Writing: International Politics - The Arab Spring



    The Arab Spring just celebrated 10 years of resistance, pursuit of equality and justice. An event sparked by the immolation of a street vendor in Tunisia shacked up the thrones of Arab dictators from the far Middle East till North Africa. Before 2011, it was unimaginable to depict Arab world without their beloved dictators. In Syria, Bashar El Assad succeeded to his late father and opened the door for more dictatorship passage de baton. Ben Ali of Tunisia was considering his Brother-in-law as successor and Jamal Mubarak planned to inherit Egyptian “throne “from his father Hosni Mubarak. Was the Arab Spring a deliberate awakening of the Arab World? Or was it initiated by other players to reshuffle the power balance in the Middle East? Did any Arab Nation benefit from the supposed free elections generated following unprecedented manifestations? Let us discuss the Arab Spring from two perspectives: Tunisia and Egypt. 

    While Tunisia was a pioneer in Women’s rights and freedom of speech as long as they were within the scope of social not political contexts. Egypt was a conservative society with fewer liberties. Tunisia was far from any major conflict and relied on its neighbors to keep it safe. As a former French colony, Tunisia counted on France for military protection and investments.  The foreign investments were significative, and tourism was the backbone of Tunisian’s economy. On the other hand, Egypt was relatively stable in part due to its oil and gas reserves, tourism, annual American military aid. “Washington provides Cairo $1.3bn annually in foreign military finance (FMF) to purchase US weapons and defense equipment” (Harding, 2011). Egypt main priority was to maintain a strong Military Regime. After all, every Egyptian president since its independence was a former high ranking general. The common factors between the two countries were the unbearable level of corruption and the dictatorship regimes.

    The chute of Ben Ali’s regime in Tunisia was relatively fast and did surprise most experts in the region. Tunisia’s allies such as France and Algeria did not see it coming. Everyone believed that Ben Ali had an iron grip, and his regime of 23 years will surmount the storm. It is still a mystery how Tunisian manifestants were able to overcome the military and police heavy descent in Tunisian towns. Tunisian called it the Jasmine Revolution. Following these unprecedented events in Tunisia. Manifestations sparked in all Arab world. The events made sceptics doubt the time and the ampler of the simultaneous manifestations in Arab capitals. Was the Arab Spring a Western Manipulation? After all, many NGOs were installed in the Arab World teaching peaceful activism and the use of social media to caption the attention of the mass population (Burs-Dla, JKB, KJM, NJE, 2020).  Researcher Stephane Lacroix, from the Paris Institute of Political Studies, dismissed the foreign conspiracy theory. “Those who see imperialism everywhere fail to believe that individuals are capable of organizing themselves because they have had enough”. Experts appear united in their assessment that the West was blind to what was happening and lacked courage to seize the initiative. (Burs-Dla, JKB, KJM, NJE, 2020). Egypt saw unprecedented manifestations led by the Muslim Brotherhood. In counterpart, the crackdown on manifestants was brutal and hundreds of manifestants were killed before the chute of Mubarak’s regime. “An Egyptian commission reported 846 deaths between January 25, when protests first escalated, and February 11, when former President Hosni Mubarak left power” (Rettig, 2011).  Mubarak served as a scapegoat to the military regime in Egypt. The military had too much to lose if they kept supporting Mubarak and it was also an opportunity to get rid of Jamal’s Mubarak plan to inherit his father “Throne”. Mubarak and his sons were imprisoned. The military institution in Egypt was clear that Egypt will not be governed by civilians.  While the opportunistic position of Egyptian military did not surprise observers. The position of Obama’s administration to abandon a 30-year ally astonished everyone. “To win popular Arab opinion, Obama was risking America’s status as a superpower and reliable ally. Throughout Asia, Africa and South America, leaders are now looking at what is going on between Washington and Cairo. Everyone grasps the message: “America’s word is worthless ... America has lost it” (Hamilton. 2011). The chute of regimes in both Egypt and Tunisia sparked hope for democratic elections. Nevertheless, it also led to a vacuum of power. The Muslim Brotherhood organization came back to the national scene after decades of persecution and imprisonment of its elites’ members.  In Tunisia, Ennahda Party with Muslim Brotherhood affiliation was the main actor and was able to govern after the elections. In Egypt, the power struggle remained between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military. The election of the first civilian president in the history of Egypt did not last too long. Mohammed Morsi was ousted by a Military coup led by his own Defense Minister Maréchal El Sissi.

