The current dissertation was carried to with a view to exploring the success and failure factors in the Arab spring. Like any other revolution, the Arab spring resulted to political unrests which swept across the MENA region. Different factors which have been explored in the research study include the roles of political ideologies and religious movements, economic underpinnings and economic factors, security factors, social media and media factors, and social factors. Research findings indicate that all these factors were success factors although political factors and religious movements have been categorized as partially successful and failure factors. Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and the Ennahda/Al-Nahdha of Tunisia are some of the religious movements that participated in the Arab spring although their roles were not fully executed.
As part of political ideologies, the autocratic regime used Islam which eschewed democrats’ and secularists’ ideologies such as empowerment, dignity, freedom and democracy. To achieve these, religious movements and other protestors carried out protests which ousted autocratic leaders. Lack of adequate security and police brutality encouraged the protests which were carried out through the social media networks. The Army enhanced peaceful demonstrations and engaged in activities which could have prevented the resistances. Through social media and media in general, protestors were able to mobilize resources such as time, place and mode of transportation. In addition, different people were able to share social and economic factors which had been neglected for a long period of time by the autocratic regime. Some of these factors include poor economic growth rate, high levels of inflation and unemployment, increase in food prices, corruption, human rights, freedom, education, and poverty, among others.
Revolution and its definition
Revolution is a diverse term whose different meanings differ based on the context of application. As noted by Yonder (1926, p.433), the term is mostly misused and used by different people from different regions. In order for a revolution to take place, it has to be influenced by several factors such as political, economic, or socio-cultural (Katz 1999). Fahlbusch (2005) defines a revolution as a “basic upheaval, radical break, profound change, and new beginning “(p.685). Based on this definition, a revolution is carried out with the objective of breaking from a current phenomenon to undertake a change and start a new beginning.
It may involve an overthrow of the existing political, economic, and social structures in the bid for a change (Katz 1999; Yinger & Katz 2001, p. 353). As acknowledged by Yonder (1926), a revolution is a political phenomenon which anticipates change of the existing political ideologies and the levels of freedom and democracy. It could also refer to a collective behaviour orchestrated by the masses and which is characterized by political and social unrest. Masses under tyrannical regimes gang up against the ruling class and in the process they are ousted from power (Finlay 2006; Yinger & Katz 2001, p. 353). This could either result in democracy or instability.
Katz (1999) describes revolution as a political phenomenon involving change in the political power of a nation. In this context, a revolution is carried out with a view to restoring hope in a world of tyrannical regime and darkness. According to Yonder (1926, p.433), some people view a revolution as an action which entails deepest fears and hope to the oppressed. To others, a revolution acts as a threat to modern civilization because of its consequences. The general belief which exists is that a “revolution is a calamity to the direct order and a thing to be avoided at any cost” (Yonder 1926, p.433). The implication made is that revolution leads to calamities such as civil unrest and war which should be avoided for the socioeconomic and political stability of any nation.
In the modern society, the term revolution has been legitimized to imply the general need for change by the masses. According to Fahlbusch (2005) the specification has made it possible to differentiate changes resulting from civil wars, riots, rebellions, and revolts. In this context, modern revolution is carried out to usher in new beginnings which form the foundation of modern social order. Therefore, a revolution is carried out to with a view to restoring order, as opposed to destroying it.
From a social context, the term revolution is used to suggest unexpected and abrupt social change that revolves around societal pillars (Mandel 1994). Sociologists view it as a deviant behaviour resulting from socioeconomic unrests which leads to social change. Like any collective behaviour and unrest, a revolution is orchestrated by a small group of people under oppression. In addition, it can be carried out when a group of people do not share the same political ideologies or rules set by the ruling class (Yonder 1926). The combination of resultant unrests coupled with collective behaviour and violence results in a revolution (Fahlbusch 2005, p.686). Karl Marx saw revolution as a form of emancipation adopted by the poor against the political elite and the ruling class (Burke 1998). Some of the major revolutions in the history of the humankind include the Russian revolution, French Revolution and the American Revolution (Brucker 1989).
Arab Uprising History
The “Arab Spring” is a term used in reference to the riots and political unrests that took place in the MENA region (Gelvin 2012, p.32). In the last quarter of 2010, and at the start of 2011, we witnessed numerous protests and demonstrations in the Arab region. This Arab awakening and protests came to be known as the Arab Spring (Asheley 2011). Just like the French revolution, the Arab spring was spurred by the need for democracy, freedom, increase in food prices, economic difficulties, poverty, violation of human rights, high levels of unemployment, and other socioeconomic and political factors (Jamoul 2012; Al-Qubbi 2011). Some of the autocratic regimes in the MENA region have been ousted from power through revolutionary actions. Meanwhile, the rest of the tyrannical regimes in the MENA region such as Syria are still under heavy pressure to surrender power to a more democratic regime.
Historically, the Arab world has been ruled through repressions that aim to restore social order in the region (Malik & Awadallah 2011, p.6). The emergence of increased access to technology, unequal distribution of natural resources, high levels of corruption, and high cost of living are some of the forces which propelled the need to get rid of oppressive regime (Paciello 2011). Using social media like Facebook and Twitter, people with same ideas and visions came together with the objective of ousting the repressive regimes (Abdulla 2010 O’Donnell 2011).
Although most countries in the MENA region are endowed with natural resources such as oil and gas, the issue of redistribution cost has risen in recent years. Consequently, the youth who represent the largest number the unemployed individuals in the MENA region have exploded beyond the capacity of the existing welfare systems (Malik & Awadallah 2011, p.6). According to Jamoul (2012), the root cause of the awakening was manifested by the discrepancies on average per capita where those in power could afford a decent livelihood while the poor languished in poverty. This resulted in the destabilization of the political, economic, and social structures and systems.
The Egypt revolution dates back to 2004 “when a group called Kefaya (The Egyptian Movement for Change) appeared suddenly on Egypt’s political scene” (Farris 2011, p.4). The group’s main agenda was to end emergency rule and reinstate constitutional politics and pluralism. However, although the group held demonstrations and protests at the Tahrir square, the regime carried out high-profile assaults against the protestors, especially women (Farris 2011). The Arab Spring started in Tunisia in late 2010 when a Tunisian fruit vendor lit himself on fire in protest of the mistreatment he had received from a municipal inspector (Lawson 2012; Giridharadas, 2011).
As noted by Parry, Medlyn and Tahir (2011, p.304), Mr. Mohammed Bouazizi, a fruit vendor, was the major catalyst to the Tunisian revolution and other uprisings across the MENA region such as Egypt. As narrated by Fahim (2011), Bouazizi, a 26 year old fruit vendor, was slapped by a municipal official after yanking back fruits which had been confiscated by the official. In addition, the official denied Bouazizi the permit to operate his fruits and vegetables fruit business. After his wares had been confiscated and he had been denied a permit, Bouazizi moved to the governor’s office where he set himself on fire in protest for the mistreatment he had received at the hands of the municipal official (Fahim 2011). His actions ignited political unrests resulting in collective mass protests which led to eventual ousting of the Tunisian president Ben Ali (Yang, Greenberg & Endsley 2012, p.164; Parry et al. 2011, p.304)
The protests in Tunisia inspired Egyptian youths to carry out demonstrations and protests that were organized through the social media networks like Twitter and Facebook. As noted by Fahim (2011), the Tunisian revolution effects rippled across the MENA region shaking other autocratic regimes in the region. The frustrated youths in other countries ganged up and carried out collective revolution through the social media. Countries like Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Libya, and Bahrain were all affected by the crisis as the youths voiced their concerns through the social media (Parry et al. 2011). President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was later ousted from office and is currently facing several human rights charges and abuse of power.
The uprisings witnessed in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq and Tunisia have been successful as the autocratic regimes have been ousted from power (Gelvin 2012). For instance, January 25th 2011, saw thousands of Egyptians youths meet at the Tahrir square where they protested for days. The demonstrations and protests were carried for several days, after which the incumbent promised not to seek a reelection in September 2011. Nonetheless, the angry protestors camped at the Tahrir square demanding the resignation of the president. Pressure was mounted on the president who later bowed down and stepped down out of power (Gelvin 2012; Paciello 2011, p. 1; Joya, Bond, El-Maine, Hanieh & Henaway 2011). Afterwards, the military took power ensuring peace and order around several streets in Egypt. Like other revolutions, a price had to be paid through deaths and injuries. For instance, an approximate of 300 people were killed, 750 policemen and 1500 protestors injured.
The Arab spring can be described as a historical political phenomenon which went beyond the normal revolutions and fallout of dictators (Colombo 2012; Lawson 2012). This is because people remained glued to the phones, television screens, and computer monitors watching as the MENA region dictatorship come to an end. In addition, despite the fact that social, demographic, economic, and political sections of the countries involved in Arab spring differ, the revolutions were all common in certain respects, such as in the use of technology by youths to oust doctorial leaders in the MENA region (Kennedy 2011). Western nations like U.S were vocal in calling for the respect of peoples’ voices and in encouraging the leaders to exercise democracy. As noted by Haas (2012, p.271), the uprising saw the death of Libya’s president Muammar Gaddafi, the ousting of Tunisia’s president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
Research Aim and Questions
The aim of the research is to explore the success and failure factors in the Arab spring as well as the success and failure features within the factor. The major research
- What are the success factors in Arab spring?
- What are the failure factors in Arab spring?
The Arab spring which started in Tunisia was spurred Mohammed Bouazizi, a fruit vendor in Tunisia who set himself on fire after being harassed and denied a permit to operate as a fruit and vegetable shop. His actions acted as a catalyst to the Tunisian revolution. The protest in Tunisia inspired Egyptian youths who took to the streets. The protests and demonstrations spread to other states in the MENA region such as Iraq, Iran, Algeria, and Bahrain, among others. Like any other form of revolution, the Arab spring was influenced by several factors where had been simmering for a long period. The repression of social, civil and political freedoms, political malaise, increase in food prices, economic underpinnings, poverty, high levels of unemployment, and corruption are some of the major causes which spurred the Arab spring. These underpinnings were enabled by the social media network where collectivism and collective behaviour propelled the revolution. Lastly, the Arab spring just like a political phenomenon went beyond the uprising and fall of the dictators.
Role of Political Ideologies in the Arab Spring.
Drawing from the definition of a revolution, the Arab spring may have been caused by change in political ideologies (Shadmehr 2010). As noted by Jamoul (2012), Egypt lacked political freedom and the political class made sure that the views of the masses were oppressed. The political scene in Egypt best illustrates this since immediately after the September 11 attacks, the political and ruling class in Egypt mainly used military power to derail political freedom violate human rights (Jamoul 2012). According to Mneimneh (2011), the political culture of the MENA region was overturned in 2011 following the toppling of various regimes through the power of the masses. Subsequently, new political choices that did not exist previously were now being set. Before the uprisings took place in the Arab region, political ideologies shared in the MENA region were purely based on Islam (Mneimneh 2011. Islam acted as the major political engine while democratic and secular ideas were viewed as weak thus exposing the regimes to systematic legitimacy.
