THE SECOND ARAB AWAKENING

Augustus Richard Norton

Abstract


After years of false promises and thwarted hopes significant political reform is no longer a hypothetical possibility but a reality. In the annals of the Middle East, the year 2011 is likely to be remembered for quite some time to come. As the year began protests were accelerating in Tunisia, and on January 14 President Zine al-Abidine Ben ‘Ali fled into exile in Saudi Arabia. In neighboring Egypt the Tunisians’ accomplishment lent momentum to widespread demonstrations especially after January 25, 2011, designated (following Tunisia’s example) as the “Day of Rage” (yaum al-ghadab). Eighteen days later, after more than 800 demonstrators were killed by security forces and government-linked thugs, President Husni Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt for three decades, resigned from office, thereby launching a process of political and constitutional transition that is likely to continue for years. Across the Arab world, emulative protests spread in nearly every country, with varying success and sometimes with horrendous bloodshed. In Libya, a strongman met his demise; in Yemen, a dictator retreated from the presidency; in Bahrain, protesters demanding reform and equitable treatment, were suppressed within weeks by a Saudi-led force that was intended to stymie demands for reform; and, in Syria, chants of “irhal, irhal” (go/scram) were met by brutal government violence and a descent into a civil war that by late 2012 claimed at least 18,000 lives. (Case studies illustrating the widely variant outcomes of popular demands for reform in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, and Syria appear below).

Keywords


History; Sociology; Cultural Studies; Humanities

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