Arab Spring

Arab Spring
Arab Spring
الربيع العربي
Collage for MENA protests
Clockwise from top left: Protesters gathering in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt; Demonstrators marching through Habib Bourguib Avenue in Tunis, Tunisia; Political dissidents in Sana'a, Yemen, demanding the resignation of the president; Thousands of demonstrators in Karrana, Bahrain; Hundreds of Thousands in Douma, Damascus, Syria; Demonstrators in Bayda, Libya.
Date 18 December 2010 (2010-12-18) – present
(&100000000000000000000000 years, &10000000000000335000000335 days)
Location Arab World (see list of countries)
Status Ongoing (as of 15 November 2011 (2011 -11-15))
  • Tunisian President Ben Ali ousted, and government overthrown.
  • Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ousted, and government overthrown. Continued popular protest against military provisional government.
  • Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi killed after a civil war with foreign military intervention, and government overthrown.
  • Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh agrees to step down within days after months of popular protests.
  • Civil uprisings against the governments of Syria and Bahrain, despite government changes.
  • Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Oman implementing government changes in response to protests.
  • Morocco implementing constitutional reforms in response to protests.
  • Ongoing protests in Algeria, Iraq, and other countries.
Death(s) 30,430–37,140+ (International estimate; see table below)

The Arab Spring (Arabic: الربيع العربيar-Rabī' al-ʻArabī) is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on Saturday, 18 December 2010. To date revolutions have occurred in Tunisia[2] and Egypt;[3] a civil war in Libya,[4] resulting in the fall of its regime; civil uprisings in Bahrain,[5] Syria,[6] and Yemen;[7] major protests in Algeria,[8] Iraq,[9] Jordan,[10] Morocco,[11] and Oman;[12] and minor protests in Kuwait,[13] Lebanon,[14] Mauritania, Saudi Arabia,[15] Sudan,[16] and Western Sahara.[17] Clashes at the borders of Israel in May 2011 have also been inspired by the regional Arab Spring.[18]

The protests have shared techniques of civil resistance in sustained campaigns involving strikes, demonstrations, marches and rallies, as well as the use of social media to organize, communicate, and raise awareness in the face of state attempts at repression and Internet censorship.[19]

Many demonstrations have met violent responses from authorities,[20][21][22] as well as from pro-government militias and counter-demonstrators.[23][24][25] A major slogan of the demonstrators in the Arab world has been ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam ("the people want to bring down the regime").[26]



The series of protests and demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa has become known as the "Arab Spring",[27][28][29][30][31][32] and sometimes as the "Arab Spring and Winter",[33] "Arab Awakening"[34] or "Arab Uprisings"[35] even though not all participants in protests identify as Arab. It was sparked by the first protests that occurred in Tunisia on 18 December 2010 following Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation in protest of police corruption and ill treatment.[36][37] With the success of the protests in Tunisia, a wave of unrest sparked by the Tunisian "Burning Man" struck Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen,[38] then spread to other countries. The largest, most organised demonstrations have often occurred on a "day of rage", usually Friday after noon prayers.[39][40][41] The protests have also triggered similar unrest outside the region.

As of November 2011, governments have been overthrown in three countries. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on 14 January 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. Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown on 23 August 2011, after the National Transitional Council (NTC) took control of Bab al-Azizia. He was killed on 20 October 2011, in his hometown of Sirte after the NTC took control of the city.

During this period of regional unrest, several leaders announced their intentions to step down at the end of their current terms. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced that he would not seek re-election in 2015,[42] as did Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose term ends in 2014,[43] although there have been increasingly violent demonstrations demanding his immediate resignation.[44] Protests in Jordan have also caused the sacking of two successive governments[45][46] by King Abdullah.[47] Another leader, President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, announced on 23 April that he would step down within 30 days in exchange for immunity,[48] a deal the Yemeni opposition informally accepted on 26 April;[49] Saleh then reneged on the deal, prolonging the Yemeni uprising.[50]

The geopolitical implications of the protests have drawn global attention,[51] including the suggestion that some protesters may be nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.[52] Tawakel Karman from Yemen was one of the three laureates of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize as a prominent leader in the Arab Spring.

Saudi Arabia
Israeli border—
      Government overthrown       Sustained civil disorder and governmental changes       Protests and governmental changes
      Major protests       Minor protests       Protests outside the Arab world

Summary of protests by country

Country Date started Status of protests Outcome Death toll Situation
 Tunisia 02010-12-18 18 December 2010 Government overthrown on 14 January 2011
Protests subdued since March 2011
 • Ousting of President Ben Ali[53] and Prime Minister Ghannouchi

 • Dissolution of the political police[54]
 • Dissolution of the RCD, the former ruling party of Tunisia and liquidation of its assets[55]
 • Release of political prisoners
 • Elections to a Constituent Assembly on 23 October 2011[56]

223[57][58] Government overthrown
 Algeria 02010-12-28 28 December 2010 Subdued since April 2011  • Lifting of the 19-year-old state of emergency[59][60] 8[61] Major protests
 Lebanon 02011-01-12 12 January 2011 Limited  • A 40% increase in wages[62] 17 (non government related)[63][64] Protests and governmental changes
 Jordan 02011-01-14 14 January 2011 Ongoing  • King Abdullah II dismisses Prime Minister Rifai and his cabinet.[65]