Islamist groups dominated the cultural, political and intellectual spheres. Prior to the uprisings, Arab politics were not engulfed in liberal, democratic, secular and progressive ideas (Mneimneh 2011). As a result, they lacked any tangible influence and were regarded as irrelevant to political realities in the region especially by the Islamists and the autocrats. Although they received criticism from their Western partners regarding the repression rule used and occasional imposition of periodical concessions to enhance democratic standards, they never yielded to the demands. Instead, supporters of democracy were marginalized, isolated and their networks made ineffective. However, Islamists and the autocratic regimes were caught off guard by the urge of democratic and secular ideas. As noted by Mneimneh (2011), the overthrow of autocrats have left Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood with no choice but to consent and embrace the political ideologies of the democratic and secularists.
Based on the above preceding statement, it can be argued that most of the people in the Arab region were tired of the Islamist and autocratic political ideologies which subjected the masses to repression (Al-Qubbi 2011). Consequently, this called for an awakening which led to ousting of authoritarian leadership in the regime. Efforts by activists to mobilize huge crowds caused a shift in demand for political freedom and democracy. This observation has been supported by Moaddel (2012, p.1) who noted that radical ideologies in the Middle East and the North Africa region were necessitated by anti-authoritarian movements. Consequently, the demand for change in political ideologies catapulted the need for the uprisings. Mikail (2012, p.1) adds that political based agendas played a critical role in the politics of the MENA region.
Based on arguments made by Moaddel (2012, p.1), most of the people had reduced their support on political Islam and their political ideologies. Compared with Islam politics, secular politics ideas increased, thereby encouraging national identity instead of social individualism. The existing regime was basically regime-centered implying that the people had little say on politics. This charged the people with the desire to adopt a more people-centered approach. The paradigm shift to embrace new policy was sired by the need for political freedom. Moaddel (2012) adds that as long as autocratic regimes remained in power, the ruling elite would continue controlling electoral systems which were fully supported by radical Islamism. This would only be changed through martyrdom and political violence. In other words, it was hard to overcome the existing political ideologies of the ruling class without violence. Muslim youths defied Islam fundamentalists’ political ideologies and conducted peaceful demonstrations. Instead of using violence which has been a major characteristic of most revolutions around the world, Muslim youths demonstrated peaceful. Because of hard Islam political ideologies, the Arab public started to embrace Western based values of social individualism, secular politics, nationalism, and democracy (Mneimneh 2011). Although the Arab region does not agree with the Western political ideologies, an emergent political ideological disclosure was adopted.
According to Schimmel (2011), the case of Islam as part of oppressive regime can be has been refuted by Sunni Islam teaching which states that “obedience to the state, even to a tyrant, is better than fitna or dissension” (p.1). The implication made is that Islam faithful believed that protestors were against the teaching of Islam which requires obedience to the state and its teaching. However, difference in political ideologies between Islamists, secularists and democrats could have sparked off the uprising. As noted by Mneimneh (2011) and Rafati (2011) Islam faithful assumed that they had presented the needs and the plight of the ordinary people but the uprising took them by surprise. In addition, despite their popularity in the region, Islam faithful disregarded the demands of the people which were dignity, empowerment, and freedom.
Because of their poor ideological agendas, Islam faithful were not in a position to mobilize people during the uprising (Mneimneh 2011). Islam’s discourse and teachings on political ideologies have been based on disengagement of secularists and democrats ideas. Although the Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamists religious group, it shared different political ideologies. For instance, they accommodated non-Islamic practices and ideas thus embracing “accomodationist” approach which created a popular foundation for the movement (Mneimneh 2011). Therefore, differences in ideologies between Islamists and non-Islamists propelled the need for change since Islamists were part of the Islam elites who ruled through autocracy. The Muslim Brotherhood embraced political ideologies being chanted during the Arab spring which was contrary to the ideologies of Islamist political ideologies. For instance, it adopted the slogan “hurriyah, izzah, karamah” which when translated into English means freedom, empowerment and dignity (Mneimneh 2011). These ideologies catapulted the need for change in the region which saw the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
Role of religious movements
There were no active religious movements in the Arab region before 2011 which means that they had little power and legitimacy. However, this did not deter them from engaging in the Arab uprising. For instance, the Ennahda/Al-Nahdha of Tunisia and the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt were part of the uprising. As noted by Schimmel (2011), these two religious movements envisioned for a civil state and believed that the state was not bound to Islam although it could provide principles used in policy making or shaping governance.
The Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings were carried out not on a religious basis but with the desire for political change as well as access to economic and political arenas (Schimmel 2011). At the beginning of the uprisings, the two religious movements kept low profiles in their respective nations in fear of being used for repressive reasons by the autocratic regimes. The groups were repressed, oppressed and denied religious freedom by the political elites. As noted by Thistlethwaite (2011) religious freedom is a diverse concept and does not only entail individual right to worship but also giving it voice to engage in political and social activities such as reconciliation, peacemaking and democratization. In this context and as explained by Schimmel (2011) Ennahda/Al-Nahdha of Tunisia and the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt lacked this kind of freedom.
In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood participated in the political force when it became clear that there was no going back. According to Schimmel (2011), religious collectivism in Egypt played a vital role in mobilizing the Egyptians to join protests at the Tahrir square. In addition, religion and religious institutions such as mosques offered a favorable platform to conduct political mobilization and networking activities. For example, cable channels from Tahrir square were used to redistribute newsfeeds to other Arab nations and the world in general. Sheikh Qaradhawi‘s participation in the demonstrations demonstrated the role played by religion. In Egypt, the Muslims and Copts expressed signs of unity during the protests and demonstrations. However, after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power, minority religious groups reappeared with the old contentions of the Islam teachings. Nonetheless, this does not imply that religious movements supported the ousted regime.
When the Arab spring started in the MENA region, different people attended the demonstration regardless of their religious affiliation, age, race, or sex (Zama 2011). The protestors were brought together by the same outcries which included increases in food prices, inflation, lack of political and religious freedom and repressions among other reasons. As noted by Zama (2011), the media paid much attention on the tech savvy youths and forgot the role played by the religion in the uprising. Ennahda and the Muslim Brotherhood are known for their long history as being anti-government. However, it is clear to observe that although the groups participated in the demonstrations, they played no major roles in mobilizing the protestors. The statement can be supported by Moaddel (2012, p.1), who observes that religious network had significantly reduced before and during the uprisings as technology offered a platform from where political mobilization was carried. The diagram below shows demonstrators in unity praying while the Egyptian army watched.
Some political analysts have observed that religious movements in the Arab world did not play their role as required because they were already repressed. The preceding statement can be supported by Freston (2011) who opines that religious movements did not play a major role in the uprisings as expected. For instance, during payers’ sessions at the Tahrir square, a conflict between Muslims and Christians arose, whereas it was expected that members of the two religions would demonstrate togetherness on the uprising (Mandel n.d.). Religious diversity in the religion makes it hard to generalize the major role played by religious movements in the MENA region. In addition, the religious movements in the Arab world had less political and religious freedom like in other states around the globe. As expounded by Mikail (2012), Islamist parties in the Arab world have for a long time been suppressed and excluded from political sphere. However in 2011, the victory and the involvement of Ennahda and Muslim Brotherhood is a good example that religious movements’ role in politics in the MENA region has come of age.
Despite the role played by religious groups, Islam is a compelling force in the MENA region’s political culture and thought (Mneimneh 2011). This is because most people believe that Islam should remain as the major player in ensuring governance and accountability. As noted by (Shimmel 2011), a controversy could ensue causing differences on the thought of the roles of religion in politics. For example, according to Article 2 of the Egyptian constitution, Islam is regarded as a state religion, and Sharia as the major source of legislation (Shimmel 2011). This may have hindered some Islamist movements from fully undertaking demonstrations in fear of being against the teachings of Islam. However, the power of Islam in the Arab region cannot be overlooked, because they have substantial organizational capacity and strong financial networks (Mneimneh 2011). Some of the religious movements in the religion have emerged as winners of the Arab aftermath such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
To further expound on the role played by religious movements, Freston (2011) notes that in Bahrain there existed a sectarian divide between major religious groups of the Sunni minority and the Shia majority monarchy. In a country like Libya, differences between the Sunni and Shai derailed the role played by religion in the movement making religious movements a failure factor. Views given by Dalacoura (2012) indicate that the Arab spring less carried by Islamists movements. This implies that the few religious groups that engaged in the uprising did not fully part in the uprising which makes religious movement a failure factor. The Muslim Brothers joined the uprising which was against the leadership wishes while Al-Nahda at the time of the uprising was banned (Dalacoura 2012). These groups participated in the movement after it become clear that there was no going back by the youths. Despite the differences between the different religious groups, they all managed to have same voice which was against sectarianism (Dalacoura 2012). Therefore, it can be concluded that religious movements did not play major role in the uprising although that does not make it a failure factor to the Arab spring.
Role of Economy and Economic Underpinnings in Arab Spring
One of the main reasons why the Arab spring started in the first place was due to macro-economic related issues. For instance, the demonstrations in Tunisia started after Mohamed Bouazizi, a fruit vendor, had set himself on fire because he could not be permitted to operate his street business. According to Fahim (2011), Bouazizi was the sole bread winner of his family of seven. This portrays how things were in Tunisia prior to the protests. In addition, the level of unemployment among the youth stood at 14 percent and it was estimated to be much higher in Sidi Bouzid, the city where Bouazizi set himself on fire (Fahim 2011).
The state of economy in Sidi Bouzid was fragile since most past central governments under Ben Ali had neglected it. In addition, most factories in the region were no longer operating anymore and forces of nepotism and corruption had overtaken the entire region. As a result, the neighboring towns were left to poverty, idle young men, underemployed citizens, jobless people characterized by high levels of poverty. Because of the hard economic activities, coupled with global downturns in the financial markets compelled most people to rally against the elite group which owned the power. In this context, it can be concluded that economic hardships forced people to take to the streets.
By looking at unemployment as an economic factor as opposed to a social one, it can be observed that the level of unemployment was high in the Arab region. Jamoul (2012) observes that unemployment has been regarded as a major cause of economic insecurity in the Arab region. As a result, the high level of unemployment played a major role in destabilization of the Arab political system. Based on current statistics, an estimated 24 percent of the youths in the Arab region were unemployed (Jamoul 2012). The situation had been the same since the global financial markets in the last quarter of 2007. Malik and Awadallah (2011) add that economic underpinnings in the region were major players in the Arab spring.
