A Decade After the Arab Spring: Special Coverage

Can a single, ordinary person forever change history? Certainly, Mohamed Bouazizi has come close.

On 17 December 2010, Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor born into economic hardship, set himself on fire in front of the office of Sidi Bouzid’s provincial governor. This was in protest at the unfair confiscation of his cart; technically in enforcement of the law but practically an act of unjust crackdown given how little opportunity for freedom and prosperity the corruption-riddled regime in Tunisia at the time had created for him and countless youths in the country.

He would die little more than two weeks later, on 4 January 2011.

Although Tunisia has played a peripheral role in the Arab world comprised of 22 states, compared to heavyweights such as Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, the small North African Arab nation shared many of the ills that have plagued this region since the emergence of their post-colonial independent nation-states: Corruption, authoritarianism, foreign meddling, inequality, and an economic model that has failed to achieve sustainable, broad-based development for their people.

With every Arab citizen almost a mirror of Bouazizi and the obstacles he faced in life, his self-immolation lit the fire of the Arab Spring wave of uprisings in 2011, with the torch picked up in Tunis, then Cairo, Tripoli, Sana’a, Damascus, and Manama. Tunisia’s regime crumbled, giving way to the only real success story of that wave of the Arab Spring. The regimes of Egypt, Libya, and Yemen were toppled, but they have not been replaced by better alternatives, while the Syrian and Bahraini governments survived at great cost.

The chain reaction set off a series of revolutions, counter-revolutions, civil wars, and foreign invasions implicating the West and the East, reverberating to this day. Tens of thousands of lives were destroyed, the region has been forever altered, and echoes of the Arab Spring have returned in a second wave in 2019, toppling more regimes in Sudan and Algeria, and shaking up the ruling oligarchs of Lebanon and Iraq, with mixed-success (or failure) achieved in democratic transition.

The New Arab’s coverage has been witness to many of these stories. On the 10th anniversary of the start of the Arab Spring, we have launched a special 6-week series of retrospective articles, and others that will chart out the possible answers to one burning question: Is the Arab Spring over?

Read on below, and continue to watch this space.

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