Arab Spring

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This article is about the demonstrations and revolts in the Arab world in early 2010s. For other Arab revolts, see Arab Revolt (disambiguation).
Arab Spring
Date 17 December 2010 – mid-2012
Location Arab world
  • Tunisia: President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ousted, and government overthrown.
  • Egypt: President Hosni Mubarak ousted, and government overthrown.
  • Libya: Leader Muammar Gaddafi killed following a civil war that saw a foreign military intervention, and government overthrown.
  • Yemen: President Ali Abdullah Saleh ousted, and power handed to a national unity government.
  • Syria: President Bashar al-Assad faces civil uprising against his rule that deteriorates into armed rebellion and eventual full-scale civil war.
  • Bahrain: Civil uprising against the government crushed by authorities and Saudi-led intervention.
  • Kuwait, Lebanon and Oman: Government changes implemented in response to protests.
  • Morocco and Jordan: Constitutional reforms implemented in response to protests.
  • Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Mauritania, and other Arab countries: Protests.
Death(s) thousands (International estimate; see table below)

The Arab Spring (Arabic: الربيع العربي‎‎, ar-rabīˁ al-ˁarabī) was a revolutionary wave of both violent and non-violent demonstrations, protests, riots, coups and civil wars in the Arab world that began on 17 December 2010 in Tunisia with the Tunisian Revolution, and spread throughout the countries of the Arab League and its surroundings. Major insurgencies and civil wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen resulted along with civil uprisings in Bahrain and Egypt, large street demonstrations in Algeria, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman and Sudan and minor protests in Djibouti, Mauritania, the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and the Western Sahara.[1] A major slogan of the demonstrators in the Arab world is Ash-sha`b yurid isqat an-nizam ("the people want to bring down the regime").[2]

The wave of initial revolutions and protests faded by mid-2012, as many Arab Spring demonstrations were met with violent responses from authorities,[3][4][5] as well as from pro-government militias and counter-demonstrators. These attacks were answered with violence from protestors in some cases.[6][7][8] Large-scale conflicts resulted -- the Syrian Civil War,[9][10] Iraqi insurgency and the following civil war,[11] the Egyptian Crisis and coup,[12] the Libyan Crisis, and the Crisis in Yemen[13]

Some have referred to the succeeding and still ongoing conflicts as the Arab Winter.[9][10][12][13][11] As of July 2016, only the uprising in Tunisia resulted in a transition to constitutional democratic governance.[1]


The term "Arab Spring" is an allusion to the Revolutions of 1848, which is sometimes referred to as the "Springtime of Nations", and the Prague Spring in 1968. In the aftermath of the Iraq War it was used by various commentators and bloggers who anticipated a major Arab movement towards democratization.[14] The first specific use of the term Arab Spring as used to denote these events may have started with the American political journal Foreign Policy.[15] Marc Lynch, referring to his article in Foreign Policy,[16] writes "Arab Spring—a term I may have unintentionally coined in a January 6, 2011 article".[17] Joseph Massad on Al Jazeera said the term was "part of a US strategy of controlling [the movement's] aims and goals" and directing it towards western-style liberal democracy.[15] Due to the electoral success of Islamist parties following the protests in many Arab countries, the events have also come to be known as "Islamist Spring" or "Islamist Winter".[18][19]

Some observers have also drawn comparisons between the Arab Spring movements and the Revolutions of 1989 (also known as the "Autumn of Nations") that swept through Eastern Europe and the Second World, in terms of their scale and significance.[20][21][22] Others, however, have pointed out that there are several key differences between the movements, such as the desired outcomes, the effectiveness of civil resistance, and the organizational role of Internet-based technologies in the Arab revolutions.[23][24][25][26]


Pressures from within[edit]

The Arab Spring is widely believed to have been instigated by dissatisfaction with the rule of local governments, particularly by youth and unions, though some have speculated that wide gaps in income levels and pressures caused by the Great Recession may have had a hand as well.[27] Other sources confirm the US government's support of the uprisings, funded largely by the National Endowment for Democracy. [28]

Other analysts pointed to the fourth stage "Toppling the Regimes" of the Al Qaeda strategy for world domination, described in Fouad Hussein's book published in 2005.[29]

Numerous factors led to the protests, including issues such as dictatorship or absolute monarchy,[30] human rights violations, political corruption (demonstrated by Wikileaks diplomatic cables),[31] economic decline, unemployment, extreme poverty, and a number of demographic structural factors,[32] such as a large percentage of educated but dissatisfied youth within the entire population.[33][34] Catalysts for the revolts in all Northern African and Persian Gulf countries included the concentration of wealth in the hands of autocrats in power for decades, insufficient transparency of its redistribution, corruption, and especially the refusal of the youth to accept the status quo.[35]

Some protesters looked to the Turkish model as an ideal (contested but peaceful elections, fast-growing but liberal economy, secular constitution but Islamist government).[36][37][38][39] Other analysts blamed the rise in food prices on commodity traders and the conversion of crops to ethanol.[40] Yet others have claimed that the context of high rates of unemployment and corrupt political regimens led to dissent movements within the region.[41][42]

The causes of the Arab Spring may also be interpreted through the lenses of various theories of revolution and democratization, including Relative Deprivation Theory[43][44][45] and Modernization Theory[46][47][48]