Dalacoura (2012) and Al-Qubbi (2011) note that before the 2010-2011 uprisings, the region had been faced with high levels of rampant corruption, economic conditions deterioration, rapid high unemployment, and increase in food prices. In addition, the uprisings which took place in Tunisia were propelled by these factors despite the fact that most of the states in the MENA region are rich in natural resources such as oil. The problem is that the autocratic regimes in the MENA region did not create any job and this only increased the level of unemployment. From an economic point of view, increase in the level of unemployment to unmanageable levels leads to an increase in the level of inflation (Stepanova 2011, p. 21).
High level of inflation rates lowers the purchasing power of consumers which result from increase in food prices and lack of consumable income. With increased food prices, inflation and high rate of unemployment, the masses were deemed to gang up against the elite group or the ruling class. This can best be explained by the Marxist social theory of revolution which according to Fahlbusch (2005) and Becker (1998) is based on the preposition that when the poor are oppressed by the ruling class for a long time they engage in collective behaviour with the objective of overthrowing the elite group or the ruling class. In addition, the theory asserts that when the masses cries are not addressed they tend to engage in revolutionary actions. Therefore, economic hardships played an important role in the Arab spring.
Economic crisis in the region played a major role in offsetting the Arab spring although the crisis was primarily due to bad governance as it was on the economy (Hislope & Mughan 2011). As analysed by Malik and Awadallah (2011), the Arab region has traditionally been ruled through redistribution and repression. However, the global economic crisis of 2008 increased the cost of redistribution significantly. This, coupled with the explosion in youth demographics which form the highest unemployed section in the world (Jamoul 2012), extremely overburdened the welfare capacity (Malik & Awadallah 2011). The explosion of the youth increased the level of unemployment (Fahim 2011). Despite the fact that countries in MENA region are endowed with large volumes of natural resources such as gas and oil, the region is food deficient. With increase in food prices and increase on cost of redistribution, it became hard to sustain the large population of unemployed youths.
The above mentioned social and economic grievances fuelled political change which resulted in political unrests in the MENA region. As a result, all the grievances “were channeled into collective action in 2011” (Dalacoura 2012, p. 68) across different streets in the MENA region. The major causes of the revolution in Europe were low levels of GDP growth, unemployment, poverty, increase in food prices and poor standards of living (Jamoul 2012). These were the same causes of the revolution in the MENA region. Malik and Awadallah (2011) affirm that these same economic factors contributed towards the uprising took in the region. In addition, economic fragmentation in the MENA region, global financial crisis and a volatile oil market all contributed towards the uprising. The high levels of discrepancies between the poor and the rich because of concrete policies and delayed response to the economic underpinnings by the autocratic regime increased the levels of political unrests in the MENA region. As noted by Jamoul (2012), Tunisia and Egypt are reported to have displayed high levels of nepotism and corruption which are the major economic setbacks. As such, public funds were channeled towards the pockets of the few while the majority succumbed to poverty. In the case of Egypt, the military is known to have controlled the economy by occupying most of the economic resources of the country. In addition, the military budget was never vetted which increased the avenues for corruption.
The unexpected bulge and budge in the labour market due to poor economic conditions led to an increase in the levels of unemployment in the MENA region. This translated into an increase in the number of unemployed youths which jeopardized the economic and political stability of the region. As noted by Breisinger, Ecker and Al-Riffai (2011) low levels of economic growth coupled with sporadic increase in unemployment rates significantly led to high food prices which were as a result of inflation. Subsequently, the welfare of the majority was threatened despite the presence of redistribution plans. Analysts and economists from World Bank echoed the sentiments in the preceding statements by adding that unemployment that resulted from poor economic performance can be blamed compelling the Arab spring (Ahmed 2012a). They add that if efforts had been done to increase Tunisia’s GDP from 5 percent to 7 percent, the high number of unemployed youths would not have been witnessed. As such, the experienced tensions in the labor markets would not have been experienced.
In a state like Egypt, the level of unemployment is considerably higher among university graduates (Stepanova 2011p.21). This is the most dependent group in the region because lack of employment is due to poor economic growth. The high level of unemployment among the educated coupled by the fact that there was no new form of leadership, and the autocratic regime kept away from the needs of the young, fuelled the need to carry out the movements. The neglected demographics began to mobilize one another. The need for reforms as a result of poor economic growth in Egypt can be traced back in 2004 when a group of intellectuals formed the Kefaya Movement which sought political change (Stepanova). Although the group did not succeed, its presence was felt. In 2008 a major workers strike was organized through the social networking where more than 70, 000 people become part of the social network seeking for change (Stepanova 2011, p.21). The workers had organized the strike in a bid to get the attention of the government since the prices of commodities had increased, inflation rate had increased, wages of the workers were declining and the government was still continuing with neoliberal privatization (Stepanova 2011 p.21). All these activities were economically related and triggered the time bomb for change.
Economic factors were derailing the economic growth of Egypt supported by the poor governance by the ruling class. In the MENA region, despite the wealth resulting from natural resources, most people lived in poverty. As noted by Pickett (2012), in spite the fact that Tunisia had the highest number of middle class income earners; the country is considered to have been one of repressive regimes with high levels of corruption and nepotism. Intolerance of the economic malaise gripped most of the Tunisian population leading to the political unrests in the region. A limping economy, lack of jobs, high levels of corruption and unprecedented increase in food prices increased the living standards of majority ordinary persons in the region thus calling the need for change in leadership which resulted to the political unrests. Jamoul (2012) observes that Wikileaks’ diplomatic cables laid bare the high levels of corruption among the Arab leaders.
The self-immortalization of Bouazizi sparked the uprisings in Tunisia and this was a sign of poor economic development and suppression by Tunisia’s autocratic regime (Morris 2012). According to the CIA (2012) report, Tunisia is ranked as the 48th nation with highest rate of unemployment in the world. In addition, most of the graduates in Tunisia and Egypt are unemployed (Fahim 2011; Morris 2011). This means that most of the protestors were university graduates who had lacked employment which can therefore be considered as an economic underpinning.
Pickett (2012) the autocratic regime was in a process of self enriching. The same case was diversified in the MENA region as most of the governments operated under monarch systems (Ahmed 2012). When the leaders pocketed all the wealth, it implied that the poor and majority did not enjoy the economic benefits since wealth was concentrated on the autocratic leaders. As noted my Morris (2012), 40 percent of the Tunisian economy was controlled by the Ben Ali (Morris 2012). As a result, trade unions and other activists organized the protests with the aim of calling for the addressing on high cost of living and high level of unemployment. Other people protested in detest for the increased level of public properties by the ruling class. Protests which started as minor demonstrations in a small city in Tunisia emerged as a major rebellion, which not only shocked the leaders in the region and the world in general.
Role of security in Arab spring.
Security and security agents played an important role in ensuring that the Arab Spring was a success. High levels of insecurity in the MENA region fuelled the need to engage in activities which would reduce the levels of insecurity in the region. The increase in the use of excessive force by security agents such as the police necessitated the need for freedom of free speech, expression and democracy. For example, the victimization of Bouazizi and Khaled Said in the hands of the police spurred a rise of the uprising in Tunisia and the eventual ousting of the tyrannical regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Bouazizi who was a street fruit and vegetable vendor was harassed, humiliated and his wares were confiscated by the authorities. According to Parry et al. (2011, p.304), the repeated prosecution by the police prompted Bouazizi to set himself on fire and this spurred revolts in Tunisia and later spread to other nations in the MENA region. The brutality of the police, the use of the military courts by security agents in Egypt and the inhumane killing of Khaled encouraged the citizens to mobilize mass protests through social media networks (Jamoul 2012. This later created a sense of commonality among the oppressed people who teamed up to overthrow tyrannical regimes.
Other than the offensive side of security agents, they also played a positive role by joining ordinary citizens in the uprisings. The police and the military played a pivotal role by ensuring that the Arab nationalism remained the main ideology (Moaddel 2011, p.2). For example, in Egypt the army participated with other people but called for peaceful demonstrations. To ensure nationalism, the army saw to it that nationalists and democrats ascended into power after ousting the autocratic regime. Dalacoura (2012, p. 68) adds that the army was politically sterilized and it could not exercise its power like any other army in the world. In other words, the army had been incapacitated and it was no longer regarded as a powerful institution. This angered the army who later participated in the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak by maintaining stability and calmness thus gaining the trust of the people (Dalacoura 2012, p. 68).
In Tunisia, the army and other security forces did not attempt to calm down the agitated protestors. As described by Dalacoura 2012, p. 68), the army stood aside and refused to disburse or fire at the protestors and instead, they assisted in pushing the president out of power. In other words, the Tunisian army had retracted from the political scene leaving demonstrators to exercise their freedom and their grievances. In Libya, weak ties between the army and the government made it possible to overthrow Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. In other regions, the roles played by state agents were weak as they had strong ties. In Oman and Bahrain it was hard to carry out successful revolutions since security agents prevented the rebellions by arresting and cracking down on protestors and civil activists. This reduced the chances of having successful revolutions.
It has been pointed out that impunity crimes committed by security authorities in the MENA region was a major cause of the Arab spring. The preceding statement has been supported by observations made by FCO (2012) that high level of injustices and increased impunity by the security authorities in Tunisia led to the initiation of the uprisings. As indicated earlier, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after being frustrated by security officials and this emerged as a symbol of hope, a sense of indignity and injustice as well as a sign of frustrations. As a result, citizens took to the streets in demand for better government which would encourage democracy and freedom among the people. Furthermore, the security services in most countries in the MENA region such as in Libya, Tunisia, and Bahrain had weaker ties with the people which compromised free association.
As noted by FCO (2012) the level human rights violation crimes carried out by the security forces before and during the protests and demonstrations were very high in countries such as Bahrain, Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Tunisia among others. Security forces of these countries undermined international security standards and human rights in the region thereby prompting the people to rally against the ruling class. Therefore, it can be observed that the rule of law, democracy and human rights were not promoted and encouraged under the autocratic regimes in MENA region thus encouraging the need for change. Roth (2012) adds that human rights in the region were undermined as security forces had the power to undermine any person or group that claimed their own rights.
Taking to the streets by the Arab people between 2010 and 2011 has been applauded as the Arab people yanked themselves from autocratic leaderships and dictatorial regimes. One of the major reasons why high levels of containment of the Arab people had been condoned for long people was as a result of outstanding Western policy on security. Because of security reasons, the Western governments had been acting in a way which portrayed Arab people as if they were to be controlled, feared and hemmed in (Roth 2012). As a result, the autocratic leaders used their security forces and authorities to contain the people which led to the violation of basic human rights and freedom. In other words, the West entertained the autocratic regimes which promised stability in the region but instead used power to suppress the majority. However, dissatisfaction by the people called for the uprising which was a clear indication that the people were not complacency with the authoritarian regime rule (Stepanova 2011).