    Looking back at 10 years of Arab Spring. The economic situation of Egypt and Tunisia considerably deteriorated. Terrorist attacks decimated the tourism sector in both countries. For instance, youth unemployment Pre- Arab Spring in Tunisia was 30% and in Egypt 24%. As of 2020, unemployment in Tunisia reached 35% and in Egypt 33% (Robinson, 2020). According to Ferid Belhaj the World Bank Regional Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa.: “In the last decade. With very few exceptions, MENA countries have run up unsustainable public debt and increased their dependence on capital inflows. While some in the region, mainly in the Gulf, have shown improvements in the ease of doing business, overall competitiveness of MENA countries falls short of the region’s potential”. Looking back at the last decade in the Arab World, some qualified it as the lost decade.

    In my opinion the most valuable thing youth in Middle East and North Africa lost is not freedom of expression, economic opportunities or access to education and health. Yet, they lost hope. Hope to develop their own countries and live a normal life in their beloved nations. Bright individuals are fleeing their countries to immigrate to Europe or North America. The less lucky ones are trapped in their own countries. In some countries the situation is so bad that people are nostalgic of their old dictator. If we look at Libya, Iraq, and Yemen post Arab Spring, can we really blame them! I cannot neither blame new governments inheriting bankrupt states with millions or even billions in debt. They are asked to adjust to inflation, pay debts, raise taxes, provide economic opportunities, improve health and education services. Unfortunately, these governments are managing day to day operations without a clear vision. As soon as another unrest starts, a government reshuffling would bring new faces and a feeling of déjà vu. 

    Looking back at 10 years of Arab Spring. It seems that protestants and opposition forces were too naïve. Corrupt doctrines did not belong to government officials, politicians, and military. Corruption became a way of life for all. Free elections may have change faces. However, it did not change corrupt believes.





"MLA Formatting and Style Guide." The Purdue OWL Purdue U Writing Lab. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021                                                                                            


Burs-dla, jkb, kjm, je. Arab Spring: How the West missed a date with history. July 12, 2020, France 24.https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20201207-arab-spring-how-the-west-missed-a-date-with-history.


Jessica Rettig. Death Toll of 'Arab Spring’. November 8, 2011, US News. https://www.usnews.com/news/slideshows/death-toll-of-arab-spring?slide=6.


Luke Harding. WikiLeaks cables show close US relationship with Egyptian president. January 28, 2011, The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jan/28/wikileaks-cairo-cables-egypt-president.

Douglas Hamilton. Israel shocked by Obama's "betrayal" of Mubarak. January 31, 2011, Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-israel-usa-idUSTRE70U53720110131.


Kali Robinson. The Arab Spring at Ten Years: What is the Legacy of the Uprisings? December 3, 2020.Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/article/arab-spring-ten-years-whats-legacy-uprisings.


Farid Belhaj. MENA Unbound: Ten Years after the Arab Spring, Avoiding Another Lost Decade. January 14, 2021, The World Bank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/opinion/2021/01/14/mena-unbound-ten-years-after-the-arab-spring-avoiding-another-lost-decade.


Ben Hubbard and David D. Kirkpatrick , A Decade After the Arab Spring, Autocrats Still Rule the Mideast. February 14, 2021.The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/14/world/middleeast/arab-spring-mideast-autocrats.html.


Ivan Bocharov, How Egypt Has Changed 10 Years Since the Arab Spring. January 25, 2020. Russian International Affairs Council. https://russiancouncil.ru/en/analytics-and-comments/columns/middle-east-policy/how-egypt-has-changed-10-years-since-the-arab-spring/.