Protesters on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, downtown
Tunis on 14 January
2011, a few hours before president
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the
Following the self-burning of
Mohamed Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid, a
series of increasingly violent street demonstrations through December
2010 ultimately led to the ousting of longtime President Zine El
Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January 2011. The demonstrations were preceded
by high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, lack of freedom
of speech and other forms of political freedom, and poor living
conditions. The protests constituted the most dramatic wave of social
and political unrest in
Tunisia in three decades, and have
resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, most of which were the
result of action by police and security forces against demonstrators.
Ben Ali fled into exile in Saudi Arabia, ending his 23 years in
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
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
Béji Caïd Essebsi
Béji Caïd 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
On 26 October 2014, the country held its first parliamentary elections
since the 2011 Arab Spring and its presidentials 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
Egyptian revolution of 2011
Egyptian revolution of 2011 and Egyptian crisis
Tahrir Square after Omar Suleiman's statement
concerning Hosni Mubarak's resignation.
Inspired by the uprising in
Tunisia and prior to his entry as a
central figure in Egyptian politics, potential presidential candidate
Mohamed ElBaradei warned of a "Tunisia-style explosion" in Egypt.
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,
Hosni Mubarak dismissed his government, later appointing a
new cabinet. Mubarak also appointed the first Vice President in almost
The U.S. embassy and international students began a voluntary
evacuation near the end of January, as violence and rumors of violence
On 10 February, Mubarak ceded all presidential power to Vice President
Omar Suleiman, but soon thereafter announced that he would remain as
President until the end of his term. However, protests continued
the next day, and Suleiman quickly announced that Mubarak had resigned
from the presidency and transferred power to the Armed Forces of
Egypt. The military immediately dissolved the Egyptian
Parliament, suspended the Constitution of Egypt, and promised to lift
the nation's thirty-year "emergency laws". A civilian, Essam Sharaf,
was appointed as Prime Minister of
Egypt on 4 March to widespread
approval among Egyptians in Tahrir Square. Violent protests
however, continued through the end of 2011 as many Egyptians expressed
concern about the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' perceived
sluggishness in instituting reforms and their grip on power.
Hosni Mubarak and his former interior minister
Habib al-Adli were
sentenced to life in prison on the basis of their failure to stop the
killings during the first six days of the 2011 Egyptian
Revolution. His successor, Mohamed Morsi, was sworn in as Egypt's
first democratically elected president before judges at the Supreme
Constitutional Court. Fresh protests erupted in
Egypt on 22
November 2012. On 3 July 2013, the military overthrew the replacement
government and President Morsi was removed from power.
Libyan Civil War (2011)
Libyan Civil War (2011) and Libyan Civil War
Thousands of demonstrators gather in Bayda.
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
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
On 17 March,
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973
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
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.
In late August, anti-Gaddafi fighters captured Tripoli, scattering
Gaddafi's government and marking the end of his 42 years of power.
Many institutions of the government, including Gaddafi and several top
government officials, regrouped in Sirte, which Gaddafi declared to be
Libya's new capital. Others fled to Sabha, Bani Walid, and remote
reaches of the Libyan Desert, or to surrounding countries.
However, Sabha fell in late September,
Bani Walid was captured
after a grueling siege weeks later, and on 20 October, fighters
under the aegis of the
National Transitional Council
National Transitional Council seized Sirte,
killing Gaddafi in the process. However, after Gaddafi was
killed, the Civil War continued.
Main articles: Yemeni
Revolution and Yemeni Crisis (2011–present)
Protests in Sana'a.
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.
A major demonstration of over 16,000 protesters took place in Sana'a
on 27 January 2011, and soon thereafter human rights activist and
Tawakel Karman called for a "Day of Rage" on 3
February. According to Xinhua News, organizers were calling for a
million protesters. In response to the planned protest, Ali
Abdullah Saleh stated that he would not seek another presidential term
in 2013. 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
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
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 Saudi-led intervention in
Main articles: Civil uprising phase of the Syrian Civil War, Syrian
Civil War, and Spillover of the Syrian Civil War
Anti-government demonstrations in Baniyas.
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.
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
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
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
Hama began falling into the control of the
opposition, during this time military operations in
Homs and Hama
By mid-January the FSA gained control over
Zabadani and Madaya. By
late January, the
Free Syrian Army
Free Syrian Army launched a full-scale attack
against the government in Rif Dimashq, where they took over Saqba,
Harasta and other cities in Damascus's Eastern suburbs. On
29 January, the fourth regiment of the Syrian Army led by the
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
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
Baba Amr after a big military operation and heavy
fighting. Following this, the opposition forces began losing
Homs to the Syrian Army including al-Inshaat, Jobr,
Karm el-Zaytoon and only Homs's old neighborhood's, including
Al-Khalidiya, Homsal-Khalidiya, remained in opposition hands.
By March 2012, the government began military operations against the
Idlib Governorate including the city of Idlib, which
fell to the Army by mid-March.
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
Aleppo Governorate, which they were not able to do before.
Heavy-to-sporadic fighting was also continuing in the
Daraa and Deir
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
Baba Amr district had gone, of
Homs being abandoned completely.
On 12 June 2012, the UN peacekeeping chief in
Syria stated that, in
Syria has entered a period of civil war.
Main article: Bahraini protests of 2011–2014
Over 100,000 Bahrainis taking part in the "March of Loyalty to
Manama honoring political dissidents killed by security
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
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".
Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa
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
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.
Arab Winter and Impact of the Arab Spring
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
Areas of control in the Libyan Civil War (2014–present)
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
Libya, the apparent result of
Arab Spring protests was a complete
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
Robert D. Putnam
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
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
Also crucial was the degree of state censorship over print, broadcast,
and social media in different countries. Television coverage by
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
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. With out 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
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 immigration
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.
Demonstrators holding the
Rabia sign in solidarity with the victims of
August 2013 Rabaa massacre
August 2013 Rabaa massacre of pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo.
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
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
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
Finally, "Still, youth across the region continue to struggle with the
more personal fight to build an economic future as they enter
adulthood. For many young people, this struggle has only become more
acute in the difficult macroeconomic environment faced by many of the
countries in the region. Finding real solutions to the economic
constraints that shape the transition to adulthood in the Middle East
remains as vital today as before the Arab Uprisings, when youth
brought their economic frustrations to streets and squares around the
region. Indeed, finding such solutions is perhaps the lynchpin for
bringing stability back to the
Middle East and building a more
prosperous economic future for all of the people of the region." 
Yemeni capital Sanaa after Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes against the
Shia Houthis, October 2015
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
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
Islah and the
Houthi movement), in
Iraq (Islamic State and Iraqi Shiite
Increased caution and political learning in countries such as Algeria
Jordan where Islamist have chosen not to lead a major challenge
against their governments. In
Islah "has sought to frame its
ideology in a way that will avoid charges of militancy".
In countries where Islamist did chose 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
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."
Democracy in the Middle East
Saudi Arabia proxy conflict
List of modern conflicts in North Africa
List of modern conflicts in the Middle East
Spillover of the Syrian Civil War
Women in the Arab Spring
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