Autocratic regimes used oppression and suppressions to contain the welfare of the masses through the use of force and murder of innocent citizens (Ahmed 2012). In a country like Syria, teenagers were tortured by security agents after they scribbled anti regime graffiti (Roth 2012). This resulted in outrage which sparked common outrage among the Syrians towards the dictatorial regime for taking such brutal measures against its citizens. According to Cullen (2008), this can be categorized as an act against the basic human rights and violated the international human right which is prohibited under the UN Charter on human rights.
In a state like Libya, the protests were sparked when Fathi Terbil was arrested by the security agents and kept in police custody for no apparent reasons (Roth 2012). According to Roth (2012), Fathi Terbil, a lawyer by profession and a human rights activist is remembered for representing the Abu Salim prison massacre victims of 1996 who were brutally massacred by security authorities. Up to this point, he had remained vocal and was a thorn to the Gaddafi’s government. All these are good examples of how the autocratic regimes abused its power, violated human rights, killed the people it was supposed to protect and suppressed the voices of the Arab people. Subsequently, people found a collective power and voice which sparked a series of demands for the incumbent and autocratic regimes (Stork 2011). Eventually, the protests spread to other regions in the MENA region showing solidarity and need for change in leadership which has so far been achieved in some countries such as Egypt and Tunisia.
Civilians were shot at using live bullets for participating in demonstrations and protests in demand for democracy and better leadership. According Dalacoura (2012) there had been existence of difference between Shia and Sunni groups in Bahrain because most of the security agents were selected from the ruling Sunnis group thus suppressing the minority Shia group. As a result, the minority group who had been suppressed for a long period rose in numbers with the aim of ousting the oppressive regimes which have been excluding and abusing the rights of Shia communities. The same was witnessed in Libya which led to spark for demand for equality and abstinence from the excessive use of force on civilians. Morris (2012) adds that human security in the region had been abused and its protection had been abused thus jeopardizing international security agenda. As a result, the revolts and protests were coordinated with the objective of ensuring that human security was secured and returned back to the people.
In a state like Tunisia, human security had been abused from when Ben Ali seized power in 1987 (Morris 2012). As described by Morris (2012), Ben Ali promised human security but instead used authoritarian rule, repression and co-optation to repress democracy, thereby jeopardizing his leadership. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak used emergency laws and brute repressions which were exercised by security agents and authorities which according to Morris (2012) violated human security and human rights. Therefore, the people had been subjected to oppression thus sparking the political unrests.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the Egyptian and Tunisian rebellions were not sudden but had been in creations for the last decade and 2010 was an opportunity which could not be foregone. Furthermore, the protest in the MENA region can be categorized as one which resulted from the abuse human security. Consequently, a need to share people grievances from a common platform emerged which led to the unrests (Morris 2012). FCO (2011) compliments the observations by adding that rule of law had been abused for a long period causing frustrations and anger among the Arab people. Subsequently, multiple events followed in demand for the observations of human security and genuine use of the rule of law.
For a long time, security in the MENA region had remained compromised, leading to the abuse of freedom of expression and association (Janning & Frontini 2012). Consequently, there had emerged a power struggle in the region as the ruling class dominated other classes as part of its repressive agenda. In countries like Bahrain, Syria, Qatar, and Oman, governments used the military to crackdown opposition groups and protestors in the name of ensuring security and stability in the region. However as observed by Roth (2012), the use of security authorities was a form of suppression which undermined basic human rights. As part of detesting from the oppressive regime, different people with same agenda and solidarity collectively acted against the ruling regimes to gain their place in the society. El-Hamalawy (2011) adds that the Arab spring was a way which was used to air out grievances which had been accumulated for the last past decades.
To demonstrate the seriousness of security abuse in the region, a report that was released in 2011 by Amnesty international showed that security detainees were ill treated, assaulted while in police custody and detention centers and that citizens were assaulted by the police in the public (Morris 2012). Lastly, pamphlets circulated in Egypt had serious demands such as the need for freedom, justice, formation of non-military government, and emergency law cessations (Madrigal 2011). This clearly indicates that oppression and the abuse of human security spurred the need to have a rebellion which ousted the Egyptian, Tunisian and Libya’s leaders.
According to Taylor (2011), special cells had been designed to host protestors and activists in most countries in the MENA region. In addition, assassinations and murder were carried out by security forces with the aim of keeping leaders in power. This angered and frustrated the people and sparked the need for change in leadership and non-military government (Madrigal 2011). Therefore, there was need for change to restore human security in the region. As noted by El-Hamalawy (2011), the Arab spring had been planned for the last ten years since people had been angered by the abuse of human rights, use of brutality by the police, murder and torture. However, the police and army ensured the protests were successful as they downed their tools and supported the people (Madrigal 2011).
Role of Media in Arab Spring
The media is a diverse communication tool that comprise of the TV, newsprint, the internet, and social media networks, among other forms of communication. As described by Yang, Greenberg and Endsley (2012) media plays a pivotal role in ensuring that newsworthy information is transmitted to the right audience at the right time. Since the protests began in the Arab region, numerous studies have been carried to determine the role that media especially social media network played in the historical uprising. According to Eltantawy and Wiest (2011) new communication technologies such as the social media has been regarded as a modern tool used in tool for “mobilization of collective action and the subsequent creation, organization, and implementation of social movements around the world” (p.1207). This implies that communication technologies have found their place in the 21st century in engaging people in collective activism.
Resource mobilization theory which is based on collective action was developed based on studies in 1960s and 1980s. Despite the criticism against the theory because of its assumptions, it has proven to be valid especially with regard to the Arab spring. As described by Eltantawy and Wiest (2011, p. 1209), the theory is founded on the basis that for a social political movement to be successful, resources such as political and social opportunities, organizational skills, money, and time have to be mobilized. The mobilization of these resources allows collective action to take its course. In this context, the media can be credited for its enormous ability to aid in the mobilization of important resources such as time and actors. In addition, it aided in the mobilization of other resources such as meeting places, motivated citizenry, and encouraging words which brought people together in achieving same agenda (Eltantawy & Wiest 2011, p.1210).
Granovetter’s theory of weak ties and Manuel Castells’s network theory are the major theories which explain how communication through media outlets such as social networks played an important role in the MENA uprisings (Stork 2011, p. 17). As noted by Stork (2011, p.17) these theories are based on the existence on weak ties which are found in the social networks. Through weak ties, the social media network enables persons from different localities to share common agendas through the introduction of new information. The advantage of the weak ties theory is that internet provides a room for sharing ideas and opinions by likeminded people, regardless of their geographical differences. The strength of the weak ties is the ability to allow social mobility, diffusion, social cohesion as well as political organization (Stork 2011, p. 18). Therefore, through the social media, it was possible to create weak ties which allowed the disposition and dissemination of information over a short period but in a larger geographical coverage.
Role played by traditional media
Traditional media entails normal media channels of information and news dispensation such as the TV and newsprints like magazines and newspapers. The role played by the traditional media especially television cannot be ignored since much credit has been given to new media especially the social media network. Both the traditional and new media played an integral role in ensuring that the political was carried and reported. The new media mobilized the protestors while the traditional media reported the happenings as they took place thus reaching people who had not access to new media network tools such as Facebook, Blogs, and twitter. One of the major traditional media which played an impeccable role in the uprising is Al-Jazeera TV channel which reported the events as they unfolded in Tunisia, Egypt and other states in the MENA region (Fahim 2011). Dalacoura (2012) add that “Qatari-based Al-Jazeera satellite channel continued to air reports on protests in Egypt and Tunisia despite the regimes’ pleas to the Qatari government to stop it” (p.68). This shows how the traditional media played its role by disseminating information and news on the uprisings as the events unfolded in both Tunisia and Egypt. The news although received negatively by the ruling class, the oppressed and other people from different of the world followed the events.
Aljazeera, the Doha- based TV channel, ran live footages of the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and showcased the brutal images of people oppressed by the ruling class. Parry et al. (2011) note that “Aljazeera, which played an indispensable role in the Arab uprisings, ran a piece on the monument to Bouazizi spurred the uprisings” (p.304). The implication made is that the TV channel informed people of the events which other TV channels were unable to reveal to the world. Compared to the 1980s social unrests, the coverage of the unrests in 2011 were more fascinating as they were not controlled by the government which has the tendency of spreading propaganda. McAthy (2011) add that Aljazeera kept close contacts with key bloggers who provided key information which was made available to the people. Ordinary citizens in the ground provided video footage and pictures of what was happening in the ground which prompted easy deliverance of news. Although the TV channel has reported of facing some challenges such as its closure from coverage in these nations, it was not thwarted because it believed that change was necessary in the MENA region (McAthy 2011). Other players such as New York Times and Washington Post kept Arabs in Diaspora aware of the uprisings which were taking place in their home countries (Zaman 2011).
According to Samin (2011, p.37), it would be presumptuous to conclude that the social media, despite the credits it gets, played a more important role than TV stations. This is because the Qatar based satellite television Aljazeera mobilized most of the Egyptians and Tunisians into streets. The TV stations broadcasted for several weeks on the happenings without interruptions when other stations like BBC drifted off to other topics. It also “invited scores of opposition figures to speak live on the air every day and night” (Samin 2011, p.37). In countries like Tunisia which have limited internet access, television Aljazeera played a major role compared to Egypt in mobilizing and awakening the people (Seib 2011, p. 41; Manrique & Mikail 2011). The TV station retrieved materials from Twitter, You Tube and Facebook and made it available to the vast majority of its audience in Tunisia. This was achieved because the penetration level of Aljazeera coverage is 93 percent compared to that of the internet which is at 24 percent (Seib 2011, p. 41). Lastly, other older media outlets such as newspapers and radio were not left out in the uprisings as they reached distinctive people. For instance, radio reached those who could not read or write making it an informative tool during the Arab uprising.
Role of new media
The success of the Arab spring has been credited to the role played by media and other channels, especially the social media channels. The preceding statement can be supported by Teague (2012) who observes that the historical revolutionary unfolding of political unrest in the MENA region was made possible by globalization and modern tools of communication. Stepanova (2011) and Faris (2010) add that social media networks and tools supported by modern ICT aided the mass protests which took place in the MENA region. Some of the social media networks which aided in the mass protests are such as Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube (Iskander 2011). The two countries in the MENA region where social media networks assisted greatly in the disintegration of autocratic regimes are Egypt and Tunisia (Stepanova, p.1). In other countries like Syria and Bahrain, the Social media networks (SMN) played little role in socio-political mobilization. Through the use of cellular phones, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and You Tube, tech savvy youths and the elite groups were able to mobilize people and resources as well (Teague 2012; Faris 2010). Through social media networks, people were able to share their opinions and views as well as sentiments on the current economic and sociopolitical state of Tunisia and Egypt. The media was used to analyse the leadership qualities of their leaders. For example, through the use of blogs, Tunisian youths were able to evaluate the leadership of Ben Ali (Taylor 2011). This shows the extent to which the social media was adopted by people in analyzing the situation affecting them.
