2011 Arab Spring

Sep 25

Events on December 10, 2010 in Tunisia would quickly reverberate around the world, and more especially throughout the Arab world. Citizens of Tunisia began a series of protests which led to the downfall of their government about one month later. Political prisoners were released and government agencies, including the police, were disbanded. Elections followed in which the people elected officials to a representative assembly. Similar uprisings then happened in rapid succession throughout the Arab world with similar results. This has come to be referred to as the Arab Spring.

Freedom vs. Economics

There has been a lot of discussion about the instigating factors for each uprising. Both economics and desire for freedom have been suggested, and both have some merits. Economically poor circumstances frequently lead to unrest. However, more likely than a desire for democracy is discontent with local governments.

Economic difficulties

Since the uprisings, economic circumstances have not improved. Much of the infrastructure and stability present before the protests has crumbled. Forming a new coalition government takes time, as does establishing infrastructure and stabilizing currency and trust in external markets. In some countries there have been additional protests and in the case of Egypt, newly elected officials have been removed from office by the military that allowed the initial transition. The result is an economy without foundation and a people even more under pressure than before the uprising.

Sectarian divide

In addition to the economic strain that both led to and continues with the Arab countries is a sharp division between religious sects. Many of these divisions are specific to different forms of Islam and go back many centuries. Existing cultural tensions related to sectarian differences have been intensified through the process of elections and attempts to find a common ground. The power vacuum left by the fall of these governments has become a breeding ground for continued confrontation, adding ideological disparity to the existing economic and social difficulties.

While many have celebrated the Arab Spring as a rebirth of freedom and opportunity in the Arab countries, it’s important to note that it is in the very early stages of development. The initial protests are likely to be repeated, and they have been in some cases already. If there is to be lasting peace and economic prosperity in the Arab world, it will still be some time in coming and may include even more violence before it is achieved.

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