What Is The Arab Spring?

In Egypt, the Arab Spring resulted in anti-government protests. Editorial credit: MidoSemsem / Shutterstock.com
In Egypt, the Arab Spring resulted in anti-government protests. Editorial credit: MidoSemsem / Shutterstock.com

The Arab Spring was a fundamental wave in the Middle East and North Africa which started on December 17, 2010, with the Tunisia revolution. Also referred to as the Arab Revolution, the Arab Spring included both non-violent and violent civil wars, protests, foreign intervention, coups, riots, and demonstrations. The effect of the revolution spread to 5 different nations including Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, and Libya where social violence and significant uprisings occurred or the regimes were toppled. Minor protests took place in Saudi Arabia, Mauritius, and Djibouti among other countries.

How Did the Term Arab Spring Originate?

The phrase "Arab Spring" is a reference to the 1968 Prague Spring and the 1848 Revolutions known as the ‘’spring-time of countries’’. The phrase was used by many bloggers and commentators who anticipated a main Arab revolution against democratization after the Iraqi war. The first use of Arab Spring to refer to these events was used by an article published in the "Foreign Policy," an American political journal. According to Massad Joseph on Al-Jazeera, it was part of the American tactic for controlling the goals of the movement and directing it towards liberal democracy.

What Are the Causes of the Arab Spring?

The uprising was caused by dissatisfaction, mainly of the unions and the youth with the local government rule. Many people speculated that the vast income levels gap and the pressure instigated by the great recession might have also contributed to the Arab Spring. Other factors that led to these protests include extreme poverty, unemployment, economic decline, political corruption, human right violation, and dictatorship. In the Persian Gulf and North African nations, the primary catalyst was the corruption, the youth rejecting the status quo, and concentration of wealth among the people in power for many years.

What Role Did Social Media Play in the Uprising?

Although the role played by the digital platform in the political activism was highly debated, the protests took place in countries with high internet usage like Bahrain (88% of the population as at 2011) and also the ones with low internet usage like Libya and Yemen. The usage of different social media platform doubled during the protests in the Arab nations except for Libya. Many critics argued that the platforms introduced the digital democracy concept in numerous North African countries which were affected by the protests.

Twitter and Facebook among other platforms played a significant role in the movement of Tunisian and Egyptian activists. In fact, 9 out of 10 people in these countries responded to a poll used on Facebook to spread awareness and organize protests. During the demonstrations, many Facebook pages were created to raise awareness of all the crimes against humanity and also some movements like the April 6 Youth Movement page which inspired the formation of the Tunisia progressive youth movement. The social platforms provided a different source of information which the regimes could not control.

What Was the Outcome of the Protests?

Although the long-term effect of the uprising is yet to be noted, the short-term results included ousting of the existing regimes in Tunisia and Egypt is a free-and-fair election. In other nations like Libya and Syria, the Arab Spring resulted in a total societal collapse. Elsewhere the Persian Gulf and Morocco monarchies co-opted the uprising movements and maintained order without and significant social change. The variation in the outcomes is mostly attributed to the strength of the civil society and the state. Nations with stronger civil society networks experienced successful reforms.


More in Society