One of the major characteristics of the MENA region mass protest was the use of internet- based tools to mobilize people. As described by Stepanova (2011), Internet- based tools supported by social media networks assisted in the call for non-violent mass protests across the Arab world. However, in countries like Egypt and Tunisia, the social media played a major role in mobilizing people compared to Yemen and Libya. In the context in which social media and other media tools was used in the MENA region, it can be pointed out that these tools served as powerful accelerators of political and socioeconomic transformation in the region (Teague 2012). Availability of internet and its high levels of penetration in some of the countries in the region made the regimes in these countries vulnerable to attacks by the social media network. Through networks such as satellite television, video clip messaging tools such as You Tube, and cell phones, activists were able to share information and spread news on the new for change and what was really happening on the ground (Stepanova 2011).
Using the use of social media, key drivers of the Arab spring were able to mobilize the necessary resources required for the uprising. For instance, the use of SMN, resources required for collective action such as motivated citizenry, transportation, place of meeting and mode of protests were mobilized (Eltantawy & Wiest 2011, p.1210). With more than 4.5 Facebook users in a country like Egypt, it became easy to mobilize people together. Bloggers touched issues which were in the past considered to be thorny and this spurred the revolution. According to Taylor (2011), bloggers were able to post their views while their followers and readers left their personal opinions and commentary observations which encouraged exchange of information, ideas, views and opinions. As a result, all the people shared the same agenda which was the call for change in leadership and governance.
To show the effectiveness of the social media, Eltantawy and Wiest (2011, p.1214) elaborates by noting that’s social media activists in Egypt and Tunisian exchanged information among each other such as guidance on roadblocks and government surveillance though the use of Facebook and twitter. A group like the April 6th Movement used Facebook to gain support from like-minded persons. In addition, the information shared through Facebook in Egypt was made accessible to different people both internally and externally. While the Tunisian revolution was unfolding, Egyptian youths used Facebook, personal blogs and twitter to offer live news feeds, updates, videos, images and word of encouragement (Eltantawy & Wiest 2011, p.1214). A famous blogger and activist by the name Nawara Negm used video messages encouraging Tunisians people to keep going and encouraged Egyptians to offer moral support to Tunisians.
A closer look on the revolution which took place in Tunisia and Egypt shows a lot of similarities in how they were orchestrated. For example, all the revolutions were non-violent and protestors demonstrated across on the major cities calling for the resignation of autocratic leaders. Allangui and Kuelbler (2011, p. 1438) note that through social media and other media outlets, people were able to exchange information which encouraged solidarity despite their differences. For instance, in Egypt Christians Copts and Islamists all demonstrated as peaceful family despite their traditional differences. As a result, people were able to align against the autocratic regime, their attitudes, beliefs, regime and their presidents. Subsequently, the old and the young were able to discovery a new kind of force or patriotism which encouraged the revolts. Through the power of communication, it was possible to free the minds and communicate the reasons why change was needed. In the case of Tunisia, the government blocked internet services and coverage in the region. However, that did not deter the continuation of cyber-activism since internet hosts moved to their neighboring countries such as Egypt which continued with the spread of information (Allangui & Kuelbler 2011, p. 1438). Despite the censorship carried the masses had already risen against the political elites and had reached a point of no return (Storck 2011).
The power of the media in changing and addressing sociopolitical issues can also be traced back to 2009 during the presidential elections in Iran. Teague (2011) supports the statement by adding that young literate people used the new media which comprise of cellular phones, blogs, You Tube, and Twitter as well as Facebook to share unregulated and uncensored information on the political issues confronting the country. In other countries like Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria, Syria, Libya and Tunisia and not forgetting Egypt used new media at the wake of the uprisings. Teague (2012) is keen to observe that commentators and highly recognized journalists such as Andrew Sullivan played a crucial role in the Arab Spring by investing their energy and time. The movement of the information shared via the media was increased by the fact that the Muslim culture encourages close family attachment.
Social media and the uprisings
The popularity of the new media such as the social media networks began in mid 2010 when Khaled Said was abducted by the police from a café and fatally beaten by the same police. The police released a statement saying that Khaled had died from overuse of illegal drugs (Teague 2011). The Brutal death of Khaled and that of Bouazizi in the hands of the police spurred the Arab spring after the disturbing images and clips went viral through social media networks especially You Tube. A Facebook page was created by Wael Ghonim with the names “We Are All Khaled Said” (Stork 2011). A page which was started to share the brutality of the police on innocent citizens emerged as a platform from where the Egyptians were able to share information and encourage each other to take to the streets. Together with other activists in the region, Wael Ghonim was able to share the images of Said’s body and later transformed the page to a forum which was used to share all manner of issues which touched the lives of ordinary people such as increased food prices and high levels of corruption in Mubarak’s regime (Teague 2011). This was seen as a rare chance where different people would share pictures and any available evidence which made the Facebook page a rallying point for encouraging each other thus bringing out solidarity.
The use of social media as a tool of carrying out resistance in the MENA region caught the leaders in the region off guard (Iskander 2011). Through cyber activism, it was possible to create solidarity especially in Egypt and Tunisia (Samin 2011, p.35). Although the governments through its security agents tried to shut the internet for several days, the resistances had gained a firm ground and there was no retreating back. Technological determinism and the proliferation of the social media networks supported by Al-Jazeera made it possible for the toppling of Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. Although in countries like Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and Libya the new media did not have much impact as in Egypt and Tunisia, it is showed the power which lies in the new media and internet (Samin 2011, p.35). Samin (2011, p.35) is keen to observe that although the media is credited for the revolution, it only acted as a platform which accelerated collective behaviour and action which had been boiling for years. In other words, the new media acted as an accelerator to the resistances and the sociopolitical unrest in the MENA region. In addition, the presence of English interface in Facebook made it possible for quick flow of information since majority of Egyptians and Tunisians are not conversant to English language. To show the extent of the revolution, the Egyptians revolution has come to be recognized as “Egypt’s Facebook Revolution” while Iranian come to be known as the “Iran’s Twitter Revolution” (Tsvetovat & Kouznetsov 2011, p.14).
Role of Social Factors
Social factors entail human rights, poverty, housing, unemployment and humanitarian issues, and freedom of speech, among many others. All the above mentioned factors played a role. The presence of the aforementioned social factors brought different parties together with the objective of rescuing themselves from social injustices, poverty, lack of political and religious freedom among many others woes. As noted by Ahmed (2012) nepotism, fraud and corruption among the ruling class and political elites have been employed systematically in large scale in the MENA region. Subsequently, the poor continued to wallow in miasma of poverty and poor living conditions and standards. This can be elaborated by drawing an example to Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia ,the home town of Bouazizi who self immortalized himself to death. Fahim (2011) observes that issues of injustices and corruption, nepotism, and bribing had disintegrated the moral fiber of the society. In this small Tunisian town, young men spend most of their time in cafés because they lacked employment, jobs or any other means of generating income. It is in this town where the protests on the MENA region began spreading the revolution to other parts of the country.
According to Jamoul (2012) and Pollack (2011), high levels of unemployment acts as a major cause of destabilization of political structures and economic insecurity. Jamoul (2012) adds that more than 24 percent of the youths were unable to secure employment in the region. In any economy which is on verge of moving forward, this unemployment rate can be categorized as high and uncontrollable. To make matters worse, different governments in the region have not emphasized on job creation opportunities. As a result, lack of employment fuelled the anger to get rid of the autocratic and corrupt regimes the moment they got the window opportunity. By participating in the uprisings, risking their lives and spending sleepless nights, the Muslim youths were actually venting their displeasures on the governments on the way they handled some matters casually without putting much considerations.
In Tunisia, the level of unemployment was as high as 14 percent among the youth and more than 30 percent in Sidi Bouzid, the city where the revolution in the MENA region began (Fahim 2011). In addition, most of the youths in the region especially college graduates were poor and unemployed. The situation was no different in Egypt and other states in the region. For instance, in Egypt the level of unemployed university graduates was higher demographically (Stork 2011, p. 2011; Stepanova 2011; Jamoul 2012; Malik &Awadallah 2011, p. 6). This indicates how unemployment had infiltrated in the MENA region. Ahmed (2012a) points out that low level of GDP in Tunisia and other MENA states was the major cause of high levels of unemployment. For instance, in Tunisia the growth rate was low as 5 percent thus discouraging job creation (Ahmed 2012a). To get a job in Tunisia, one was required to bribe officials or use a godfather to secure a job (Fahim 2011). This encouraged nepotism and corruption thus increasing the levels of unemployment in the region.
Economists at the World Bank have observed that given that the GDP was high, instances of unemployed among the youths would not be witnessed and the tension created in the labor markets would have been avoided. In addition, in spite of the availability of large oil deposits in the region, this has not encouraged the unemployed youth to seek alternative methods of employment. Other statistics show that unemployment among the educated youth is very high in the MENA region. For example, more than 43 percent of youths with tertiary education in Saudi Arabia are unemployed; more than 11 percent in Algeria, 14 percent is Tunisia, 22 percent in the UAE and Morocco, and 24 percent in the Palestinian authority (O’Sullivan, Rey & Mendez 2012, p.4). On average, unemployment is about 25% in the MENA region, and this is a very high rate compared with the 17.3% rate of unemployment in the OCECD countries. Generally, unemployment is over 50 in Palestinian Authority, 30 percent in Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, 25 percent in Egypt and Jordan (O’Sullivan et al. 2012, p. 4). All these unemployment percentages represent the youths of between 15 and 24 years of age.
Sharabi (1988) notes that despite fact that most states in the 21st century have achieved high level of political rights and democracy, the MENA region is far behind this. Consequently, the region suffers from poor human rights, bad political systems which are characterized by lack of freedom of speech, lack of free elections, religious fundamentalism, state of emergency laws, and high levels of corruptions (Ahmed 2012). Abuse of the above mentioned social aspects derails social structures and pillars of any forward moving society. Because of poor governance and accountability as well as structures to cross check on the same, political democracy and human rights were high abused prior the unrests. For instance, according to Jamoul (2012), the emergence law of 1958 was issued in 1967 in Egypt which was used to clamp and arrest innocent citizens without any good cause. The country was engulfed in six wars that limited the freedom of speech and politics but gave the police the power to suspend some of the constitutional rights as part of ensuring security. In addition, the actions of Kefaya in 2004 were derailed as the police brutalized women who participated in peaceful demonstration which was against fundamental human rights of free demonstrations and expression (Farris 2011). The amendment of the constitution in Egypt allowed the detention and the prosecution of civilians in military courts. To impede political freedom and democracy radical media channels were shutdown while others were censored (Jamoul 2012).
