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The Arab Spring began with a suicide in Tunisia. The event triggered a conflict between two visions of progress. One seeks to overthrow autocratic regimes and the other seeks to bring democracy to the region. Regardless of the motivations behind the revolutions, it is clear that the Arab world is deeply divided.
While many Western observers dismiss these grand plans as empty propaganda, they ignore the seriousness of the project and the genuine appeal to a broad section of the population. Moreover, they ignore the nature of change within Arab society. The Arabs have long sought a way out of poverty, backwardness, and foreign tutelage. The democratic project offered a plausible path to prosperity, modernity, and global influence.
The Arab Spring began with the self-immolation of a fruit vendor in Tunis on December 17, 2010. The incident ignited protests in various Arab nations over a range of social issues, including the cost of living. It also pushed the authoritarian government of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, to flee to Saudi Arabia.
In some countries, the uprisings led to constitutional reform. However, most monarchs sought to contain the uprisings by offering monetary incentives to the protesters and repressive measures to deter any further contestation. In Egypt and Tunisia, these measures had mixed results. Tunisia eventually shifted to democracy, while Egypt reverted to dictatorship. Meanwhile, Libya became embroiled in civil war.
The 2011 protests were the expression of deep resentment toward aging Arab dictatorships, rigged elections, and the brutality of security forces. People's anger was also motivated by issues such as unemployment, price increases, and corruption. The protest movement also aimed at privatizing state assets. In some cases, the government's inaction led to the uprising. Moreover, they ignore the nature of change within Arab society. The Arabs have long sought a way out of poverty, backwardness, and foreign tutelage. The democratic project offered a plausible path to prosperity, modernity, and global influence.
The Arab Spring's influence on the Western world was evident in Tunisia and Yemen. The authoritarian president of Tunisia, who had ruled for more than 20 years, was forced to flee the country. The Tunisian revolution inspired activists in other countries to start similar movements. In October 2011, Tunisia held its first democratic parliamentary elections. Throughout the region, protests continue to take place. Despite these successes, corruption continues to plague the nations ravaged by civil war.
The Arab Spring has also brought about the democratic transition in Egypt. The country has held democratic elections, and a new constitution was promulgated in January. The country was the first Arab Spring protest country to peacefully transfer power. Although many still believe that the end of autocratic rule is near, the Arab Spring's impact is far reaching.
The Arab Spring is a historic moment in MENA history. It marked the end of the autocratic regimes in many countries, though many of these governments have since gone back to being autocratic. In Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Egypt, youth unemployment remains high and civil society activists are battling corruption and oppression. In Egypt, the crackdown on freedoms is not backed by Western governments.
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