Five years on from the ‘Arab Spring’

December 17 marks the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring, the phenomenon that changed the face of the Arab world

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Rached Ghannouchi, leader of Ennahda movement, waves the party flag outside Ennahda's headquarters in Tunis Oct. 27, 2014.

Updated Dec 18, 2015

With Tunisia leading the way, the Arab Spring blossomed in December of 2010, when 26 year old street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in protests against being humiliated by the police and having the goods he sells for a living confiscated.

Bouazizi’s death jumpstarted Tunisia’s uprising, and possibly the whole of the Arab Spring, then consequently expanded to include countries like Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria and Bahrain.

As of December 17, 2015, it’s been five full years since the Arab Spring started.

Tunisia - the Arab Spring's sole survivor

On January 14 of 2011, Tunisia’s long time autocrat Zine Abidine Ben Ali was deposed and had to flee to the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh. Ben Ali was tried in absentia for corruption and killing protesters.

Massive street protests finally paid off and Tunisia enjoyed peaceful passing of leadership twice - once when the Ennahda movement came together after the revolution and won a parliamentary majority in 2011. And for a second time in 2014, when the movement handed over power to Nidaa Tunis, a rival political party.

Most recently, the Tunisian national dialogue quartet won the Nobel peace prize in 2015 for successfully bringing about North Africa's first pluralistic democracy.

The north African country is described as the sole survivor of the Arab Spring because it suffered the smallest number of casualties, and enjoyed some form of actual democratization, according to Amnesty International.

'Harsh repression remains the order of the day in Egypt'

Following in the footsteps of Tunisia, the Egyptian youth took to the streets in January 25th of 2011 and demanded the end of the regime of Hosni Mubarak.

Mubarak's regime cracked down on protests and killed over 800 people and injured over 6,000 according to Human Rights Watch. He was removed from office on February 11.

Millions participated in the protests demanding Mubarak’s resignation, but afterwards the high hopes the world had for Egypt were shattered.

Egypt's Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) was in power between February 2011 and June 2012. During that time the country suffered under military rule with military courts being set up for civilians, and the use of excessive force to suppress protests demanding immediate presidential elections.

Then came the country’s first civilian democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, formerly an engineer and a college professor. Morsi’s rule lasted for only one year before being ended with a brutal military coup in July 2013 that saw hundreds of Morsi’s supporters killed or jailed.

The military coup's leader and former minister of defence who was appointed by Morsi,  Abdel Fattah el Sisi, was elected as president one year later.

Tahrir square, January 25, 2011

Amnesty International said "Harsh repression remains the order of the day in Egypt" in a press release published in December 2015.

Syria - full scale civil war

Amnesty international describes the Syrian revolution as "the region's bloodiest armed conflict." It started in March 2011, with mass street protests demanding the removal of Syrian regime president Bashar al Assad.

Over 250,000 people have died since then in the brutal suppression of mass protests by Assad.

In the power vacuum caused by the brutal conflict DAESH arose and increased the pressure on the Syrian people, with suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings, as well as the destruction of Syria's archaelogical heritage.

In August 2014, the US formed an anti-DAESH coalition that would undertake air strikes in both Iraq and Syria.

A man carries a girl as they run away from a site hit by what activists said were airstrikes by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Douma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria August 24, 2015.

In September 30 of 2015, a key ally to Assad’s regime, Russia, started launching air strikes in Syria as well, saying its goal was to battle DAESH terrorist group.

However, in time Russian airstrikes were shown to be intended to bolster Assad’s authority by targeting Syrian opposition positions and civilian sites.

Libya - one country, two governments

Libya was ruled by Muammar Gaddafi from 1969 till 2011, when the Arab spring were broke out in Egypt and Tunisia. When protestors rocked the streets of Libya, Gaddafi went into hiding and was later publicly killed.

Deep political divisions and tribal rivalry led to the formation two separate governments after Gaddafi's death - the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), which is supported by the UAE, and the General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli. Each has its own institutions and military forces. 

View of the meeting between Libya's two rival governments in Tunis, Tunisia, December 10, 2015.

In December 2015, Libya's parliament in Tobruk signed a declaration of principles with the GNC based in Tripoli aimed at ending the conflict in Libya. The declaration calls for forming a ten-person committee and naming an interim president and deputy president.

Yemen - a proxy war

Mass protests against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh began in January 2011, after he tried to alter the constitution so he could remain in office.

He was finally forced to step down in February 2014 under an agreement brokered by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council states. Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi then became president, however hopes for Yemen did not survive long.

In September 2014, Iranian backed Shiite Houthi militias took over Yemen's capital Sanaa with the help of pro Saleh militias, forcing the lawful Yemeni government to go into self imposed exile in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Hadi had to formally request Arab states help "save Yemen" from Houthi expansion. Saudi Arabia led a military coalition that formally intervened in Yemen in March 25 2015.

War in the country has triggered an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The UN has declared the situation in the country to be a level-three humanitarian emergency, the highest on its scale, after about 80 percent of the country’s population fell into dire need of humanitarian aid.


TRTWorld and agencies