Democracy, freedom and equality have been considered as foreign concepts to the governments in the MENA region. The observation has been supported by Ahmed (2012) opinion that Arab citizens never enjoyed any form of justice and liberty under the sitting regimes and the Arab spring was a form of liberalization. In addition, since independence most of the states in the MENA region have encouraged single party which encourages dictatorship thus discouraging democratic voting and leadership. As a result, these acts vehemently violated human rights and democracy. Women rights were abused in the MENA region as most women did not exercise their democratic rights in voting or vying for political offices (Picket 2012). Through the use of Islam it was impossible for democrats and secularists to exercise their freedom without jeopardizing their lives (Mneimneh 2011). Special prisons were designed with the aim of arresting and detaining any persons who did not dissent to the ruling elites (Ahmed 2012; Jamoul 2012). Islam made it hard for non-Muslims to have their voice and needs addressed by the autocratic regimes. Ahmed (2012) opines that cruel prison systems had been designed and activists and protestors who did not get assassinated or imprisoned were required to seek political asylum in other countries.
With the high levels of unemployment, increase in food prices and high levels of corruption, people in the MENA region were faced with chronic poverty. Despite the presence of natural resources in the MENA region, most of the people live especially live below poverty line (Malik &Awadallah 2011, p. 6). Lack of unemployment translates to poor living standards which lead to life of destitute and poverty. In a survey conducted by Breisinger, Ecker and Al-Riffai (2011, p.1), it showed that the level of dissatisfaction among youths with their living standards was very high because of high levels of poverty.
In the same study which was carried from different MENA region countries such as is from Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, and Tunisia, among others also showed that an estimate of 35 percent of MENA population were dissatisfied with their current living standards. This state has been contributed by low GDP and economic growth rates which led to high levels of unemployment resulting to inflation which had increased food prices. The MENA region is known for its deficiency in food products (Malik &Awadallah 2011, p. 6). Based on the research, high inflation rate and increase in redistribution cost had culminated to food insecurity in the region (Breisinger et al. 2011, p.1). Food insecurity and high food prices had resulted to the poor living standards and as a result, the Arab spring was born which swept across the region like wildfire.
In the 21st century, most states have fought disease, child malnutrition and issues related to education and sanitation. However, despite efforts to fight these social problems in the MENA region, child malnutrition and poverty are still prevalent in the region (Worden 2012). In addition, other social related issues like lack of adequate educational facilities, child malnutrition, poor social and physical statuses of mothers, low levels of access to quality healthcare, water and sanitation, and education are some of issues that are believed to have instigated the need to oust the ruling autocratic leaders (Breisinger et al. 2011, p.1). Repression means that most of the government facilities were controlled by the elite political groups which forced the masses to rise against the ruling class in demand for better services and leadership. Poor education in the MENA region triggered the Arab spring (Ahmed 2012). This is because supposing that education levels were high and affordable, most people would have been employed while others would have created job opportunities instead of waiting for assistance from the government. According to the World Bank report, education which was offered in the region was obsolete as it did not match the changes in the labor markets (Ahmed 2012). Educational systems in the region offered education which lacked the required skills and competences. As a result, most of the employees in the MENA region have been expatriates from other regions of the world.
Most of the protestors and activists were brutally attacked by the police. Some of the good examples which can be used to expound the statement above include the brutal murder of Khaled Said (Stepanova 2011) and attack of Bouazizi by municipal inspectors (Teague 2012; Fahim 2011). Different governments had also denied their citizens basic human rights such as freedom of expression and speech. For instance, in an effort to curb public and cyber activisms, the governments of Tunisia and Egypt cracked down and shut down social media networks (Taylor 2011). To ensure that other people did not exercise their democratic rights women were not allowed to vote or vie for political offices. In addition, most of the election results were controlled by the government which reduced the chances of opposition from participating actively in elections (Ahmed 2012). The opposition in the MENA region was considered as a threat to national security and their parties were not legitimized. A good example can be elaborated through religious movements in Tunisia and Egypt the Ehnanda and the Muslim Brotherhood which were not legitimized before the resistance took place. Hereditary system was widely spread in the region which hindered vying of the presidential seat encouraging monopoly in power systems (Ahmed 2012).
Torture is prohibited under article 5 of the UN charter and human rights. The article states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment” (Cullen 2008, p.29). The implication made is that no human being should be tortured or punished through inhuman acts. However, according to Allagui and Kuebler (2011, p. 1438) torture was applied on citizens and activists who violated the rule of law in the MENA religion. The statement has been supported by Dalacoura (2011, p. 66) who observe that torture was the major tool which was used to retrieve information from innocent citizens. Those who survived the torture were physically and emotionally incapacitated. The rule of law was abused and the political class used their power to suppress the poor as a way of meeting their needs (Dalacoura 2012).
Discussions and Analysis
This section of the dissertation shall explore the success and failure factors of the Arab Spring.
Political Ideologies and Religious Movements
Based on the available evidence religious movements in Tunisia and Egypt which are the Ennahda/Al-Nahdha and the Muslim brotherhood respectively played an important role in the Arab spring and can therefore be considered as success factors. For instance, the two groups which have been in existence for the last decade, have had pestered the governments to be legitimized and be recognized as legit groups and not enemies of the government. Although the groups were Islamists, they embraced the possibility of sharing political ideologies of non-Muslims. This has been supported Mneimneh (2011) who observes that the groups’ embraced accomodationist” approach which would share some of the ideologies of democrats and secularists. In addition, because of the driving force they were able to join the revolution although at a later date. Furthermore, they embraced some of the ideologies which were used during the revolution such as dignity, empowerment and freedom which are eschewed in Islam. In addition, the religious movements did not raise religious demands during the uprisings, but rather demanded access to economic and political arenas, as well as change in the current political ideologies (Schimmel 2011).
The Muslim Brotherhood participated fully in the uprisings and won the Egyptian elections despite the fact that it kept a low profile in the initial stages of the revolution. The observation can be supported by Schimmel (2011) who adds that although the Muslim Brotherhood kept a low profile in initial stages, it expressed religious collective action which was less expected. In addition, transmissions were carried right from the Tahrir square to reach other Muslim members to participate in the uprising. Muslims and the Christian Copts showed corporation during the uprising although some incidences of confrontation were witnessed. This implies that different religious movements had buried their hatchets for the good of the country which was a sign of solidarity in fighting the autocratic regime.
Based on a research which was carried out by Moaddel (2012), 84% of the Egyptians believed that the Arab spring was a result of the need for democracy, freedom, and economic prosperity. Only 9 percent of the Egyptians and Lebanese believed that the movement was ideological in nature. The study findings can be refuted by Mneimneh (2011) who observes that Islam has been a major political practice in the Arab region since the nations gained independence. In addition, before the uprisings took place, Islam was the major political ideology which was practiced through Islamism. For example, as noted by Ahmed (2012) and Schimmel (2011) Islam has taken over the Arab world and a political ideology, everybody was supposed to bow down to its teachings and expectations. Furthermore, according to Egyptian constitution, Islam is believed to be the source of legislation and the religion. This as a political ideology discriminates the other group minorities such as Christians and other non-Muslim nationals. Based on some of the raised problems, Islam should only act as a form of governance and should not be imposed on all citizens.
Islam and the ruling class were not willing to embrace the ideologies of democrats and secularists who were calling for freedom, empowerment and democracy. However, the Muslim Brotherhood embraced non-Muslims ideologies which were an odd thing (Mneimneh 2011). This is an indication that the religious movement was tired of the Islam ideologies and was ready for change hence its involvement in the resistance. In addition, it can imply that the religious movements were ready for a change and get rid of repression which had engulfed the Arab region. The successful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt act as an indication that political ideologies were part of the successful overhaul of autocratic leaders. Mikail (2012, p.1) observes that the political agenda drove the need for change in the way politics were conducted in the MENA region. The call for Western political ideologies such as democracy, equality, nationalism, secular politics, social individualism and multiparty elections is an indication that political ideologies played an important role in fuelling up revolution discourse.
Religious movements did not play their roles adequately during the Arab spring and in this regard, this was a failure factor. This is because they lacked religious and political freedoms which are essential in expressing political grievances. This has been supported by Thistlethwaite (2011) who observes that for a long time, religious groups in the Arab region have been denied religious freedom. According to Schimmel (2011), religious movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Al-Nahdha did not participate in the unrests that chanted ideological slogans. This is a clear indication that to some extent they were threatened by the sitting autocratic regimes and as a result they had to maintain a low profile. However, their low profile and less participation can be justifiable to some level. For instance, their full participation in the uprisings would have been used as a pretext to inflicting more repression as it has been the case for the past years (Schimmel 2011). In the case of the Al-Nahdha the group has been oppressed during the reign of Ben Ali which had made it very weak hence its failure in the uprisings.
Religious groups ensured that the protests and demonstrations were non-political by ensuring that each person remained as a brother’s keeper. In addition, they collaborated with the citizens to get rid of sectarianism and oppressive regime. Therefore, based on the discussion it can be concluded that despite the less participation of the religious movements during the uprisings, it does not make religious movement a failure factor. In addition, political ideologies played an important role in fuelling the need for change which was has been withheld for a long time. As a result, it was possible to change political ideologies in Tunisia and Egypt.
Economic underpinnings and factors
There is no doubt that the revolution that took place in the Arab region was necessitated by poor economic conditions and economic underpinnings which made life unbearable. The economic underpinnings resulted in low economic growth, increase in population, high unemployment rate, increase in food prices, high levels of corruption and nepotism, as well as inflation. The belief that the uprisings were fuelled by the economic underpinnings has been supported by Malik and Awadallah (2011) who add that because of the poor economic situations in the MENA region, Arab spring was necessary. In addition, according to Dalacoura (2012), the levels of corruption and nepotism were rampant; unemployment rate was very high, and the prices of foods had increased making life in the MENA region unbearable. As a result, people took to the streets to air their grievances which culminated to political arrests in different states and ousting of presidents in Tunisia and Libya.
Before the uprisings, the economic growth of Tunisia according to World Bank economists was at 5 percent. This implies that the level of unemployment was very low (Ahmed 2012a). With a GDP growth rate as low as 5 percent, the level of unemployment is expected to go higher due to high rate of inflations that have increased poverty levels. In addition, it means that the purchasing power of the ordinary consumer was low as they could not afford food commodities. Available statistics shows that before the revolution took place, the level of unemployment was generally at 24 percent in the MENA region.