Social media and the Arab Spring[edit]

In the wake of the Arab Spring protests, a considerable amount of attention has been focused on the role of social media and digital technologies in allowing citizens within areas affected by 'the Arab Uprisings' as a means for collective activism to circumvent state-operated media channels.[49] The influence of social media on political activism during the Arab Spring has, however, been much debated.[50][51][52] Protests took place both in states with a very high level of Internet usage (such as Bahrain with 88% of its population online in 2011) and in states with one of the lowest Internet penetration (Yemen and Libya).[53]

The use of social media platforms more than doubled in Arab countries during the protests, with the exception of Libya.[54] Some researchers have shown how collective intelligence, dynamics of the crowd in participatory systems such as social media, have the immense power to support a collective action – such as foment a political change.[55][56] As of 5 April 2011, the amount of Facebook users in the Arab world surpassed 27.7 million people.[54] Some critics have argued that digital technologies and other forms of communication—videos, cellular phones, blogs, photos, emails, and text messages—have brought about the concept of a 'digital democracy' in parts of North Africa affected by the uprisings.[57][58]

Facebook, Twitter and other major social media played a key role in the movement of Egyptian and Tunisian activists in particular.[53][59] Nine out of ten Egyptians and Tunisians responded to a poll that they used Facebook to organize protests and spread awareness.[54] This large population of young Egyptian men referred to themselves as "the Facebook generation", exemplifying their escape from their non-modernized past.[60] Furthermore, 28% of Egyptians and 29% of Tunisians from the same poll said that blocking Facebook greatly hindered and/or disrupted communication. Social media sites were a platform for different movements composed by many frustrated citizens, including the 2008 "April 6 Youth Movement" organized by Ahmed Mahed, which set out to organize and promote a nationwide labor strike, and which inspired the later creation of the "Progressive Youth of Tunisia".[61]

During the Arab Spring, people created pages on Facebook to raise awareness about alleged crimes against humanity, such as police brutality in the Egyptian Revolution (see Wael Ghonim and Death of Khaled Mohamed Saeed).[62] Whether the project of raising awareness was primarily pursued by Arabs themselves or by activists in the West is a matter of debate; Jared Keller, a journalist for The Atlantic, argued for the latter. He claimed that most people in the Middle East and North Africa used texting, emailing, and blogging only to organize and communicate information about internal local protests.[63]

Social networks were not the only instrument for rebels to coordinate their efforts and communicate. In the countries with the lowest Internet penetration and the limited role of social networks, such as Yemen and Libya, the role of mainstream electronic media devices - cell phones, emails, and video clips (e.g. YouTube) was very important to cast the light on the situation in the country and spread the word about the protests in the outside world.[53] In Egypt, in Cairo particularly, mosques were one of the main platforms to coordinate the protest actions and raise awareness to the masses.[64]


Events leading up to the Arab Spring[edit]

Tunisia experienced a series of conflicts during the three years leading up to the Arab Spring, the most notable occurring in the mining area of Gafsa in 2008, where protests continued for many months. These protests included rallies, sit-ins, and strikes, during which there were two fatalities, an unspecified number of wounded, and dozens of arrests.[65][66] In Egypt, the labor movement had been strong for years, with more than 3,000 labor actions since 2004, and provided an important venue for organizing protests and collective action.[67] One important demonstration was an attempted workers' strike on 6 April 2008 at the state-run textile factories of al-Mahalla al-Kubra, just outside Cairo. The idea for this type of demonstration spread throughout the country, promoted by computer-literate working class youths and their supporters among middle-class college students.[67] A Facebook page, set up to promote the strike, attracted tens of thousands of followers and provided the platform for sustained political action in pursuit of the "long revolution."[34] The government mobilized to break the strike through infiltration and riot police, and while the regime was somewhat successful in forestalling a strike, dissidents formed the "6 April Committee" of youths and labor activists, which became one of the major forces calling for the anti-Mubarak demonstration on 25 January in Tahrir Square.[67]

In Algeria, discontent had been building for years over a number of issues. In February 2008, United States Ambassador Robert Ford wrote in a leaked diplomatic cable that Algeria is 'unhappy' with long-standing political alienation; that social discontent persisted throughout the country, with food strikes occurring almost every week; that there were demonstrations every day somewhere in the country; and that the Algerian government was corrupt and fragile.[68] Some claimed that during 2010 there were as many as '9,700 riots and unrests' throughout the country.[69] Many protests focused on issues such as education and health care, while others cited rampant corruption.[70]

In Western Sahara, the Gdeim Izik protest camp was erected 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) south-east of El Aaiún by a group of young Sahrawis on 9 October 2010. Their intention was to demonstrate against labor discrimination, unemployment, looting of resources, and human rights abuses.[71] The camp contained between 12,000 and 20,000 inhabitants, but on 8 November 2010 it was destroyed and its inhabitants evicted by Moroccan security forces. The security forces faced strong opposition from some young Sahrawi civilians, and rioting soon spread to El Aaiún and other towns within the territory, resulting in an unknown number of injuries and deaths. Violence against Sahrawis in the aftermath of the protests was cited as a reason for renewed protests months later, after the start of the Arab Spring.[72]