 • Months later, Abdullah dismisses Prime Minister Bakhit and his cabinet after complaints of slow progress on promised reforms.[66]

1[67][68] Protests and governmental changes
 Mauritania 02011-01-17 17 January 2011 Subdued since May 2011 1[69] Protests
 Sudan 02011-01-17 17 January 2011 Subdued since April 2011  • President Bashir announces he will not seek another term in 2015.[70] 1[71] Protests
 Oman 02011-01-17 17 January 2011 Ended May 2011  • Economic concessions by Sultan Qaboos;[72][73][74][75]

 • Dismissal of ministers;[76][77]
 • Granting of lawmaking powers to Oman's elected legislature[78]

2–6[79][80][81] Protests and governmental changes
 Saudi Arabia 02011-01-21 21 January 2011 Subdued since June 2011  • Economic concessions by King Abdullah;[82][83]

 • Male-only municipal elections to be held 22 September 2011[84][85]
 • King Abdullah announces women's approval to vote and take part in next Shura Council and municipal elections, in 2015.

2[86][87] Protests
 Egypt 02011-01-25 25 January 2011 Government overthrown on 11 February 2011
Protests ongoing
 • Ousting of President Mubarak and Prime Ministers Nazif and Shafik;[88]

 • Assumption of power by the Armed Forces;[89]
 • Suspension of the Constitution, dissolution of the Parliament;[90]
 • Disbanding of State Security Investigations Service;[91]
 • Dissolution of the NDP, the former ruling party of Egypt and transfer of its assets to the state[92]
 • Prosecution of Mubarak, his family and his former ministers.[93][94][95]

875[96] Government overthrown
 Yemen 02011-02-03 3 February 2011 Ongoing  • Resignation of MPs from the ruling party[97]

 • On 4 June, President Ali Abdullah Saleh is injured in an attack on his compound in the Yemeni capital Sana'a. Saleh has returned to Yemen on 23 September 2011.[98]
 • Vice President Abd al-Rahman Mansur al-Hadi takes over as Acting President on 4 June 2011.[99]

1,580–1,782[100][101] Sustained civil disorder and governmental changes
 Iraq 02011-02-10 10 February 2011 Subdued since August 2011  • Prime Minister Maliki announces that he will not run for a 3rd term;[102]

 • Resignation of provincial governors and local authorities[103]

35[104] Major protests
 Bahrain 02011-02-14 14 February 2011 Ongoing  • Economic concessions by King Hamad;[105]

 • Release of political prisoners;[106]
 • Negotiations with Shia representatives;[107]
 • GCC intervention at the request of the Government of Bahrain

49[108] Sustained civil disorder and governmental changes
 Libya 02011-02-17 17 February 2011 Government overthrown on 23 August 2011
War ended 23 October 2011
 • Overthrow of Gaddafi; Gaddafi killed by NTC forces after fall of Sirte on 20 October.

 • Opposition forces seize control of all major Libyan cities.[109][110][111]

 • Formation of the National Transitional Council[112][113]

 • UN-mandated NATO, Jordanian, Qatari, Swedish, and Emirati military intervention[114]

 • Civil war ended with Libya's Liberation on 23 October 2011.[115][116][117]

25,000[118]–30,000[119] Government overthrown
 Kuwait 02011-02-18 18 February 2011 Subdued since 31 March 2011, resumed in September.[120]  • Resignation of Cabinet[121] 0[122] Protests and governmental changes
 Morocco 02011-02-20 20 February 2011 Subdued since July 2011  • Political concessions by King Mohammed VI;[123]

 • Referendum on constitutional reforms;
 • Respect to civil rights and an end to corruption[124]

1[125] Protests and governmental changes
Western Sahara 02011-02-26 26 February 2011 Subdued since May 2011 0 Protests
 Syria 02011-03-15 15 March 2011 Ongoing  • Release of some political prisoners;[126][127]
 • End of Emergency Law;

 • Dismissal of Provincial Governors;[128][129]
 • Military action in Hama, Daraa, Homs and other areas;[130]
 • Resignations from Parliament;[131]
 • Resignation of the Government;[132]
 • Small defections within Syrian army and clashes among soldiers;[133]
 • Formation of Free Syrian Army
 • Syria suspended from the Arab League
 • Formation of Syrian National Council[134]

3,045–4,300[135] Sustained civil disorder and government changes
Golan Heights 02011-05-15 15 May 2011 Ended 5 June 2011 30–40[136][137] Major protests
Total death toll: 30,430–37,140+ (International estimate, ongoing)



Numerous factors have led to the protests, including issues such as dictatorship or absolute monarchy, human rights violations, government corruption (demonstrated by Wikileaks diplomatic cables),[138] economic decline, unemployment, extreme poverty, and a number of demographic structural factors,[139] such as a large percentage of educated but dissatisfied youth within the population.[140] Also, some[who?] attribute the 2009 Iranian protests as one of the reasons behind the Arab Spring.[141] The catalysts for the revolts in all Northern African and Persian Gulf countries have been 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.[142] Increasing food prices and global famine rates have also been a significant factor, as they involve threats to food security worldwide and prices that approach levels of the 2007–2008 world food price crisis.[143] Amnesty International singled out Wikileaks' release of US diplomatic cables as a catalyst for the revolts.[144]