According to Jamoul (2012), this figure was high and was as a result of the governments in the region not responding with adequate policy mechanism which may have reduced the effects of the financial crisis. In Egypt, the rate of unemployment was very high especially among the youth and college graduates. This was despite the large volumes of oil and gas in most of the countries. In Tunisia, nepotism and bribery were the fruits of the regime which mean that getting employment one need to offer a bribe which increased the levels of corruption. Fahim (2011) pinpoints that in Sidi Bouzid the city where Bouazizi self immortalized, the unemployment rate was more than 30 percent compared to national unemployment rate of 14 percent. Most of the youths spend their day in café, majority of the youths were unemployed and those employed were underpaid. This fosters a picture of people living in poverty.
Social order in the MENA region was enhanced through redistribution and repression. However, owing to the global financial crisis, the cost of redistribution had increased, meaning that it was not possible to sustain the social welfare of the country.
As described by Malik and Awadallah (2011), the cost of redistribution increased followed by explosion of the youth demographics because of high unemployment rates. Consequently, it became impossible to sustain the exploding population in the region which fuelled the political unrests in the region. Following closely the start and progress of the unrests, it emerges that the youth formed a large part of the population in the protests. The preceding statement can be supported by Dalacoura (2012, p. 68) who notes that collective action was carried to channel the grievances of the youth to the ruling class. Other supporters like Malik and Awadallah (2011) as well as Jamoul (2012) affirm that these economic underpinnings played an integral role in ensuring that a political change was carried. In addition, economic fragmentation in the region resulted to the uprising which is supported by the Marxist social theory of revolution.
Nepotism and high levels of corruption ensured that national resources were channeled towards a single dimension. This implies that the trickledown effect of national resources was not realized. This was the case in Tunisia and Egypt where few enjoyed the fruits of hard labour at the expense of others. The finding has been supported by observation made by Jamoul (2012) that Tunisia and Egypt were affected by nepotism and high levels of corruption among government officials which are economic setbacks. Also, Fahim (2011) adds that according to the youths, bribery, nepotism, and corruption had flourished across various levels at government offices. This means that public funds were channeled towards the pockets of the few. Ahmed (2012) notes that government officials in Tunisia and Egypt had made government offices and resources their family business and that most of the leaders held offshore bank accounts. Without job creation and misusing public funds and resources hinders economic growth which affects the lives of the poor.
Unemployment leads to poor economic growth which affects people’s livelihoods. In addition, unemployment rate directly affects the rate inflation which results to food insecurity. Given that the MENA region is highly affected by food insecurity, increase in the inflation rate was a major setback since most people depended on government welfare systems. Increase in food prices and not able to sustain the increasing population reached maximal point where the uprising was the only way of airing out their grievances. Stepanova (2011p.21) describe the situation as expected since according to Malik and Awadallah (2011) the governments of Tunisia and Egypt had neglected the needs and demands of the youth. The labour markets supply in the region had also budged and bulged which means that the labour market could not sustain the high levels of unemployed persons in the region.
Poor governance reduced the chances for better leaders and accountability which would enhance mechanism and polices which would drive different economies forward. Pickett (2012) observes that intolerance of the economic malaise engrossed most of the Tunisian population which resulted to the political unrests. Since the economic situation in Tunisia was almost similar to that of Egypt, Egyptian Muslim youths supported by other religious groups used the social media to share their grievances. Because they shared similar grievances and issues, this prompted them to form a strong bond and solidarity to overthrow the government democratically. Therefore, economic factors were a success in influencing the Arab spring as they brought people together thus fuelling the uprisings
Security and the Arab Spring
Security can be considered as a success factor with regard to the Arab spring. Police officers abused their power and instead of preserving law and order as required, they engaged in brutal activities which jeopardized the lives of normal civilians. For instance, in Egypt, Khaled Said was brutally beaten to death by police officers and the police later reported the cause of death was as a result of drug overdose. Thereafter, gruesome images showing defragmented and disfigured face of Said were shown on both television and the social media. The images shocked not just his friends, but also other youths in the MENA region (Teague 2012). This prompted the youths in the region to act. Through social media networks, an anonymous Facebook page was created which had the name “We Are All Khaled Said”.
In addition, pictures of Said were circulated and shared through the social media by Wael Ghonim to other fellow activists who shared the same story of dissatisfaction by the police officers. Therefore, in this context police brutality and lack of security played a major role as it brought on board different players who discuss the issues and atrocities that they had experienced under the current regime. As expounded by Teague (2012), the page Facebook became a forum where issues affecting Egyptians such as violent corruption and police brutality were shared. It also emerged as a host point from where people would rally their views and comments as well as post some of the damning evidence implicating the government and issues which had been neglected. Sharing issues formed solidarity and unity among the Egyptians thus encouraging people to hold demonstrations in protest to the government (Teague 2012; Stork 2011; Stepanova 2011).
In the case of Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi, a fruit and vegetable vendor, was assaulted several times by the municipal inspectors. This kind of intimidation was not taken lightly, and as he tried to seek audience from the governor he was beaten again (Fahim 2011). Because of the treatment he had received from the security agents, Bouazizi set himself in flames as a form of resistance. According to Parry et al. (20110 and Stepanova (2011), this was the beginning of the Arab spring which spread to Egypt and other countries in the MENA region. Security agents such as the army participated in the street demonstration as they assisted in ensuring that protestors participated in peaceful demonstrations. This has been supported by Dalacoura (2012, p. 68) who observes that the army in Tunisia and Egypt never fired a bullet on the demonstrators and instead they ensured the protestors did not engage in violence demonstrations. Therefore, the army played an important role since if it stood by the president Ben Ali or Hosni Mubarak it could not have been successful.
Repression was a major cause of the unrests as the autocratic regimes used their power and security authorities to make unnecessary arrests which violated basic human rights. As noted by Roth (2012), teenagers were tortured in Syria, people such as Mohamed Bouazizi brutalized and killed by the police, and Fathi Terbil a lawyer and human rights activists arrested unlawfully in Libya. All these acts were against human rights and resulted to repressions. Overuse of repression created frustrations and anger among the Arab people for over ten years (Morris 2012). In other words, the government had taken brutal step on its citizens which prompted the need for a change in leadership and the way people were ruled.
Human security had been jeopardized and compromised for a long time which reduced freedom of expression, free speech and association. In the long run, people found their collective power and voice which resulted to the political unrests and demonstrations. The people wanted a regime which would allow their freedom of expression and association and freedom from daily brutality by the police. As noted by el-Hamalawy (2011) sharing of the fear and the desire for change among the people, necessitated the need for the revolution which would address common shared agenda. As a result, people took to the streets in protests for the tyrannical regimes to address the security issues and other grievances.
Media and the Arab Spring
Media is credited with having ensured the success of the Arab Spring in the MENA region, especially in Tunisia and Egypt. All the other factors related to the uprising such as economic, political, security and social factors were all facilitated through new media and other media networks. Besides acting as a facilitator and mobilizing tool of the Arab spring, the media also offered a broad spectrum from where activism was made possible in a non-violent way. As a result, the revolution caught the dictatorial regimes by surprise prompting an overthrow of autocratic leadership and allowing democratic leadership.
One of the major roles played by the media was to offer a platform for sharing grievances and forging solidarity and unity among the oppressed. In the case of Tunisia, self immortalization of Bouazizi made sure that images and clips were circulated through social media networks. In the case of Egypt, the brutal death of Said in the hands of the police led to the formation of the Facebook page “We Are All Khaled Said” by Wael Ghonim. According to Teague (2011) the page which was created to display the gruesome pictures of Khaled and show the world the brutality of police, emerged as a platform from where citizens from not only in Egypt but across the MENA region would share their sociopolitical and economic underpinnings they had been experiencing in the last decade. As a result, solidarity and oneness were forged thus encouraging the uprisings to take place. The platform was also used to share some of the problems they were facing such as increase in food prices, the rate of unemployment, inflation and increase in corruption. As noted by Teague and Malik and Awadallah (2011) these issues and challenges had been neglected for a long time and gone unaddressed. This has been supported by Jamoul (2012) observations that most of the issues facing the people in MENA region had been assumed by the political and elite class.
As political unrests started and spread across, most television stations did not air live footages of the development. The only TV station that was bold enough to do so was the Qatar-based TV Aljazeera. The TV station aired the revolution as it unfolded in Tunisia. Aljazeera further followed the revolution as it spread to the neighboring Egypt and other nations in the MENA region. As a result, Aljazeera was able to mobilize people who shared the same problems thus leading to collective action (Manrique & Mikail 2011). This can be supported by Eltantawy and Wiest (2011) that media plays a pivotal role in encouraging potential collective action such through mobilizations and the organization and executing successful social or political movements.
Through the media, collective activism was possible which made it possible for the events that took place in Egypt and Tunisia. Even after Egyptian and Tunisian leaders pleaded with the Qatar based Aljazeera to stopped airing the happenings, it defied the odds and continued with the broadcasts. As a result, information and news were disseminated to people thus bringing likeminded people together. In addition, the TV station kept a closer contact with bloggers and social media networks with the aim of extracting information from the ground and making it available to others. Samin (2011, p. 37) opines that the TV station mobilized the protestors and well as public opinion on the uprising which propelled its success. In Tunisia where internet broadband connectivity is low compared to Egypt, Aljazeera played a major role compared to Egypt where internet penetration is high (Seib 2011, p. 41).
Using Facebook and Twitter, it was possible to mobilize necessary resources required in any social movement or political unrest. This is because social networks offered the protestors a platform that could be used in exchanging information such as where to meet or how to evade police roadblocks creating a network essential in collective action. The observation in the preceding statement has been supported by Stepanova (2011), Seib (2011) and Teague (2012) as well as by Allangui and Kuelbler (2011, p. 1438) observations that social media networks such as blogs, You Tube, Twitter and Facebook were all used to forge unity and necessitate solidarity. Furthermore, information related to security and mobilization of people, meeting places and mode of demonstration was communicated through social media.
One of the most memorable roles of media was transmission of live protests from the Tahrir square and the collaboration among Copts and Muslims. As noted by Schemiel (2011), live transmissions of the demonstrations were broadcasted live from Tahrir square. Bloggers such as Nawara Negm used blogs to video messages to encourage Tunisians to continue with the revolution. In addition, the blog was used to call up Egyptians to offer moral support on their revolution. As a result, close conduct between the two states through the social media network created ties which would lead to the biggest modern revolution in the history of humankind (Samaan 2012).
Cyber-activism was also carried thereby facilitating the Arab spring (O’Connor 2012). For example, based on available literature and reports, SMNs were used to share uncensored on political and socio-economic issues facing the region. These issues had been shunned away and neither the local media nor the government would share the issues with the people and promote democratic leadership, freedom and democracy. Furthermore, as noted by Allangui and Kuelbler (2011, p. 1438) even after shutting down the internet in Tunisia, cyber-activism was still carried out in Egypt. Protestors and demonstrators mobilized resources using social media network (O’Connor 2012).