The catalyst for the escalation of protests was the self-immolation of Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi. Unable to find work and selling fruit at a roadside stand, Bouazizi had his wares confiscated by a municipal inspector on 17 December 2010. An hour later he doused himself with gasoline and set himself afire. His death on 4 January 2011[73] brought together various groups dissatisfied with the existing system, including many unemployed, political and human rights activists, labor, trade unionists, students, professors, lawyers, and others to begin the Tunisian Revolution.[65]

The Arab Spring[edit]

The series of protests and demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa that commenced in 2010, became known as the "Arab Spring",[74][75][76] and sometimes as the "Arab Spring and Winter",[77] "Arab Awakening"[78][79][80] or "Arab Uprisings"[81][82] even though not all the participants in the protests were Arab. It was sparked by the first protests that occurred in Tunisia on 18 December 2010 in Sidi Bouzid, following Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation in protest of police corruption and ill treatment.[83][84] With the success of the protests in Tunisia, a wave of unrest sparked by the Tunisian "Burning Man" struck Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen,[85] then spread to other countries. The largest, most organised demonstrations often occurred on a "day of rage", usually Friday afternoon prayers.[86][87][88] The protests also triggered similar unrest outside the region.

By the end of February 2012, rulers had been forced from power in Tunisia,[89] Egypt,[90] Libya,[91] and Yemen;[92] civil uprisings had erupted in Bahrain[93] and Syria;[94] major protests had broken out in Algeria,[95] Iraq,[96] Jordan,[97] Kuwait,[98] Morocco,[99] and Sudan;[100] and minor protests had occurred in Mauritania,[101] Oman,[102] Saudi Arabia,[103] Djibouti,[104] Western Sahara,[105] and Palestine. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on 14 January 2011 following the Tunisian Revolution protests. In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak resigned on 11 February 2011 after 18 days of massive protests, ending his 30-year presidency. The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown on 23 August 2011, after the National Transitional Council (NTC) took control of Bab al-Azizia. He was killed on 20 October 2011, in his hometown of Sirte after the NTC took control of the city. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed the GCC power-transfer deal in which a presidential election was held, resulting in his successor Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi formally replacing him as the president of Yemen on 27 February 2012, in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Weapons and Tuareg fighters returning from the Libyan Civil War stoked a simmering conflict in Mali which has been described as 'fallout' from the Arab Spring in North Africa.[106]

During this period of regional unrest, several leaders announced their intentions to step down at the end of their current terms. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced that he would not seek re-election in 2015,[107] as did Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose term was ending in 2014,[108] although there were violent demonstrations demanding his immediate resignation in 2011.[109] Protests in Jordan also caused the sacking of four successive governments[110][111] by King Abdullah.[112] The popular unrest in Kuwait also resulted in resignation of Prime Minister Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah cabinet.[113]

The geopolitical implications of the protests drew global attention.[114] Some protesters were nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.[115] Tawakkol Karman from Yemen was co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize due to her role organizing peaceful protests. In December 2011, Time magazine named "The Protester" its "Person of the Year".[116] Another award was noted when the Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda won the 2011 World Press Photo award for his image of a Yemeni woman holding an injured family member, taken during the civil uprising in Yemen on 15 October 2011.[117]

Summary of conflicts by country[edit]

