1. The Arab Spring began in Tunisia, then spread to Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and, now, appears to be happening in Syria. Although these countries are grouped under the same title, ŌArab SpringĶ, very different uprisings occurred in each of them.
Identify the specific factors, groups and grievances that led to the uprisings in each of these countries.
Tunisia: a fruit vendor set himself on fire as protest. Masses of young Tunisians responded by protesting the rule of Tunisia's despotic leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The protest persisted for a few months and eventually led to Ben AliÕs escape to Saudi Arabia, where he lives in exile.
Egypt: Egypt was led by Hosni Mubarak for three decades. A general uprising emerged in the country after the Tunisian protests. People of all walks of life descended on Tahrir Square in Cairo. After 18 days EgyptÕs military forced Mubarak to step down.
Bahrain: In Bahrain a monarch, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, instead of a president or prime minister was the target of protests. The ruler is a Sunni. The majority of BahrainÕs population is Shiite. So, Bahrain, a relatively wealthy country, has experienced a sectarian conflict, Sunni vs. Shiite. The king has received support from Saudi Arabia and held onto power by cracking down on protests and arresting protesters.
Yemen: Yemen is a poor state, a failed state. It does not enjoy oil wealth and does not provide basic services to its citizens. Its leader of the past 3 decades, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was trying to hold together a country that was riven with tribal secessionist movements. Meanwhile terrorists found suitable refuge in the country.
Libya: Muammar al-Qaddafi ruled this oil-rich country for 4 decades. A former military man, he was a brutal dictator. Oil wealth and control of the military kept Qaddafi in power. After the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt had been toppled an uprising developed in Benghazi and blossomed into a full-scale civil war. Revolutionary fighters supported international air support forced Qaddafi to flee. He was caught, beaten and killed.
Syria: Syria remains in tumult. The instability arises from a complex cultural geography. The current ruler Bashar al-Assad, is the son of the previous despotic ruler Hafez al-Assad. Hafez al-Assad was a member of the Alawite minority. Alawites claim descent from Shiah Islam and draw support from Iran, a Shiite republic. Urban Sunni Syrians form the core of the diverse group of Syrian revolutionaries. The country also includes non-Arab Kurds and Arab Christians. As with all of the countries mentioned, the populations has grown rapidly during the past 4 decades and is overwhelmingly young. Assad has not been able to effectively spread the country resources throughout its populations. Hence, he faces resistance from Sunnis and from young Syrians in general who have prospered under the rule of a minority Alawite regime.
2. What has resulted in the one year since the uprisings in each of these countries?
Tunisia: The country elected a constituent assembly. An Islamist party, al Nahda, won a plurality but not a majority. Al Nahda formed a coalition government with two secular partners.
Egypt: Two Islamist parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, were well organized, and won most of the seats in parliamentary elections. Mubarak had effectively oppressed the Muslim Brotherhood during his rule. One of their members, Mohamed Morsi, was elected president and took office in June of this year. Also in June, Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison. He has been in extremely ill-health for the past several months.
Bahrain: The protests and crackdowns continue and the king remains in power.
Yemen: After an assassination attempt, Saleh eventually stepped down. The country remains a failed state and a target of US anti-terror activities.
Libya: The author is hopeful for Libya. Nothing can be worse than Qaddafi. Also, LibyaÕs vast petroleum reserves will make the country attractive to foreign investors and governments.
Syria: The Syrian civil war continues. The revolutionaries are diverse and not unified. They have won important battles and killed important leaders. They have also suffered violent reprisals from the Assad regime.
The author uses several terms throughout to explain the Arab Spring. What do each of the terms below mean with regard to the Arab Spring? You might need your textbook or Wikipedia to understand some of the terms.
3. Pan-Arab: Ōthroughout the Arab worldĶ. Fouad, the author, recounts how, during 2011, people wondered whether revolution would spread throughout the Arab world.
sectarianism: Sectarianism refers to the different versions of Islam, Sunni
and Shia. Fouad, mentions how, after the toppling of
Saddam Hussein, sectarian violence increased in Iraq. Similar to past violent conflicts between Roman Catholics and Protestants, sectarian Islamic conflicts can be violent.
5. Sunni Arabs: Sunni Arabs are Arabs who practice the Sunni branch of Islam. Most Arabs are Sunnis. In most Arab countries, Sunnis comprised the majority of the population. Bahrain is one exception to this pattern.
6. autocrats: Countries in the Arab world have a long history of autocratic rule. These autocrats often have come to power by means of military revolution or royal birth. They have been hesitant to allow their citizens to experience democracy. Nevertheless, the West has supported some of them, especially if they possess oil deposits within their borders.
7. Hezbollah: The US government classifies Hezbollah a terrorist organization because of, among other things, its violent actions against Israel. Hezbollah is a Shiite group with headquarters in Lebanon, which is funded by Iran and Syria. Hezbollah is a legitimate political party Lebanon, which has had its candidates elected to national office. Hezbollah also maintains its own paramilitary. Hezbollah emerged after an Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and, since then, has sought IsraelÕs destruction. SyriaÕs current revolutionaries argue that Hezbollah is propping up Bashar al-AssadÕs regime.
8. Shiites: Shiites comprise the second largest branch of Islam. In some Muslim countries Shiites seek the creation of a government that is based on teachings found in the Koran. Since its revolution in 1979 Iran, a Persian not Arabic country, has been ruled as a Shiite republic in which a Muslim cleric, Ōthe Supreme LeaderĶ, is the most powerful leader in the government. More than 90% of IranÕs population practices Shiah Islam. Significant populations of Shiites live in neighboring Iraq.
