This past year the Middle East was defined by the Arab uprisings that began in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Syria. Tunisians were the first to successfully remove their leader, President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, in January. While the successful removal of Ben Ali was a sign of hope and change, Tunisia is undergoing a difficult transition with instability, continued protests, and in some case violence. One example of this continued instability is a series of protests around the recent broadcast of the film Persepolis. Continue reading
In the last few months, the Middle East has undergone tremendous change with revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt leading to the resignation of Presidents Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak. During these revolutions that inspired others across the region in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and Syria, different segments of society united with the goal of removing the leaders. In Egypt, especially, Muslims and Christians stood together, even protecting each other while they prayed.
When the Egyptian revolution was beginning, many saw hope for democracy and change in a country that had suffered under the same president for 30 years. However, people like Fox News commentator Glenn Bleck saw something more sinister in the Tunisian revolution, Egyptian revolution, and the following protests in the Middle East. Beck did not see these uprisings as the people speaking and finally having their voice heard. Rather, he argued that these uprisings were indicative of a move towards establishing a new caliphate not only in the region but over the whole world.
The revolts in Libya, the most recent in a series of uprisings that has swept the Middle East, began days after former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak resigned on February 11th. Inspired by the successful movements in Tunisia and Egypt, Libyans have taken to the streets to call for Muammar al-Qaddafi, the leader since 1969, to step down. Protesters have been met with violent retaliation from government forces, with estimates of the death toll around 2000.
The protests in Tunisia and Egypt that led to the removal of the leaders of both countries have now spread to Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and Iran. According to some commentators, these protests reflect a relatively new push for democracy by the Arab peoples. In other words, the democracy that Western nations have enjoyed is now appearing in the Middle East. The implicit explanation for this “delay,” for some, is that most Arabs are Muslim and Islam is not compatible with democracy.