The Arab Spring Movement and Their Motivations

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In the 21st century, a movement may not be televised – but it likely to be tweeted, blogged, texted and posted in Facebook, recent years. The beginning of the “Arab Spring” started in Tunisia, on December 14, 2010 a street vendor Mohammad Bouazizi was the breadwinner for his widowed mother and six siblings, one day a Tunisian police officer objected him for not having proper license for his vegetables crate to sell in the street and police officer humiliated him in front of everyone. For that as an act of protest he set himself on fire. In front of local governor’s office. Which triggered the revolution to Protest began that day in sidi bouzid, captured by cellphone cameras and shared in social media and internet. That momentum in Tunisia set off whole country uprising across middle east and became known as Arab spring.

Thousands of Tunisians took to the streets to protest the government, then led by Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali. Despite attempts by Ben Ali to maintain power, he eventually resigned his office on January 14, 2011, because of continuous citizen pressure. While Bouazizi’s act is often framed as the “spark” of the revolution, frustration was also present within Tunisian society for many years prior to the events of 2010–2011. Ben Ali, who came to full power through a nonviolent coup in 1987, initially began a set of reforms aimed to at least suggest a break from the policies of his predecessor, Habib Bourguiba. However, this effort was short-lived, as he quickly moved to concentrate his own power. Human rights organizations reported that Ben Ali took strong measures to ensure that Tunisians’ rights were repressed. Just some of the rights abuses that occurred under the Ben Ali government included the close monitoring of associations, the banning of political associations altogether, stringent registration requirements for groups, surveillance of Tunisian citizens, punishment for political involvement, strong control of media. Furthermore, citizens were also furious at the high levels of corruption in the Ben Ali regime, which had significant influence in the private sector. After resignation of Ben Ali in October 2011, Tunisia held its first democratic parliamentary elections. The moderate Islamist Ennahda party won more than 41% of the vote in the constituent assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution. Veteran dissident monchef marzouki was then elected president.

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Shortly following the uprising in Tunisia, Arab spring movement spread all over the middle east in Morocco, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Algeria, Libya, Omen, Yemen, and many other. In Egypt public took to the streets to speak out against Hosni Mubarak, who came to power in 1981 following the assassination of Anwar Sadat. Mubarak, a member of the Egyptian military, initially offered evidence that his policies would differ from those of Sadat by verbally calling for increased rights, along with elections. Mubarak did in fact initially provide some freedoms in the form of increased opposition in government and permitting the allowance of free political speech, all the while refraining from curbing protests with violence. However, Mubarak quickly moved to tighten his control on challengers and critics. Specifically, “he refused to reform the constitution, extended the state of emergency, promulgated laws to exclude opposition parties from local council and tightened the grip of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) over parliament. He increased his power by selecting political positions, he was able to dissolve government, and had veto power. Furthermore, the government went after political challengers such as the Muslim Brotherhood as well as other outspoken critics of the government. And February 20, 2013, Moroccans took to the street to protest the policies of the country’s king, Mohammed VI, who had held power since 1999. However, unlike the cases of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, Mohammed VI, through select constitutional and electoral reforms, survived calls for his ouster. After protesters demanded political changes, a constitutional referendum was supported by 98.49 percent of the Moroccans who voted. The referendum calls for the prime minister position to be filled by the winning electoral party in parliamentary elections, allows the position to have the authority to “dissolve the House of Representatives,” and calls for the king to “consult” with the prime minister before the king dissolves the government. Furthermore, “A reference to the king as “sacred” in the constitution will be removed, though he will remain “inviolable”. The constitutional reform also has within it legislation for an independent judiciary, including Berber as a recognized language. it also calls for gender equality between women and men.

The uprisings of North Africa and the Middle East have showed the power of the individual in challenging authoritarian regimes. In these uprisings, religion was not the primary motivating factor in the challenges to the state. Instead, issues of corruption, unemployment, socioeconomic, and civil, and political rights were the main frustrations voiced by citizens. But while this was the case, Islamist parties also took interest in the actions. However, they did so strategically. In cases where such groups feared government reprisal, they were much more careful in acting publicly, concerned about a heavy-handed response. Moreover, those who projected electoral success were not willing to risk this by taking the lead in a public outcry. However, those who have either shunned the political system or rejected the authoritarian leadership’s power from the beginning—as is the case with the Justice and Charity organization—the protests gave them a great opportunity to further publicize their antigovernment activity as well as a more direct platform to advocate their positions.

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