  Government overthrown multiple times   Government overthrown   Civil war   Protests and governmental changes
  Major protests   Minor protests   Other protests and militant action outside the Arab world
Country Date started Status of protests Outcome Death toll Situation
 Tunisia 18 December 2010 Government overthrown on 14 January 2011 Overthrow of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali; Ben Ali flees into exile in Saudi Arabia 338[124] E Government overthrown
 Algeria 29 December 2010 Ended in January 2012
  • Lifting of the 19-year-old state of emergency[125][126]
8[127] B Major protests
 Jordan 14 January 2011 Ended
  • On February 2011, King Abdullah II dismisses Prime Minister Rifai and his cabinet[128]
  • On October 2011, Abdullah dismisses Prime Minister Bakhit and his cabinet after complaints of slow progress on promised reforms[129]
  • On April 2012, as the protests continues, Al-Khasawneh resigned, and the King appoints Fayez al-Tarawneh as the new Prime Minister of Jordan[130]
  • On October 2012, King Abdullah dissolves the parliament for new early elections, and appoints Abdullah Ensour as the new Prime Minister of Jordan[131]
3[132] C Protests and governmental changes
 Oman 17 January 2011 Ended in May 2011 2–6[138][139][140] C Protests and governmental changes
 Egypt 25 January 2011 The governments overthrown on February 2011, the Egyptian Crisis follows Overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, who is later convicted of corruption and ordered to stand trial for ordering the killing of protesters.
Sinai insurgency
  • Egyptian Armed Forces launch anti-terror military operations in the Sinai.
  • Increase in violence and attacks by insurgents since the ouster of Morsi.[151]
846[152] EGovernment overthrown
 Yemen 27 January 2011 Government overthrown on February 2012. Yemeni Crisis follows. Overthrow of Ali Abdullah Saleh; Saleh granted immunity from prosecution. 10,000+[156] EGovernment overthrown
 Djibouti 28 January 2011 Ended in March 2011 2[157] A Minor protests
 Somalia 28 January 2011 Ended 0 A Minor protests
 Sudan 30 January 2011 26 October 2013
  • President Bashir announces he will not seek another term in 2015[158]
  • President Bashir nevertheless chosen as Ruling Party candidate for 2015 election[159]
200+[160] A Major protests
 Iraq 12 February 2011 ended 23 December 2011, instability and eventually civil war follows
  • Prime Minister Maliki announces that he will not run for a 3rd term;[161]
  • Resignation of provincial governors and local authorities[162]
  • Two-third wage increase for Sahwa militia members
35 B Protests
 Bahrain 14 February 2011 18 March 2011
  • Economic concessions by King Hamad[163]
  • Release of political prisoners[164]
  • Negotiations with Shia representatives[165]
  • GCC intervention at the request of the Government of Bahrain
  • Head of the National Security Apparatus removed from post[166]
  • Formation of a committee to implement BICI report recommendations[167]
120[168] D Sustained civil disorder and government changes
 Libya 17 February 2011 Government overthrown on 23 August 2011, crisis follows Overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi; Gaddafi killed by rebel forces 40,000+[171] Government overthrown and civil war
 Kuwait 19 February 2011 Ended in December 2012 0[174] C Protests and governmental changes
 Morocco 20 February 2011 Ended in March–April 2012 6[177] C Protests and governmental changes
 Mauritania 25 February 2011 Ended 3[178] A Minor protests
 Lebanon 27 February 2011 Ended in December 2011 0 D Protests and governmental changes
 Saudi Arabia 11 March 2011 Ended 24[184] A Minor protests
 Syria 26 January 2011 Civil uprising, which transformed into Syrian Civil War on July–August 2011
  • Release of some political prisoners[185][186]
  • Dismissal of Provincial Governors[187][188]
  • Resignation of the Government[189]
  • End of Emergency Law
  • Resignations from Parliament[190]
  • Large defections from the Syrian army and clashes between soldiers and defectors[191]
  • Formation of the Free Syrian Army and full-scale civil war
400,000+ Civil war
Iran Iranian Khuzestan 15 April 2011 Ended on 18 April 2011 12 B Major protests
Borders of Israel 15 May 2011 Ended on 5 June 2011
  • Arab demonstrations on the borders of Israel
35[192][193] B Major protests
 Palestinian Authority 10 February 2011 5 October 2012
  • Then Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad states that he is "'willing to resign"[194]
  • Fayyad resigns on 13 April 2013 but because of political differences between him and the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas over the finance portfolio[195]
0 C Minor protests
Total death toll and other consequences: tens of thousands killed (combined estimate of events)
  • 4 governments overthrown as part of the events
  • One civil disorder leading to governmental changes
  • Five protests leading to governmental changes
  • Five major protests
  • Five minor protests
  • 2 governments overthrown in the aftermath
  • Three civil wars in the aftermath (Syria, Iraq, Libya)

Major events[edit]


Main article: Tunisian Revolution
Protesters on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, downtown Tunis on 14 January 2011, a few hours before president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country.

Following the self-burning of Mohamed Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid, a series of increasingly violent street demonstrations through December 2010 ultimately led to the ousting of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January 2011. The demonstrations were preceded by high unemployment, food inflation, corruption,[196] lack of freedom of speech and other forms of political freedom,[197] and poor living conditions. The protests constituted the most dramatic wave of social and political unrest in Tunisia in three decades,[198][199] and have resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, most of which were the result of action by police and security forces against demonstrators. Ben Ali fled into exile in Saudi Arabia, ending his 23 years in power.[200][201]

A state of emergency was declared and a caretaker coalition government was created following Ben Ali's departure, which included members of Ben Ali's party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), as well as opposition figures from other ministries. However, the five newly appointed non-RCD ministers resigned almost immediately.[202][203] As a result of continued daily protests, on 27 January Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi reshuffled the government, removing all former RCD members other than himself, and on 6 February the former ruling party was suspended;[204] later, on 9 March, it was dissolved.[205] Following further public protests, Ghannouchi himself resigned on 27 February, and Béji Caïd Essebsi became Prime Minister.

On 23 October 2011, citizens voted in the first post-revolution election to elect representatives to a 217-member constituent assembly that would be responsible for the new constitution.[206] The leading Islamist party, Ennahda, won 37% of the vote, and managed to elect 42 women to the Constituent Assembly.[207]

On 26 January 2014, a new constitution was elected.[208] The constitution is seen as progressive, increases human rights, gender equality, government duties toward people, lays the ground for a new parliamentary system and makes Tunisia a decentralized and open government.[208][209]

On 26 October 2014, the country held its first parliamentary elections since the 2011 Arab Spring[210] and its presidentials on 23 November 2014,[211] finishing its transition to a democratic state. These elections were characterized by the fall in popularity of Ennahdha, for the secular Nidaa Tounes party, which became the first party of the country.[212]


Celebrations in Tahrir Square after Omar Suleiman's statement concerning Hosni Mubarak's resignation

Inspired by the uprising in Tunisia and prior to his entry as a central figure in Egyptian politics, potential presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei warned of a "Tunisia-style explosion" in Egypt.[213]

Protests in Egypt began on 25 January 2011 and ran for 18 days. Beginning around midnight on 28 January, the Egyptian government attempted, somewhat successfully, to eliminate the nation's Internet access,[214] in order to inhibit the protesters' ability to use media activism to organize through social media.[215] Later that day, as tens of thousands protested on the streets of Egypt's major cities, President Hosni Mubarak dismissed his government, later appointing a new cabinet. Mubarak also appointed the first Vice President in almost 30 years.