In recent decades rising living standards and literacy rates, as well as the increased availability of higher education, have resulted in an improved human development index in the affected countries. The tension between rising aspirations and a lack of government reform may have been a contributing factor in all of the protests.[142][145][146] Many of the Internet-savvy youth of these countries have, increasingly over the years, been viewing autocrats and absolute monarchies as anachronisms. A university professor of Oman, Al-Najma Zidjaly referred to this upheaval as youthquake.[142]

Tunisia and Egypt, the first to witness major uprisings, differ from other North African and Middle Eastern nations such as Algeria and Libya in that they lack significant oil revenue, and were thus unable to make concessions to calm the masses.[142]

Recent history

The current wave of protests is not an entirely new phenomenon, resulting in part from the activities of dissident activists as well as members of a variety of social and union organizations that have been active for years in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, and other countries in the area, as well as in the territory of Western Sahara.[147]

Tunisia experienced a series of conflicts over the past three years, the most notable occurring in the mining area of Gafsa in 2008, where protests continued for many months. These protest included rallies, sit-ins, and strikes, during which there were two fatalities, an unspecified number of wounded, and dozens of arrests.[147][148] The Egyptian labor movement had been strong for years, with more than 3,000 labor actions since 2004.[149] One important demonstration was an attempted workers' strike on 6 April 2008 at the state-run textile factories of al-Mahalla al-Kabra, 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.[149] A Facebook page, set up to promote the strike, attracted tens of thousands of followers. 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.[149]

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.[150] Some have claimed that during 2010 there were as many as '9,700 riots and unrests' throughout the country.[151] Many protests focused on issues such as education and health care, while others cited rampant corruption.[152]

In Western Sahara, the Gdeim Izik protest camp was erected 12 km 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.[153] 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 Spring.[154]

The catalyst for the current escalation of protests was the self-immolation of individuals such as Mohamed Bouazizi, which 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.[147] These groups have become an unprecedented movement that has built sufficient momentum to engender the current scope of events.[citation needed]

Tunisian revolution

Demonstrators in downtown Tunis on 14 January 2011

Following the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid, a series of increasingly violent street demonstrations through December 2010 ultimately led to the ouster of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January 2011. The demonstrations were precipitated by high unemployment, food inflation, corruption,[155] lack of freedom of speech and other forms of political freedom,[156] and poor living conditions. The protests constituted the most dramatic wave of social and political unrest in Tunisia in three decades,[157][158] 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 power.[159][160]

Following Ben Ali's departure, a state of emergency was declared and a caretaker coalition government was created, which included members of Ben Ali's party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), as well as opposition figures from other ministries. However, the five newly appointed non-RCD ministers resigned almost immediately.[161][162] 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;[163] later, on 9 March, it was dissolved.[164] Following further public protests, Ghannouchi himself resigned on 27 February, and Beji Caid el Sebsi became Prime Minister.

Egyptian revolution

Celebrations in Tahrir Square after Omar Suleiman's statement concerning Hosni Mubarak's resignation

Following 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.[165]

Protests in Egypt began on 25 January 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 organize through social media.[166] Later that day, as tens of thousands protested on the streets of Egypt's major cities, President Mubarak dismissed his government, later appointing a new cabinet. Mubarak also appointed the first Vice President in almost 30 years.

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.[167] 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.[168] The military immediately dissolved the Egyptian Parliament, suspended the Constitution of Egypt, and promised to lift the nation's thirty-year "emergency laws". It further promised to hold free, open elections within the next six months, or by the end of the year at the latest.[citation needed] A civilian, Essam Sharaf, was appointed as Prime Minister of Egypt on 4 March to widespread approval among Egyptians in Tahrir Square.[169] Protests have continued through July 2011, however, in response to Sharaf and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' perceived sluggishness in instituting reforms.[170]

Libyan civil war

Thousands of demonstrators gather in Bayda

After the success of the revolution in Tunisia, a protest on living conditions began on 14 January in Bayda, Libya, where protesters clashed with police and attacked government offices.[171][172] 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 mercenaries 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 regime's dismantlement.[citation needed]

On 26 February 2011, amidst ongoing efforts by demonstrators and rebel forces to wrest control of Tripoli from the Jamahiriya, the opposition set up an interim government in Benghazi to oppose Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's rule.[173][174] However, despite initial opposition success, government forces subsequently took back much of the Mediterranean coast.

On 17 March, 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 between 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,[175] and the southern Libyan Desert.[176]

In late August, anti-Gaddafi fighters captured Tripoli, scattering Gaddafi's government and marking the end of his 42 years of autocracy. Many institutions of the government, including Gaddafi and several top regime officials, regrouped in Sirte, which Gaddafi declared to be Libya's new capital.[177] Others fled to Sabha, Bani Walid, and remote reaches of the Libyan Desert, or to surrounding countries.[178][179] However, Sabha fell in late September,[180] Bani Walid was captured after a grueling siege weeks later,[181] and on 20 October, fighters under the aegis of the National Transitional Council seized Sirte, killing Gaddafi in the process.[182]

Syrian uprising

Tens of thousands prayed at the Central Square of Homs calling for the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad.