Although different governments tried to shut down their internet broadband as a way of controlling the revolution, information had already been disseminated to most people. Furthermore, Aljazeera kept airing the uprising which encourages communication through word of mouth. Therefore, it can be imperative to acknowledge that media was a success factor as it facilitated in the coordination and mobilization of resources that were necessary for collective action. In addition, it made it possible for the communication and dissemination of information and news related to the revolution. Lastly, it offered a platform for sharing social, economic, and political and human rights grievances thus leading to a successful revolution.
Social factors and the Arab spring
Based on the literature review, social factors include basic human rights, democracy, freedom, housing, level of unemployment, and issues related to freedom of speech and expression. All these factors had been neglected and formed socio-political and economic problems which have been common in most states in the MENA region. In order, to liberate from the shackles of social, economic and political underpinning, protestors used social media to organize and carry out collective actions. Because of the poor living standards, poverty and high levels of nepotism in the MENA region, the people had to mobilize themselves and advocate for a new dawn.
The MENA region has been categorized as one of the regions with high levels of unemployed youths. The youths also constitute a large part of the population in the region. This observation has been supported by Jamoul (2012) and Stork (2011) who note that countries like Tunisia and Egypt had the highest levels of unemployment in the region. For instance, the unemployment rate in Tunisia was at 14 percent and 24 percent in Egypt before the crisis broke. This implies that most of the youths were unemployed thus increasing the dependency level in the region. Most of the university graduates were unemployed, others under employed and the rest were poor. Subsequently, the living standards of this group was very poor and unbearable thus the need for change. Through social media network, elite youths communicated and orchestrated the uprising through cyber-activism. Based on the available findings, Muslim youths whom were highly affected by these social injustices and high levels of unemployment, the youths spend sleepless nights and risked their lives while in the process of venting their displeasures on the incompetence of the government in the way it handled critical matters casually.
Tension in the MENA region especially in Tunisia could not have occurred in the first place if the ousted regime had addressed the issue of unemployment. According to World Bank economists, if Tunisia had increased its GDP growth level from 5 percent by 7 percent, jobs would have been created which would have reduced the high level of unemployment and jobless youths (Ahmed 2011). Furthermore, the poor level of education and educational policies in the region hindered the absorption of youths into the job market. This is because, the educational systems in the region does not meet the current labor markets skills and competence levels. The unemployed youths and other unemployed or underemployed citizens ganged together in collective action so as to air their grievances which had lasted in the region for the longest time possible.
As noted by Sharabi (1998) and Jamoul (2012), the levels of democracy, human rights, political and religious freedoms are very low in the MENA region. The ousted regimes in Tunisia and Egypt had abused social aspects which had led to poor human rights, bad political systems which are characterized by lack of freedom of speech, lack of free elections, religious fundamentalism, state of emergency laws, and high levels of corruptions. The abuse of these social and political aspects had derailed social structures and pillars as well as slowing down the wheels of justice. This discouraged economic and political development which prompted nationals to rally against the dictatorial regimes. As described by Taylor (2011) and Picket (2012) most of the human rights of people in these regions were not exercised, and as a result, people used social media platforms such as Blogs, Facebook and Twitter to discuss these problems and how they would carry collective action as part of calling for new form of leadership. Mneimneh (2011) add that Islamism had discouraged democracy and equality since secularist and democrats’ ideologies were not accommodated by the ousted regimes.
Egypt had high levels of corruption, low economic growth, poor political ideologies, and high levels of unemployment thus encouraging poor living standards which resulted to poverty among the many. In addition, the high in food prices and cost of redistribution among the youths had created a generation of poor mature youths which hinders economic growth. All these factors necessitated live of destitute and poverty. These observations have been supported by Breisinger, Ecker and Al-Riffai (2011, p.1) in their research study. Dissatisfaction on living standards, increase in food prices, high inflation rate and high levels of unemployment are social factors which can lead to social unrests as they touch the core of any progressive society. Furthermore, Marxists social theory of social unrests cites that, the masses are bound to engage in a collective action if the problems which touch their livelihood are note addressed (Burke 1998).
In a century where diseases, child malnutrition, education and sanitation issues have been addressed in most countries, the MENA region is still far behind from addressing these issues. Worden (2012) has noted that the aforementioned issues are still prevalent in the MENA region owing to poor governance, nepotism, accountability and poor leadership. Repression which is used in maintaining social order did not address these issues which encourage economic and political stability of any education. Furthermore, as cited by World Bank economists if the governments in the MENA region had addressed the issues which touch people such by increasing GDP growth and level of education, the Arab spring could not have emerged in the first place (Ahmed 2012). Breisinger et al. (2011, p.1) opines that lack of mechanisms which would address social, political and economic issues in the region is believed to have instigated the need to overthrow authoritarian leadership in the region. Therefore, it can be concluded that social factors such as human rights, poverty, housing, unemployment and humanitarian issues-freedom of speech among many others acted as success factors in the Arab spring.
Drawing from the discussion and analysis of the different factors as regards the success and failure factors of the Arab Spring, most of the factors were a success while others were partially failures. Political ideologies were success factors as people fought against the existing Islam political ideologies with the aim of achieving democratic political ideologies. On the role played by religious movements, the major religious movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and the Ennahda/Al-Nahdha of Tunisia played an integral role in the MENA spring as it brought unity and solidarity among the protestors and demonstrators which makes religious movements a success factors. However, there were partially failure factors as they did not play their required role fully as they lacked religious and political rights.
Security factors can be considered as success factors since police brutality on innocent citizens fuelled the need for the political unrests. In Tunisia and Egypt, the army supported these unrests and did not attempt to stop the uprising thus necessitating the political unrests. The social media and media in general merged as a success factors as their provided a platform from where citizens could share their social, political and economic grievances. In addition, it encouraged the mobilization of resources necessary for any political or social revolution. Economic factors such as high levels of unemployment, nepotism, increase in food prices, food insecurity, corruption, and increase in cost of distribution encouraged the Arab spring and can therefore be considered as success factors. Different people shared these issues through social media creating solidarity and oneness. Lastly, social factors such as poverty, human rights, unemployment, housing, democracy and humanitarian issues-freedom forced the people to engage in the political unrests. Therefore, these factors can be concluded that acted as success factors in encouraging the Arab spring.
This research study was carried out with a view to examining the success and failure factors of the Arab spring. In the introduction section, the definition of the term “Arab spring” was provided, and the history of uprisings in the MENA region examined. In addition, the events that sparked off the Arab spring were introduced, along with the aim of the study and the research questions that it hoped to answer. Some of the factors that have been considered include the roles of political ideologies and religious movements, security factors, economic underpinnings and economic factors, social media and media factors, and social factors.
In the literature review section, the role of political ideologies in the Arab spring was examined, along with the role played by religious movements in the uprising. The economic causes of the Arab spring were also considered under this section. Issues that were tackled under this section include high levels of unemployment among the youth and increases in inflation. Moreover, the dissertation has also endeavored to explore the role of security in the Arab spring in causing the revolution. In this case, the oppressed masses endeavored to overthrow the existing tyrannical regimes through the revolution. The masses had been subjected to high levels of atrocity and gross abuse of their human rights by the tyrannical regimes which they sought to replace. In this regard, both the traditional and social media acted as an ideal tool for enabling the masses to mobilize support and resources as they tried to achieve their goals. Examples of social media that found use in the uprising include Facebook, You Tube, and Twitter. The next section dealt with the analysis and discussion of the failure and success factors of the Arab spring.
Based on the discussion and the analysis of the study, the above mentioned factors played different roles towards the success of the Arab spring. From the research study, it has emerged that the MENA region was ruled through Islamic political ideologies which discouraged freedom, empowerment and dignity. In addition, Islam and autocratic leaders shunned away from embracing democratic’ and secularist ideologies which called for freedom and democracy. Religious movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and the Ennahda/Al-Nahdha of Tunisia collaborated with secularist and democratic ideologies which called for change in leadership and embracing of empowerment, freedom, democracy, and integrity. Therefore in a quest to achieve these changes religious movements and political ideologies merged, resulting in the Arab spring. However, it can be pointed out that some researchers believe that the uprising was non-ideological and that religious movements partially played their role in the Arab spring making political ideologies and religious movements’ failure factors.
Security as a factor was a success with reference to the Arab spring. As noted in the research study, police brutality in both Tunisia and Egypt due to lack of adequate security to the people was one of the reasons why the Arab spring started in the first place. For example, when Khaled Said was brutality attacked by the police a Facebook page by the name “We Are Khaled Said” which shared the gruesome images of Said. Later, activism was carried through the page which people to share grievances they had undergone through thus necessitating solidarity and oneness. In addition, Egyptian and Tunisian Army did not take part in resisting the revolution which paved way for the uprisings to be successful. Rather than supporting the autocratic regimes, the army stood by the people, encouraged non-violent demonstrations and did not even fire at the protestors. This was a form of solidarity and as a result security can be classified as a success factor.
Social media and media in general acted as a platform from where the uprising could be orchestrated. In addition, it helped in mobilizing people and other resources such as time and transportation which are important in any social or political movement. Through traditional media such as the use of TV, Qatar based TV station Aljazeera has been credited for mobilizing protestors especially in Tunisia were internet broadband penetration is extremely low. By reporting the unfolding of the revolution, it was able to facilitate and propel it to success. Social media networks such as the Blogs, twitter, Facebook and You Tube, cyber activism was made possible which led to ousting of autocratic regimes from power. It is through social media tools and networks that socio-economic and political issues were shared in a broad spectrum which made it possible for the initiation and continuation of the revolution. In addition, it is through SMN that the protests spread from Tunisia to Egypt. It also aided Aljazeera in airing and disseminating news and information related to the uprising. It is through social media that people shared economic underpinnings they were experiencing such as high levels of unemployment, corruption, and low economic growth rate among others.
The social factors ensured that the Arab spring was a success. Drawing from the analysis, some of these social factors are such as high levels of unemployment, poverty, poor education systems, poverty, increase in food prices, low standards of living and other humanitarian issues forced the people to engage in the political unrests. As a result, they can be labeled as success factors. For instance, high level of education led to unemployment which increased the standards of living. When the level of unemployment rises, inflation rate is deemed to go upward, and in return resulting to increase in food prices and food insecurity. Despite the presence of high volumes of natural resources in the MENA region, most of the university graduates remain unemployed. Other issues such as diseases, child malnutrition, education and sanitation issues remain unaddressed in the region. All these factors were shared through social media networks and as a result, citizens vented to get rid of them and enhance change by revolution which ousted autocratic regimes.
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