The U.S. embassy and international students began a voluntary evacuation near the end of January, as violence and rumors of violence escalated.[216][217]

On 10 February, Mubarak ceded all presidential power to Vice President Omar Suleiman, but soon thereafter announced that he would remain as President until the end of his term.[218] However, protests continued the next day, and Suleiman quickly announced that Mubarak had resigned from the presidency and transferred power to the Armed Forces of Egypt.[219] The military immediately dissolved the Egyptian Parliament, suspended the Constitution of Egypt, and promised to lift the nation's thirty-year "emergency laws". A civilian, Essam Sharaf, was appointed as Prime Minister of Egypt on 4 March to widespread approval among Egyptians in Tahrir Square.[220] Violent protests however, continued through the end of 2011 as many Egyptians expressed concern about the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' perceived sluggishness in instituting reforms and their grip on power.[221]

Hosni Mubarak and his former interior minister Habib al-Adli were convicted to life in prison on the basis of their failure to stop the killings during the first six days of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.[222] His successor, Mohamed Morsi, was sworn in as Egypt's first democratically elected president before judges at the Supreme Constitutional Court.[223] Fresh protests erupted in Egypt on 22 November 2012. On 3 July 2013, the military overthrew the replacement government and President Morsi was removed from power.[224]


Thousands of demonstrators gather in Bayda

Anti-government protests began in Libya on 15 February 2011. By 18 February the opposition controlled most of Benghazi, the country's second-largest city. The government dispatched elite troops and militia in an attempt to recapture it, but they were repelled. By 20 February, protests had spread to the capital Tripoli, leading to a television address by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who warned the protestors that their country could descend into civil war. The rising death toll, numbering in the thousands, drew international condemnation and resulted in the resignation of several Libyan diplomats, along with calls for the government's dismantlement.[225]

Amidst ongoing efforts by demonstrators and rebel forces to wrest control of Tripoli from the Jamahiriya, the opposition set up an interim government in Benghazi to oppose Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's rule.[226][227] However, despite initial opposition success, government forces subsequently took back much of the Mediterranean coast.

On 17 March, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 was adopted, authorising a no-fly zone over Libya, and "all necessary measures" to protect civilians. Two days later, France, the United States and the United Kingdom intervened in Libya with a bombing campaign against pro-Gaddafi forces. A coalition of 27 states from Europe and the Middle East soon joined the intervention. The forces were driven back from the outskirts of Benghazi, and the rebels mounted an offensive, capturing scores of towns across the coast of Libya. The offensive stalled however, and a counter-offensive by the government retook most of the towns, until a stalemate was formed between Brega and Ajdabiya, the former being held by the government and the latter in the hands of the rebels. Focus then shifted to the west of the country, where bitter fighting continued. After a three-month-long battle, a loyalist siege of rebel-held Misrata, the third largest city in Libya, was broken in large part due to coalition air strikes. The four major fronts of combat were generally considered to be the Nafusa Mountains, the Tripolitanian coast, the Gulf of Sidra,[228] and the southern Libyan Desert.[229]

In late August, anti-Gaddafi fighters captured Tripoli, scattering Gaddafi's government and marking the end of his 42 years of power. Many institutions of the government, including Gaddafi and several top government officials, regrouped in Sirte, which Gaddafi declared to be Libya's new capital.[230] Others fled to Sabha, Bani Walid, and remote reaches of the Libyan Desert, or to surrounding countries.[231][232] However, Sabha fell in late September,[233] Bani Walid was captured after a grueling siege weeks later,[234] and on 20 October, fighters under the aegis of the National Transitional Council seized Sirte, killing Gaddafi in the process.[235]


Main article: Yemeni Revolution
Protests in Sana'a

Protests occurred in many towns in both the north and south of Yemen starting in mid-January 2011. Demonstrators initially protested against governmental proposals to modify the constitution of Yemen, unemployment and economic conditions,[236] and corruption,[237] but their demands soon included a call for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh,[237][238][239] who had been facing internal opposition from his closest advisors since 2009.[240]

A major demonstration of over 16,000 protesters took place in Sana'a on 27 January 2011,[241] and soon thereafter human rights activist and politician Tawakel Karman called for a "Day of Rage" on 3 February.[242] According to Xinhua News, organizers were calling for a million protesters.[243] In response to the planned protest, Ali Abdullah Saleh stated that he would not seek another presidential term in 2013.[244] On 3 February, 20,000 protesters demonstrated against the government in Sana'a,[245][246] others participated in a "Day of Rage" in Aden[247] that was called for by Tawakel Karman,[242] while soldiers, armed members of the General People's Congress, and many protestors held a pro-government rally in Sana'a.[248] Concurrent with the resignation of Egyptian president Mubarak, Yemenis again took to the streets protesting President Saleh on 11 February, in what has been dubbed a "Friday of Rage".[249] The protests continued in the days following despite clashes with government advocates.[250] In a "Friday of Anger" held on 18 February, tens of thousands of Yemenis took part in anti-government demonstrations in the major cities of Sana'a, Taiz, and Aden. Protests continued over the following months, especially in the three major cities, and briefly intensified in late May into urban warfare between Hashid tribesmen and army defectors allied with the opposition on one side and security forces and militias loyal to Saleh on the other.[251]