Protests in Syria started on 26 January, when one case of self-immolation was reported. Protesters have been calling for political reforms and the reinstatement of civil rights, as well as an end to the state of emergency, which has been in place since 1963.[183] A "day of rage" was set for 4–5 February, but it was uneventful.[184][185]

On 6 March, the Syrian security forces arrested about 15 children in Daraa in Southern Syria for writing slogans against the regime. Children were tortured brutally. Daraa is the first city to protest against the Baathist regime, which has been ruling Syria since 1963.

Thousands of protestors gathered in Damascus, Aleppo, al-Hasakah, Daraa, Deir ez-Zor, and Hama on 15 March,[186][187][188] with recently released politician Suhair Atassi becoming an unofficial spokesperson for the "Syrian revolution".[189] The next day there were reports of approximately 3000 arrests and a few martyrs, but there are no official figures on the number of deaths.[190] 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.[191]

On 31 July, Syrian army tanks stormed several cities, including Hama, Deir Ez-Zour, Al-Bukamal, Daraa, Medmah. At least 136 people were killed in the most violent and bloody day since the uprising started.[192]

Yemeni uprising

Protests in Sana‘a

Protests occurred in many towns in both the north and south of Yemen starting in mid-January. Demonstrators initially protested against governmental proposals to modify the constitution of Yemen, unemployment and economic conditions,[193] and corruption,[194] but their demands soon included a call for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh,[195][194][196] who had been facing internal opposition from his closest advisors since 2009.[197] A major demonstration of over 16,000 protesters took place in Sana'a on 27 January,[198] and soon thereafter human rights activist and politician Tawakel Karman called for a "Day of Rage" on 3 February.[199] According to Xinhua News, organizers were calling for a million protesters.[200] In response to the planned protest, Ali Abdullah Saleh stated that he would not seek another presidential term in 2013.[201] On 3 February, 20,000 protesters demonstrated against the government in Sana'a,[202][203] others participated in a "Day of Rage" in Aden[204] that was called for by Tawakel Karman,[199] while soldiers, armed members of the General People's Congress, and many protestors held a pro-government rally in Sana'a.[205] 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".[206] The protests continued in the days following despite clashes with government advocates.[207] 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. In the capital, Sana'a, the crowd marched towards the Presidential Palace, chanting anti-government slogans, despite the attempts of riot police to stop them. Three people were killed in the demonstrations, one of whom was killed by a hand grenade in Taiz. There were also reports of gunfire in Aden during a rally, and as the riots continued overnight protesters set fire to a local government building. Security forces killed one demonstrator, and killed another demonstrator during protests the following day.[208] 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.[209]

After Saleh pretended to accept a Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered plan allowing him to cede power in exchange for immunity only to back away before signing three separate times,[210][211] 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.[212] 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[213] and ordered the arrest of several Yemenis in connection with the attack on the presidential compound.[212] It is unclear whether Saleh will return from Saudi Arabia or when he might do so, but he appeared briefly on television from Riyadh to address the Yemeni people on 7 July.[214] Protests continued in his absence and subsequent return and are ongoing as of October 2011.[215] Tawakul Karman got 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for involvement in Arab Spring.

Bahraini uprising

Hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis taking part in the "March of Loyalty to Martyrs", honoring political dissidents killed by security forces, on 22 February.

The 2011 protests in Bahrain were initially aimed at achieving greater political freedom and respect for human rights, and were not intended to threaten the monarchy.[216] Lingering frustration among the Shiite majority with being ruled by the Sunni government was a major root cause, but the protests in Tunisia and Egypt are cited as the inspiration for the demonstrations.[217][218] The protests began in Bahrain on 14 February[216] and were largely peaceful, until a raid by police on the night of 17 February against protestors sleeping at the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, in which police killed three protestors.[219][220] Following the deadly raid, the protestors' aims expanded to a call for the end of the monarchy.[221] On 18 February, government forces opened fire on protesters, mourners, and news journalists,[222] prompting protesters to begin calling for the overthrow of the Bahraini monarchy and government.[223] On 19 February, protesters occupied Pearl Roundabout after the government ordered troops and police to withdraw.[224][225][226] On 22 February, an estimated one hundred thousand people, one fifth of the nation's population, marched. On 14 March, at the request of the Crown Prince, GCC Saudi Arabian troops entered the country,[227] and opened fire on the protesters, several of whom were killed.[228][229] Later thousands of Shia protesters arose in Iraq and Qatif in opposition to the Saudi-led intervention in Bahrain.[230][231][232]

King 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.[233] It was later lifted on 1 June 2011.[234] On 16 March 2011, the protesters' camp in the Pearl Roundabout was evacuated, bulldozed, and set on fire by the Bahraini Defense Force, riot police, and the Peninsula Shield Force, the military arm of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which intervened reportedly at King Hamad's behest.[235] Later on 18 March, the Pearl Roundabout monument was torn down as part of the crackdown on protesters.[236]

Since the lifting of emergency law on 1 June, several large rallies have been staged by the Shi'ite community demanding the release of detained protesters, greater political representation, and an end to sectarian discrimination. As of July 2011, medical personnel are being prosecuted for treating injured protesters, and several human rights groups and news organizations have alleged they have been deliberately targeted by the Bahraini government.[237]

Concurrent incidents

Concurrent with the events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen, protests flared up in other parts of the region, some becoming violent, some facing strong suppression efforts, and some resulting in political changes.


