Geography

The Arab Spring

The anti-government protests and demonstrations were made not only by Arabs but also Africans. The word “spring” is an allusion or reference to water being a welcome development in the mostly arid geography of the MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) region. Other similar protests, uprisings, and rebellions were termed as “The Velvet Revolution” and the “People Power Revolution” (depending on the degree of peacefulness or violence) in other countries.
Arab Spring started innocently enough in Tunisia when a street fruit vendor immolated (burned alive) himself to protest the lack of jobs for poor people like him. This vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi was reportedly a college graduate who could not find any decent job for himself to feed his family. Soon other protesters took up his cause and led to the downfall of long-time Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The events in Tunisia were soon copied by people in other countries like in Egypt (ousted two presidents), in Libya (where Gaddafi was eventually killed in the civil war with foreign military intervention), in Yemen (where its president handed over power to a national unity coalition), and still on-going in some places like in Syria (a full-scale civil war), street protests in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, and Sudan, in demonstrations against the governments in Bahrain and the UAE (United Arab Emirates), or constitutional reforms implemented in Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Kuwait, etc. to stop protests.
Historians, academicians, political scientists, and media practitioners are offering their own opinions and theories on why the Arab Spring had taken place in the MENA region at a particular time in this region’s history. There is a real danger of civil uprisings turning into a full-scale civil war with the result of the country becoming a failed state like that in Somalia where there is no central governing authority and the country becomes a lawless place. Another risk is the Arab Spring could also be hijacked by other extremist or Islamist groups that will integrate themselves in the uprising and then later on grabbing the leadership of the movements when they think it is already right to do so and move it away from the original objectives of trying to obtain liberal democracy. The Arab world is known for its historical democratic deficit because of so many long-standing institutional control structures that hinder the introduction of meaningful changes in a nation (Chaney et al., 2012:363). The influential social, political, and religious structures had been in place for many centuries already since the Arab armies conquered these countries and to also introduce Islam wherever they went at that time in history. Many of these historical events are still exerting influential and enduring effects so that introducing change is very difficult.

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