After Saleh pretended to accept a Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered plan allowing him to cede power in exchange for immunity only to back away before signing three separate times,[252][253] an assassination attempt on 3 June left him and several other high-ranking Yemeni officials injured by a blast in the presidential compound's mosque.[254] Saleh was evacuated to Saudi Arabia for treatment, but he handed over power to Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi, who has largely continued his policies[255] and ordered the arrest of several Yemenis in connection with the attack on the presidential compound.[254] While in Saudi Arabia, Saleh kept hinting that he could return any time and continued to be present in the political sphere through television appearances from Riyadh starting with an address to the Yemeni people on 7 July.[256] On Friday 13 August, a demonstration was announced in Yemen as "Mansouron Friday" in which hundreds of thousands of Yemenis called for Ali Abdullah Saleh to go. The protesters joining the "Mansouron Friday" were calling for establishment of "a new Yemen".[257] On 12 September, Saleh issued a presidential decree while still receiving treatment in Riyadh authorizing Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi to negotiate a deal with the opposition and sign the GCC initiative.[258]

On 23 September, three months since the assassination attempt, Saleh returned to Yemen abruptly, defying all earlier expectations.[259] Pressure on Saleh to sign the GCC initiative eventually led to his signing of it in Riyadh on 23 November, in which Saleh agreed to step down and set the stage for the transfer of power to his vice-president.[260] A presidential election was then held on 21 February 2012, in which Hadi (the only candidate) won 99.8 percent of the vote.[261] Hadi then took the oath of office in Yemen's parliament on 25 February.[262] By 27 February, Saleh had resigned from the presidency and transferred power to his successor, however he is still wielding political clout as the head of the General People's Congress party.[263] The replacement government was overthrown by Houthi rebels on 22 January 2015.


Anti-government demonstrations in Baniyas

Protests in Syria started on 26 January 2011, when a police officer assaulted a man in public at "Al-Hareeka Street" in old Damascus. The man was arrested right after the assault. As a result, protesters called for the freedom of the arrested man. Soon a "day of rage" was set for 4–5 February, but it was uneventful.[264][265] On 6 March, the Syrian security forces arrested about 15 children in Daraa, in southern Syria, for writing slogans against the government. Soon protests erupted over the arrest and abuse of the children. Daraa was to be the first city to protest against the Ba'athist government, which has been ruling Syria since 1963.[266]

Thousands of protesters gathered in Damascus, Aleppo, al-Hasakah, Daraa, Deir ez-Zor, and Hama on 15 March,[267][268][269] with recently released politician Suhair Atassi becoming an unofficial spokesperson for the "Syrian revolution".[270] The next day there were reports of approximately 3000 arrests and a few casualties, but there are no official figures on the number of deaths.[271] On 18 April 2011, approximately 100,000 protesters sat in the central Square of Homs calling for the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad. Protests continued through July 2011, the government responding with harsh security clampdowns and military operations in several districts, especially in the north.[272]

On 31 July, Syrian army tanks stormed several cities, including Hama, Deir Ez-Zour, Abu Kamal, and Herak near Daraa. At least 136 people were killed, the highest death toll in any day since the start of the uprising.[273] On 5 August 2011, an anti-government demonstration took place in Syria called "God is with us", during which the Syrian security forces shot the protesters from inside the ambulances, killing 11 people consequently.[274]

By late November – early December, the Baba Amr district of Homs fell under armed Syrian opposition control. By late December, the battles between the government's security forces and the rebel Free Syrian Army intensified in Idlib Governorate. Cities in Idlib and neighborhoods in Homs and Hama began falling into the control of the opposition, during this time military operations in Homs and Hama stopped.

By mid-January the FSA gained control over Zabadani and Madaya. By late January, the Free Syrian Army launched a full-scale attack against the government in Rif Dimashq, where they took over Saqba, Hamoreya, Harasta and other cities in Damascus's Eastern suburbs. On 29 January, the fourth regiment of the Syrian Army led by the president's brother Maher al-Assad and the Syrian Army dug in at Damascus, and the fighting continued where the FSA was 8 km away from the Republican palace in Damascus. Fighting broke out near Damascus international airport, but by the next day the Syrian government deployed the Republican Guards. The military gained the upper hand and regained all land the opposition gained in Rif Dimashq by early February. On 4 February, the Syrian Army launched a massive bombardment on Homs and committed a huge massacre, killing 500 civilians in one night in Homs. By mid-February, the Syrian army regained control over Zabadani and Madaya. In late February, Army forces entered Baba Amr after a big military operation and heavy fighting. Following this, the opposition forces began losing neighborhoods in Homs to the Syrian Army including al-Inshaat, Jobr, Karm el-Zaytoon and only Homs's old neighborhood's, including Al-Khalidiya, Homs|al-Khalidiya, remained in opposition hands.