8 January protests in Algeria.

On 29 December, protests began in Algiers over the lack of housing, quickly escalating to violent confrontations with the police. At least 53 people were reported injured and another 29 arrested.[238] Over the course of the Algerian protests, three demonstrators were killed, over 800 were injured, and at least 1,100 were arrested.[citation needed] From 12–19 January, a wave of self-immolation attempts swept the country, beginning with Mohamed Aouichia, who set himself on fire in Bordj Menaiel in protest at his family's housing. On 13 January, Mohsen Bouterfif set himself on fire after a meeting with the mayor of Boukhadra in Tebessa, who had been unable to offer Bouterfif a job and a house. Bouterfif reportedly died a few days later, and about 100 youths protested his death, resulting in the mayor's dismissal by the provincial governor. At least ten other self-immolation attempts were reported that week.[citation needed] On 22 January, the RCD party organised a demonstration for democracy in Algiers, and though illegal under the State of Emergency enacted in 1992, it was attended by about 300 people. The demonstration was suppressed by police, with 42 reported injuries. On 29 January, at least ten thousand people marched in the northeastern city of Béjaïa.[239]

In an apparent bid to stave off unrest, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced on 3 February that the 19-year state of emergency would be lifted,[240] a promise fulfilled on 22 February, when Algeria's cabinet adopted an order to lift the state of emergency.[241][242] Bouteflika said on 15 April that he would seek revisions to the country's constitution as part of a broad push for democratic reforms.[243]


In an effort to prevent unrest, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced that he would not run for a third term in 2014.[244] Nevertheless, hundreds of protesters gathered in several major urban areas (notably Baghdad and Karbala) on 12 February, demanding a more effective approach to national security, to the investigation of federal corruption cases, as well as increased government involvement in making public services fair and accessible.[245][246][247] In response, the government promised to subsidize electricity costs.[248]

Israel's Haaretz reported that a 31-year-old man in Mosul died from self-immolation, while protesting high unemployment. Haaretz also reported a planned 'Revolution of Iraqi Rage' to be held on 25 February near the Green Zone.[249]

On 16 February, up to 2,000 protesters took over a provincial council building in the city of Kut. The protesters demanded that the provincial governor resign because of the lack of basic services such as electricity and water. As many as three people were killed and 30 injured.[citation needed] On 24 February, Hawijah, Mosul, and Baghdad featured violent protests.[250]

Golan Heights Clashes

Free Palestine rally in Cairo

Palestinians used Facebook to call for mass protests throughout the region on 15 May 2011, the 63rd annual commemoration of the Palestinian exodus, locally known as Nakba Day.[251][252] A page calling for a "Third Palestinian Intifada" to begin on 15 May garnered more than 350,000 "likes" before being taken down by Facebook managers at the end of March after complaints from the Israeli government that the page encouraged violence.[253][unreliable source?][254] The page called for mass marches to Palestine from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan to commemorate the Nakba and demand the right of return for all Palestinian refugees.[255] Palestinians from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank attempted to reach and cross the Israeli border. However, they were all stopped and 12 were killed by Israeli security forces. Lebanese armed forces also made efforts, including the use of live fire according to some reports, to stop protesters from approaching the Israeli border. Almost 300 people were injured, including 13 Israeli soldiers. There were also clashes across east Jerusalem.[256]

On 5 June, 23 Syrian demonstrators were killed and over a hundred injured by Israeli forces after attempting to enter Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.[257][258][259] "Anyone who tries to cross the border will be killed," Israeli soldiers warned through megaphones as people waving Palestinian flags streamed towards the frontier. When protesters tried to cut the razor wire several meters short of the frontier fence, Israeli troops opened fire. Several people were seen being carried away on stretchers.[260] In the aftermath, thousands began a sit-in near the Golan Heights,[261][unreliable source?] resulting in the Syrian government creating a security buffer zone to prevent more demonstrators from approaching the border.[257] Lebanese President Michel Sleiman accused Israel of genocide over the incident,[262] UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navanethem Pillay condemned the Israeli Defense Force's use of force against unarmed, civilian protesters,[263] and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party called for an international response to the incident, calling it a "massacre".[264] An IDF spokeswoman called the Golan Heights violence "an attempt to divert international attention from the bloodbath going on in Syria."[258] Michael Weiss, a spokesperson for Just Journalism, claimed that he had received leaked Syrian state documents showing that the Syrian government organized the Nakba Day protests to draw attention away from the uprising in Syria proper.[265] US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. believes President Bashar Assad's government was actively supporting the Palestinian protests near the Israeli border.[266]


On 14 January, protests commenced in the capital Amman, as well as at Ma'an, Al Karak, Salt and Irbid, and others. The protests, led by trade unionists and leftist parties, occurred after Friday prayers, and called for the government of Prime Minister Samir Rifai to step down.[267] The Muslim Brotherhood and 14 trade unions said that they would hold a sit-down protest outside parliament the next day to "denounce government economic policies".[268] Following the protest, the government reversed a rise in fuel prices,[269] but 5,000 protested on 21 January in Amman despite this effort to alleviate Jordan's economic misery.[270]