9. despots: Fouad uses despots, despotism, and despotic a lot in this article because despots are the targets of the various Arab Spring revolution. The leaders, Mubarak, Gaddafi, AssadÉ, maintained by power with a combination of corruption, largesse and brute force.
10. oil: We need it; some despots in the Middle East have it. For two generations the US governments have maintained friendly relations with oil-rich despots. The youth of the Arab Spring are aware of the USÕ complicity in the power of Arab despots. That makes the USÕ role in the Arab Spring tricky.
11. Alawite: Alawites are a minority group in Syria. They consider themselves members of the branch of Shia Islam. Since the 1970s they have been the most powerful sect in Syria, even though they make up less than 15% of the population in a country that has a Sunni majority. The AlawitesÕ power derives from the Assad family, which came to power in the early 1970s; and which is trying to hold to power currently led by President Bashar al-Assad.
12. birthrates and population growth: Birthrates and population growth have been high for the past two generations throughout the Muslim world. As a result, a large portion of each countryÕs is young. To maintain control of power, governments, despots and royal families must be able to provide education and employment opportunities for these young people. When they donÕt, Arab Springs happen.
13. Islamist party: Fouad uses this term to refer to political parties that seek to pattern government after Islamic precepts. This has been one consequence of the Arab Spring: despots were toppled. In the leadership vacuum Islamist political parties emerged, sought election and won. The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi parties in Egypt are examples of Islamist parties.
14. secular: Ōseparate and not allied with any religionĶ. Fouad uses the term because secular political parties and secular leaders are an important component in the Arab world. Many of the Egyptians who protested in Tahrir Square consider themselves secularists, which means, not that they arenÕt Muslims, but that they do not want an Islamist government.
15. Hamas: Hamas is a Sunni Muslim political party in the Palestinian territories, which is related to EgyptÕs Muslim Brotherhood. Since its birth in the early 1980s, Hamas leaders have proclaimed their goal to take back land that Israel conquered from them and to eventually remove Israel from the region. Hamas won elections in the Gaza portion of Palestine, which demonstrated that the party could gain power through elections and not just force. Fouad mentions that even Hamas has abandoned Syria because it sensed general Arab disapproval of the Assad regime.
16. Jihadists: Fouad mentions that jihadists from Afghanistan had found refuge in Yemen. They found refuge there because the Yemeni government is powerless to keep them out. TheyÕre seeking refuge from Afghanistan because they are among the enemies that the US military is fighting in that country. As jihadists, Muslim holy warriors or terrorists, they represent potential societal instability in the Muslim world. Islamist parties can utilize them, and the terror that they inspire, to gain power in countries emerging from revolutions. Despots can use them to remain in power. The jihadists are mostly Muslim Arabs. Some of them became jihadists because secular despots like Mubarak so brutally repressed them in prison. They have been going to Afghanistan since the 1970s. Initially they helped that country to expel Russian invaders. Osama Bin Laden was among them.
17. Iran: See #8. Iran is a Persian country. It experienced a Shiite Muslim revolution in 1979 when it deposed the US-friendly shah. The shah was another despot. He brutally repressed Muslim leaders and courted US cooperation and general Westernization of his country. Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are the two leading Islamic countries in the region. Each is a major petroleum exporter. Each tries to exert its influence in region conflicts. Saudi ArabiaÕs ruling family and the US government have enjoyed friendly relations for more than 30 years. Iran, meanwhile, is suffering from US and UN sanctions because of its nuclear program.
18. Arab League: The Arab League was formed in 1945. It has served a means for regional cooperation and support in the Arab world. Fouad mentions the League because during the Arab Spring it has been put in a new position of actually rebuking an Arab despot. Most notably, the Arab League has condemned the Syrian governmentÕs brutal crack down on protesters during the past year. In the past, the Arab League would likely have just ignored the uprising and acted as if nothing had happened.
19. Copts: Copts comprise 10% of EgyptÕs population. They are Arab-Christians. Their ancestors made up EgyptÕs majority before Arab-Muslims conquered Egypt in the 8th century. EgyptÕs Copts fear the rise of Islamist parties in Egypt. Fouad suggests that the Copts will leave the country to avoid persecution.
20. Muslim Brotherhood: EgyptÕs Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamist party. Hosni Mubarak successfully repressed them for almost 30 years. Mubarak gained support by providing a stable, secular, albeit despotic, state that was free from the ideas/policies of the Muslim Brotherhood. During three decades of repression the Brotherhood developed an effective underground organization. With the removal of Mubarak, the Brotherhood has been able to utilize its organizational skills to win parliamentary elections. Therefore, the Brotherhood has a good chance of determining the nature of the new constitution. Will it be Islamist? Will it be secular? Will Egyptians riot again?
21. Tahrir Square: Tahrir Square was the primary site of protests in Cairo, Egypt. This large open area filled with thousands of Egyptians for 18 days in January and February of 2011. Rather than brutally disperse the protesters, the Egyptian Armed Forces merely policed the area. Hosni Mubarak realized that he had lost his most important weapon, the military, and stepped down from the presidency.
22. Awakenings: Fouad describes 3 Arab awakenings. The first awakening came in the late 1880s as Arab countries emerged from the control of the Ottoman Empire. This awakening sought to develop secular government institutions and intellectual life in the Arab world. Fouad describes the second awakening as a period in the 1950 when Arab strongmen emerged and tried to industrialize the region with big projects such as the damming of the Nile River. Unfortunately, these strongmen did not devote resources to educating their rapidly growing populations. We are witnessing the third awakening. Its outcome is still up for grabs.
23. Ottoman: The Turkish Ottoman Empire controlled much of the Arab world from its capital Istanbul for more than 400 years, up until the 1920s.