By March 2012, the government began military operations against the opposition in Idlib Governorate including the city of Idlib, which fell to the Army by mid-March. Saraqib and Sarmin were also recaptured by the government during the month. Still, at this time, the opposition managed to capture al-Qusayr and Rastan. Heavy fighting also continued in several neighborhoods in Homs and in the city of Hama. The FSA also started to conduct hit-and-run attacks in the pro-Assad Aleppo Governorate, which they were not able to do before. Heavy-to-sporadic fighting was also continuing in the Daraa and Deir ez-Zor Governorates.

By late April 2012, despite a cease-fire being declared in the whole country, sporadic fighting continued, with heavy clashes specifically in Al-Qusayr, where rebel forces controlled the northern part of the city, while the military held the southern part. FSA forces were holding onto Al-Qusayr, due to it being the last major transit point toward the Lebanese border. A rebel commander from the Farouq Brigade in the town reported that 2,000 Farouq fighters had been killed in Homs province since August 2011. At this point, there were talks among the rebels in Al-Qusayr, where many of the retreating rebels from Homs city's Baba Amr district had gone, of Homs being abandoned completely. On 12 June 2012, the UN peacekeeping chief in Syria stated that, in his view, Syria has entered a period of civil war.[275]


Over 100,000 people taking part in the "March of Loyalty to Martyrs", honoring political dissidents killed by security forces

The protests in Bahrain started on 14 February, and were initially aimed at achieving greater political freedom and respect for human rights; they were not intended to directly threaten the monarchy.[93][276](pp162–3) Lingering frustration among the Shiite majority with being ruled by the Sunni government was a major root cause, but the protests in Tunisia and Egypt are cited as the inspiration for the demonstrations.[93][276](p65) The protests were largely peaceful until a pre-dawn raid by police on 17 February to clear protestors from Pearl Roundabout in Manama, in which police killed four protesters.[276](pp73–4) Following the raid, some protesters began to expand their aims to a call for the end of the monarchy.[277] On 18 February, army forces opened fire on protesters when they tried to reenter the roundabout, fatally wounding one.[276](pp77–8) The following day protesters reoccupied Pearl Roundabout after the government ordered troops and police to withdraw.[276](p81)[278] Subsequent days saw large demonstrations; on 21 February a pro-government Gathering of National Unity drew tens of thousands,[276](p86)[279] whilst on 22 February the number of protestors at the Pearl Roundabout peaked at over 150,000 after more than 100,000 protesters marched there and were coming under fire from the Bahraini Military which killed around 20 and injured over 100 protestors.[276](p88) On 14 March, GCC forces (composed mainly of Saudi and UAE troops) were requested by the government and entered the country,[276](p132) which the opposition called an "occupation".[280]

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa declared a three-month state of emergency on 15 March and asked the military to reassert its control as clashes spread across the country.[276](p139)[281] On 16 March, armed soldiers and riot police cleared the protesters' camp in the Pearl Roundabout, in which 3 policemen and 3 protesters were reportedly killed.[276](pp133–4)[282] Later, on 18 March, the government tore down Pearl Roundabout monument.[276](pp150)[283] After the lifting of emergency law on 1 June,[284] several large rallies were staged by the opposition parties.[285] Smaller-scale protests and clashes outside of the capital have continued to occur almost daily.[286][287] On 9 March 2012, over 100,000 protested in what the opposition called "the biggest march in our history".[288][289]

The police response has been described as a "brutal" crackdown on peaceful and unarmed protestors, including doctors and bloggers.[290][291][292] The police carried out midnight house raids in Shia neighbourhoods, beatings at checkpoints, and denial of medical care in a "campaign of intimidation".[293][294][295][296] More than 2,929 people have been arrested,[297][298] and at least five people died due to torture while in police custody.[276](p287,288) On 23 November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry released its report on its investigation of the events, finding that the government had systematically tortured prisoners and committed other human rights violations.[276](pp415–422) It also rejected the government's claims that the protests were instigated by Iran.[299] Although the report found that systematic torture had stopped,[276](pp417) the Bahraini government has refused entry to several international human rights groups and news organizations, and delayed a visit by a UN inspector.[300][301] More than 80 people had died since the start of the uprising.[302]



In the aftermath of the Arab Spring in various countries, there was a wave of violence and instability commonly known as the Arab Winter[303] or Islamist Winter.[304] The Arab Winter was characterized by extensive civil wars, general regional instability, economic and demographic decline of the Arab League and overall religious wars between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

Although the long-term effects of the Arab Spring have yet to be shown, its short-term consequences varied greatly across the Middle East and North Africa. In Tunisia and Egypt, where the existing regimes were ousted and replaced through a process of free and fair election, the revolutions were considered short-term successes.[305][306][307] This interpretation is, however, problematized by the subsequent political turmoil that emerged, particularly in Egypt. Elsewhere, most notably in the monarchies of Morocco and the Persian Gulf, existing regimes co-opted the Arab Spring movement and managed to maintain order without significant social change.[308][309] In other countries, particularly Syria and Libya, the apparent result of Arab Spring protests was a complete collapse of social order.[305]