On 1 February, the Royal Palace announced that King Abdullah had dismissed the government on account of the street protests, and had asked Marouf al-Bakhit, a former army general, to form a new Cabinet.[271] King Abdullah charged Bakhit to "take quick, concrete and practical steps to launch a genuine political reform process". The monarch added that the reforms should put Jordan on the path "to strengthen democracy", and provide Jordanians with the "dignified life they deserve".[272] This move did not end protests, however, which peaked with a rally of between 6,000 and 10,000 Jordanians on 25 February.[273] A protest camp led by students calling for democratic reforms was established on 24 March in Gamal Abdel Nasser Circle in downtown Amman,[274] but at least one person was killed and over 100 injured the next day after pro-government vigilantes clashed with the protesters in the camp, forcing police to intervene.[275] These clashes and belated police interventions have become a hallmark of the Jordanian protests, with a major rally in central Amman planned for 15 July being derailed by belligerent regime supporters.[276]

As of November 2011, protests are ongoing. Under pressure from street demonstrations, Parliament called for the ouster of the Bakhit government. King Abdullah duly sacked Bakhit and his cabinet and named Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh to head the new government on 17 October.[46]


The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, gave every Kuwaiti citizen (1.12 million people) "free food rations and a grant of $4,000", or 1,000 dinars.[277] Officially, the grant was in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Kuwait's liberation from occupying Iraqi forces, as well as of the 50th anniversary of the state's independence.[278] Dozens of Bedouns demonstrated in Kuwait on 19 February[279] and opposition groups called for protests on 8 March.[280][281]

In June, hundreds of Kuwaitis marched in an anti-government protest, calling for the resignation of the prime minister.[282] A 10-year old Egyptian boy named Bassem, was expelled from education in the country for asking "Why didn't you have a revolution in your country?" Accused of inciting a revolution, the expulsion sparked an outcry, resulting in his reinstatement later that month.[283][284] Soon thereafter, reports surfaced of a crisis growing in the country as a rebellious parliament stepped up pressure on the ruling family over allegations of mismanagement of public funds, corruption and inefficiency.[285]

On 21 September, several thousand people marched in Kuwait City. Estimates of the number of ralliers ranged dramatically, from 5,000 at the low end to 70,000 at the high end.[286][287] Small incidents continued after that, and in October, the oil industry went on strike[288] as well as over three thousand customs workers, and on 20 October, there was another very large demonstration in the capital.[289][290] In response, the Prime Minister denounced the protests as "going too far" and threatened a security crackdown.[291] The opposition group in Parliament formed a committee for constitutional reforms.[292]


Calls for a nation wide demonstration started early February on social networking websites; According to a media report, Moroccan authorities approved the anti-government protest that was planned through the popular social networking site Facebook. The same report said that the government had welcomed the plan by several Moroccan youth movements to organize an Egypt-style anti-government protest on 20 February.[293][294]

On 20 February, at least 37,000 Moroccans rallied in the capital, Rabat, to demand that King Mohammed relinquish some of his power.[295] The protests were not aimed at overthrowing the king, however, as he remains revered by Moroccans.[296] Everything calmed down for about a week following the demonstration, but on 26 February about 1000 demonstrators gathered in Casablanca to demand political reform.[297]

On 9 March, in a live televised address, King Mohammed VI announced that he would begin a comprehensive constitutional reform aimed at improving democracy and the rule of law. He promised to form a commission to work on constitutional revisions, which would make proposals to him by June, after which a referendum would be held on the draft constitution.[298]

On 20 March, at least 20,000 people,[299] including many Islamists, participated in peaceful protests in more than 60 cities across the nation. Some of the demonstrators demanded greater political change than what King Mohammed had promised in his 9 March address, while others continued pressuring the government to make the promised reforms.[300] The police did not intervene and no violent acts were reported.

After a lull over the summer, protests resumed. At least 3,000 people marched through the streets of Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city, on 18 September, chanting slogans against government corruption.[301] In October, the nation's imams began to publicly march in protest against the regime.[302]


Protesters set ablaze Lulu Hypermarket in Sohar, Oman on 28 February 2011

In the Gulf country of Oman, 200 protesters marched on 17 January 2011, demanding salary increases and a lower cost of living. The protest shocked some journalists, who generally view Oman as a 'politically stable and sleepy country'.[303] Renewed protests occurred on 18 February, with 350 protesters demanding an end to corruption and better distribution of oil revenue.[304] Some protesters also carried signs with slogans of support for the Sultan.[305]

On 26 February, protesters in Sohar called for more jobs.[306] On the following day, tensions escalated with protesters burning shops and cars.[307] The police responded using tear gas to contain and disperse the crowds of protesters.[308] Demonstrations also spread to the region of Salalah, where protesters had reportedly been camping outside the provincial governor's house since 25 February.[308][309] In Sohar, witnesses claimed that two protesters were killed when police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.[79][80][81][310] Witnesses further reported that protesters burnt a police station as well as the Wali's house (where the representative of the Sultan to Sohar stays).[311] The Omani protesters insisted that they were not challenging the rule of Sultan Qaboos, who has been in power since 1970, but were merely calling for jobs and reform.[312] The protesters even apologized to the Sultan for allowing violence rattle the city of Sohar on 28 February 2011.[313]

