Arab Spring 10 years on
December 17, 2020 - A decade after the popular uprisings that spread across the Middle East in 2011, civil war still rages in Libya, Yemen and Syria, autocracy has been restored in Egypt and Bahrain, leaving only Tunisia with a semblance of democracy.
Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire Dec 17, 2010 in protest against tyranny that became catalyst for pro-democracy uprisings known as Arab Spring.
Protests in Tunisia followed Bouazizi’s self-immolation. They led to the collapse of the government and to President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s escape to Saudi Arabia after 23 years of autocratic power. In Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government collapsed, and in Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown quickly.
Ten years on, green shoots are absent in Saudi Arabia and in Egypt, where military government has returned. Libya and Yemen have no government. President Bashar al-Assad is still in power in Syria. Oman has a new king, but nothing else has changed. Democracy is described as elusive in Jordan, and Human Rights Watch describes Morocco as “the kingdom of unfinished reforms.” In the United Arab Emirates, Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is engaged in what is termed a “democratic march,” but the country still locks up political prisoners.
Algeria’s small green shoot survives: the pro-democracy movement in the country hasn’t made headway, but it does not appear to have lost momentum. Tunisia has sent up a determined green shoot. After its presidential election in 2019, the New York Times described the country as “the first-born and last surviving democracy that sprang from Arab Spring.”
The BBC noted in 2014 that compared with that other great international political upheaval, such as the relatively quick and mostly bloodless collapse of Marxism-Leninism in central and Eastern Europe in 1989, the events in the Middle East have been slow and inconclusive. People from Tunisia to Yemen were united in a desire for greater freedom, according to the broadcaster, but the upheavals brought two conflicting