Social scientists have endeavored to understand the circumstances that led to this variation in outcome. A variety of causal factors have been highlighted, most of which hinge on the relationship between the strength of the state and the strength of civil society. Countries with stronger civil society networks in various forms underwent more successful reforms during the Arab Spring; these findings are also consistent with more general social science theories such as those espoused by Robert D. Putnam and Joel S. Migdal.[310][311]

One of the primary influences that have been highlighted in the analysis of the Arab Spring is the relative strength or weakness of a society's formal and informal institutions prior to the revolts. When the Arab Spring began, Tunisia had an established infrastructure and a lower level of petty corruption than did other states, such as Libya.[305] This meant that, following the overthrow of the existing regime, there was less work to be done in reforming Tunisian institutions than elsewhere, and consequently it was less difficult to transition to and consolidate a democratic system of government.[308][312]

Also crucial was the degree of state censorship over print, broadcast, and social media in different countries. Television coverage by channels like Al Jazeera and BBC News provided worldwide exposure and prevented mass violence by the Egyptian government in Tahrir Square, contributing to the success of the Egyptian Revolution. In other countries, such as Libya, Bahrain, and Syria, such international press coverage was not present to the same degree, and the governments of these countries were able to act more freely in suppressing the protests.[313][314] Strong authoritarian regimes with high degrees of censorship in their national broadcast media were able to block communication and prevent the domestic spread of information necessary for successful protests. Morocco is a case in point, as its broadcast media at the time of the revolts was owned and operated almost exclusively by political elites with ties to the monarchy.[309]

Countries with greater access to social media, such as Tunisia and Egypt, proved more effective in mobilizing large groups of people, and appear to have been more successful overall than those with greater state control over media.[307][315][316]

The support, even if tacit, of national military forces during protests has also been correlated to the success of the Arab Spring movement in different countries.[306][308] In Egypt and Tunisia, the military actively participated in ousting the incumbent regime and in facilitating the transition to democratic elections. Countries like Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, exhibited a strong mobilization of military force against protesters, effectively ending the revolts in their territories; others, including Libya and Syria, failed to stop the protests entirely and instead ended up in civil war.[306] The support of the military in Arab Spring protests has also been linked to the degree of ethnic homogeneity in different societies. In Saudi Arabia and Syria, where the ruling elite was closely linked with ethnic or religious subdivisions of society, the military sided with the existing regime and took on the ostensible role of protector to minority populations.[317] Even aside from the military issue, countries with less homogeneous ethnic and national identities, such as Yemen and Jordan, seem to have exhibited less effective mobilization on the whole. The apparent exception to this trend is Egypt, which has a sizable Coptic minority.[citation needed]

Finally, the presence of a strong, educated middle class has been noted as a correlate to the success of the Arab Spring in different countries.[318] Countries with strong welfare programs and a weak middle class, such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as well as countries with great economic disparity and an impoverished working class—including Yemen, Libya, and Morocco—did not experience successful revolutions. The strength of the middle class is, in turn, directly connected to the existing political, economic, and educational institutions in a country, and the middle class itself may be considered an informal institution.[319] In very broad terms, this may be reframed in terms of development, as measured by various indicators such as the Human Development Index: rentier states such as the oil monarchies of the Persian Gulf exhibited less successful revolutions overall.[320]


Some trends in political Islam resulting from the Arab Spring noted by observers (Quinn Mecham and Tarek Osman) include:

  • Repression of the Muslim Brotherhood, not only in Egypt by the military and courts following the forcible removal of Morsi from office in 2013; but also by Saudi Arabia and a number of Gulf countries (not Qatar).[321][322]
  • Rise of Islamist "state-building" where "state failure" has taken place—most prominently in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. Islamists have found it easier than competing non-Islamists trying to fill the void of state failure, by securing external funding, weaponry and fighters -- "many of which have come from abroad and have rallied around a pan-Islamic identity". The norms of governance in these Islamist areas are militia-based, and the governed submit to their authority out of fear, loyalty, other reasons, or some combination.[321] The "most expansive" of these new "models" is the Islamic State.[321]
  • Increasing sectarianism (primarily Sunni-Shia) at least in part from Proxy Wars. Fighters are proxies primarily for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and for Iran. Islamists are fighting Islamists across sectarian lines in Lebanon (Sunni militants targeting Hezbollah positions), Yemen (between mainstream Sunni Islamists of Islah and the Shiite Zaydi Houthi movement), in Iraq (Islamic State and Iraqi Shiite militias)[321]
  • Increased caution and political learning in countries such as Algeria and Jordan where Islamist have chosen not to lead a major challenge against their governments. In Yemen Islah "has sought to frame its ideology in a way that will avoid charges of militancy".[321]
  • In countries where Islamist did chose to lead a major challenge and did not succeed in transforming society (particularly Egypt), a disinterest in "soul-searching" about what went wrong, in favor of "antagonism and fiery anger" and a thirst for revenge. Partisans of political Islam (although this does not include some prominent leaders such as Rached Ghannouchi but is particularly true in Egypt) see themselves as victims of an injustice whose perpetrators are not just "individual conspirators but entire social groups".[323]

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