The Arab Spring 2011 and Beyond

The term Arab Spring describes a wave of uprisings and revolutions that spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa beginning in January of 2011. The following mediated writing piece will describe the causes of the Arab Spring, the countries, and discuss the outcomes. For some people, the Arab Spring was an exciting historical time period which viewers followed as the events unfolded through news media, Twitter and on other social media platforms, however for others the Arab Spring continues to effect their everyday lives through permanent displacement or a loss of hope for an imagined revolutionary change that was never realized.

What caused the arab spring?

  • economic instability or lack of economic opportunity
  • young educated populations with no job opportunities
  • access to the internet allowed people to read about other successful uprisings and political upheavals through international news, research and networking globally through Social Media
  • political leaders that had ruled for decades and stagnant GDP growth
  • absence of democracy: no voting rights, no free-speech, no political representation and/or participation


Tunisia & the "Jasmine Revolution"

  • On December 17, 2010 a Tunisian street trader, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire to protest police harassment which caused protests and widespread outrage.
  • The next month, January 2011, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali (or Ben Ali) stepped down from power and fled out of the country. He ruled from 1987-2011.


  • On January 25, 2011 thousands of protesters take to the streets in Cairo, Egypt. People protest, demonstrate, march, strike and participate in civil disobedience. This day is remembered as "25 January Revolution".
  • Tahrir Square, in Cairo, is where protesters organize and unite demanding President Hosni Mubarak resign from power. The images from Tahrir Square are remembered around the world. A documentary called The Square is available for viewing on Netflix.
  • On February 11, 2011 Hosni Mubarak resigns after ruling Egypt for thirty years 1981-2011.


  • February 15, 2011 Libya's government forces crack down on protesters as anti-government demonstrations arise in Benghazi. A few days later, February 17, 2011, demonstrations spread across Libya. Many world leaders demanded Qaddafi's resignation but he refused stating that he would rather die a martyr. Qaddafi began ruling Libya in 1969 and was world renowned for ruling as a dictator. March 17, 2011 the United Nation's National Security Council votes to implement a "no fly zone" over Libya. In April 2011, NATO airstrikes begin hitting rebel fighters. Qaddafi is killed by rebel forces in his hometown of Sirte, Libya on October 11, 2011. Qaddafi ruled Libya for 40 years.





Tunisia: Many would argue that Tunisia was the only success story to emerge out of the Arab Spring. Human rights conditions have improved. Tunisia adopted a new constitution (freedom of speech, meet up freely, and bans torture). Former officials who carried out violent attacks on protesters have been tried and jailed. There was also the establishment of a truth and dignity commission.

Egypt: After Hosni Mubarak resigns from power, a series of popular elections brought Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in June 2012. Morsi becomes unpopular due to his plans to implement an Islamic constitution and attempt to reform a law giving him unparalleled leadership powers. A coup d'etat led by Abdel Fattah El-Sisi ousts Mohamed Morsi. In 2014, "Sisi" rises to power through a popular election and becomes the president. Since Sisi gained political power, authorities have cracked down on free speech, the right to meet, arrest and imprision journalists, and harass human rights groups. Repressive laws have been passed banning protests. A new "counter-terrorism law" allows for heavy fines on journalists and Presidential power to exercise to ensure public order and security. Thousands of Morsi's supporters and youth are in prison. Egypt today faces worsening economic conditions and rising discontent. Finally, a mere three days ago on March 1, 2017 a New York Times article announced that Egyptian courts have cleared Hosni Mubarak for any crimes committed against protesters and is clearing the way for his release to freedom.

Sisi's Egypt

Libya: Libyans and international communities celebrated the fall of authoritarian dictator Muhammar Qaddafi. However, six years later, Libya remains deeply divided and since May 2014 has been engaged in renewed conflict with no unified ruling government. Amnesty International (a non-governmental organization focusing on global human rights) describes how Libya faces ongoing human rights under attack: war crimes, migrants and refugees have faced serious abuse, 2.5 civilians need humanitarian help (clean water, sanitation and food), no free-speech, no women's rights, and a legal system barely functioning. The power vacuum in a post-Qaddafi Libya remains ongoing chaos, violence and opposing ideologies.

Libya's key militias
  • Syria
  • Bahrain
  • Yemen

After Thoughts

Technically, the Arab Spring has not ended. Syria and Yemen continue fighting intense civil wars. Many academic scholars continue dissecting the Arab Spring. Below is an interesting video where Tarek Masoud, a professor at Harvard University, explains why he believes the uprisings were successful in a few countries but unsuccessful in others.

Further Reading


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