The Sultan continued with his reform campaign by dissolving the Ministry of National Economy, setting up a state audit committee, granting student and unemployment benefits,[314] dismissing scores of ministers, and reshuffling his cabinet three times.[315] In addition, nearly 50,000 jobs are being created in the public sector, including 10,000 new jobs in the Royal Oman Police.[316]) The Omani Ministry of Manpower has furthermore directed various companies (both private and public) to formulate their own employment plans. The Royal Army of Oman has also initiated employment drives by publishing recruitment advertisements in newspapers, etc.[317] The government's efforts largely placated protesters, and Oman has not seen significant demonstrations since May 2011, when increasingly violent protests in Salalah were subdued.[318]

Saudi Arabia

Poster for the Saudi Arabia's #women2drive Movement, artwork by Carlos Latuff

In Saudi Arabia hundreds of people protested against the poor infrastructure in Jeddah following flooding.[319][320] At the same time, an online campaign began calling for major political and economic changes. On 5 February, forty women demonstrated for the release of prisoners held without trial.[321] Several protests of a few hundred demonstrators each took place in late February, and also in early March in the north-east, mostly in Qatif[322] but also in Hofuf, in al-Awamiyah, as well as in Riyadh.[323] Security in the north-east was tightened on 5 March,[324] and a 'significant' police presence in Riyadh[325] and Jeddah[326] prevented protests from occurring on 11 March. A day earlier, three protesters were injured by police gunfire in Qatif.[322] Nonetheless, protests calling for the release of prisoners took place outside the Ministry of the Interior in Riyadh on 12 March.[327][328]

Following the crackdown during the 2011 Bahraini uprising, frequent demonstrations of a few hundred to a few thousand[329] people occurred in and around Qatif from 15[330] to 25[331][332] March, which demanded the release of prisoners and the withdrawal of the Peninsula Shield Force from Bahrain.[333][334] On 22–23 March, men-only municipal elections to elect half the members of local councils were announced for 22 September 2011.[84][85]

On 17 June, the anti-government movement "Women2Drive" has organized a drive-in to demand fairer treatment of women in the country. It was sparked by the arrest and imprisonment of Manal al-Sharif[335] for driving a vehicle with another woman. al-Sharif has been called a modern Rosa Parks.[336] Reports of desperation within the government surfaced as the rally is expected to highlight one of the worst gender rights' regimes in the world.[337] On 9 June, several women were arrested north of Riyadh for practicing in a parking lot.[338][339][340] On 15 June, female drivers in the United States have organized a protest in solidarity with Saudi women, planning to encircle the Saudi embassy in Foggy Bottom.[341] During the month three females from Minnesota, supported by an advocacy group, announced a gender discrimination complaint against the kingdom's livery services in Rochester to coincide with the "Women2Drive" campaign.[342][343]


"The Laique pride" rally in Beirut Central District, Lebanon

 • Lebanon In Lebanon, hundreds or protesters rallied in Beirut on 27 February in a march referred to as "The Laique pride", calling for reform of the country's confessional political system. At the same time, a peaceful sit-in took place in Saida.[344] On 13 March, tens of thousands of supporters of the March 14 Alliance called for the disarmament of Hezbollah in Beirut, rejecting the supremacy of Hezbollah's weapons over political life. They also showed support for the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) after the fall of the Hariri government and the creation of the Mikati government.[345] The Syrian Uprising also has leaked over the border[346]

 • Mauritania In Mauritania, Yacoub Ould Dahoud, a protester, burned himself near the Presidential Palace on 17 January, in opposition to the policies of Mauritanian president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.[347][348] The following week, hundreds of people took to the streets of the capital Nouakchott. The mayor of the city of Awjeft, Mohamed El Moctar Ould Ehmeyen Amar, resigned from the ruling party to politically support what he called "the just cause of youngsters".[349] In addition to the capital Noukchott, cities such as Atar, Zouerate, and Aleg also organised sporadic protests.[350] Despite minor economic concessions by the authorities, on 25 April protesters again took to the streets to call for the resignation of the prime-minister, Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf.[351]

 • Sudan In Sudan, protests took place on 30 January and 1 February, when hundreds called for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to step down. On 21 February, President Omar al-Bashir announced that he would not seek to run in the next presidential election (in 2015).[352]

 • United Arab Emirates In the United Arab Emirates, a group of intellectuals petitioned their ruler for comprehensive reform of the Federal National Council, including demands for universal suffrage. About 160 people signed the petition, many of whom were academics and former members of the FNC.[353] On 12 April, Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent blogger and pro-democracy activist, was charged with possession of alcohol. According to his lawyer, two other men, a blogger and a political commentator, were detained a few days earlier, a charge denied by the police.[354] In May, the government started expanding its network of surveillance cameras, as a preventive measure against revolts.[355] In June, Mansoor and 4 other reform activists pleaded not guilty to insulting the ruling family after being charged.[356]

 • Palestinian territories In the Palestinian Territories, Haaretz suggested that an announcement by the Palestinian Authority on 1 February to hold municipal elections in July (which were later postponed indefinitely) was a reaction to the anti-government protests in Egypt. On 14 February, amid pan-Arab calls for reform, the Palestinian Authority's Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, submitted his resignation along with that of his cabinet to President Abbas.[357] After consultations with other factions, institutions, and civil society groups, Abbas asked him to form a new government.[358] The reshuffle had long been demanded by Fayyad as well as members of Abbas's Fatah faction.[358]

 • Western Sahara In Western Sahara, young Sahrawis held a series of minor demonstrations to protest labour discrimination, lack of jobs, looting of resources, and human rights abuses.[153] Although protests from February 2011 onward were related to a series of Sahrawi demonstrations outside El Aaiun that originated in October 2010 and died down the following month, protesters cited inspiration from the events in other parts of the region. Noam Chomsky, viewed the October protests as the starting point from which 'the current wave of protests actually began'.[359]


Ethnic scope

Many analysts, journalists, and involved parties have focused on the protests as being a uniquely Arab phenomenon, and indeed, protests and uprisings have been strongest and most wide-reaching in majority-Arabic-speaking countries, giving rise to the popular moniker of Arab Spring—a play on the so-called 1968 Prague Spring, a democratic awakening in what was then communist Czechoslovakia—to refer to protests, uprisings, and revolutions in those states.[360][361][362] However, the international media has also noted the role of minority groups in many of these majority-Arab countries in the revolts. In addition, this series of revolutions has been marked by the absence of Arab Nationalist banners and rhetoric among the masses in favor of principles of human rights, freedom, democracy and cultural diversity, even in absolute majority-Arab countries.

In Tunisia, the country's small Jewish minority was initially divided by protests against Ben Ali and the government, but eventually came to identify with the protesters in opposition to the regime, according to the group's president, who described Jewish Tunisians as "part of the revolution".[363][364] The Coptic minority in Egypt was similarly divided by the protests, with Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria calling for them to end but a number of Coptic Christians choosing to join in demonstrations against the regime with their Muslim compatriots, a fact that did not go unnoticed by reporters and commentators.[365][366][367]

Owing to the fact that the uprisings and revolutions erupted first in North Africa before spreading to Asian Arab countries, and that the Berbers of Libya[368] participated massively in the protests and fightings under Berber identity banners, some Berbers in Libya often see the revolutions of North Africa, west of Egypt, as a reincarnated Berber Spring[369][370][371] and some call it the "Berber-Arab Spring"[citation needed]. In Morocco, through a constitutional reform, passed in a national referendum on 1 July, among other things, Amazigh—a standardized version of the 3 Berber languages of Moroccocwas made official alongside Arabic.[372] During the civil war in Libya, one major theater of combat has been the western Nafusa Mountains, where the indigenous Berbers have taken up arms against the regime while supporting an interim government based in the majority-Arab eastern half of the country.[373][374]

In northern Sudan hundreds of non-Arab Darfuris have joined anti-government protests,[375] while in Iraq and Syria, the ethnic Kurdish minority has been involved in protests against the government,[376][377] including the Kurdistan Regional Government in the former's Kurdish-majority north, where at least one attempted self-immolation was reported.[378][379][380]

Impact of the Arab Spring

The regional unrest has not been limited to countries of the Arab world. The early success of uprisings in North Africa was inspired by the uprisings of disenchanted people in the Middle Eastern states of Iran[381][382] and Turkey[383] to take to the streets and agitate for reforms. These protests, especially those in Iran,[384] are considered by many commentators to be part of the same wave that began in Iran and later Tunisia and has gripped the broader Middle Eastern and North African regions.

In the countries of the neighboring South Caucasus—namely Armenia,[385] Azerbaijan,[386] and Georgia[387]—as well as some countries in Europe, including Albania,[388] Croatia,[389] and Spain;[390] countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Burkina Faso,[391] Djibouti,[392] and Uganda;[393][394] and countries in other parts of Asia, including the Maldives[395] and the People's Republic of China,[396] demonstrators and opposition figures claiming inspiration from the examples of Tunisia and Egypt have staged their own popular protests.

The bid for statehood by Palestine at the UN on 23 September 2011 is also regarded as drawing inspiration from the Arab Spring after years of failed peace negotiations with Israel. In the West Bank, schools and government offices were shut to allow demonstrations backing the UN membership bid in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron; echoing similar peaceful protests from other Arab countries.[397]

The 15 October 2011 global protests and the Occupy Wall Street movement, which started in the United States and has since spread to Asia and Europe, drew direct inspiration from the Arab Spring, with organizers asking U.S. citizens "Are you ready for a Tahrir moment?"[398] The protesters have committed to using the "revolutionary Arab Spring tactic" to achieve their goals of curbing corporate power and control in Western governments.[399]

International reactions

Protests in many countries affected by the Arab Spring have attracted widespread support from the international community, while harsh government responses have generally met condemnation.[400][401][402][403] In the case of the Bahraini, Moroccan, and Syrian protests, the international response has been considerably more nuanced.[404][405][406][407]

Some critics have accused Western governments, including those of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, of hypocrisy in the way they have reacted to the Arab Spring.[408][409] Noam Chomsky accused the Obama administration of endeavoring to muffle the revolutionary wave and stifle popular democratization efforts in the Middle East.[410]

Protests have also affected oil prices, contributing to the 2011 energy crisis. The International Monetary Fund said oil prices were likely to be higher than originally forecast due to unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, major regions of oil production.[411]

Kenan Engin, a German-Turkish political scientist, identified the new uprising in Arab and Islamic countries as the "fifth wave of democracy" because of evident features qualitatively similar to the "third wave of democracy" in Latin America that took place in the '70s and '80s.[412][413]

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