Causal Analysis of the Arab Spring

9 September 2016

Tunisian female municipal officer and her asides who confiscated the fruit and vegetables he was selling from a street stall and slapped his face in the process, set himself on fire and passed away a few days later. As an aftermath of this incident, a huge wave of protests over unemployment and social issues sparked out in Tunisia, forcing then-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down from his position after 23 years in power.

Following this event, activists and ordinary people started to head out onto streets in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and other Arab sub-regions and societies, demanding democracy, social justices, dignity, and freedom. Ultimately, an unprecedented revolutionary wave of nonviolent and violent demonstrations, protests, riots, and civil wars known as Arab Spring, or many may call it Arab Awakening, has spread across the entire Arab World, overthrowing handfuls of tyrants and authoritarian regimes that, for decades, had been taking control over the area. Behind the actual uprisings were many and long gathering root causes.

Causal Analysis of the Arab Spring Essay Example

For decades, Arab people had faced repression of free speech, human rights abuses, economic mismanagement, corruption, and stifling of political dissent. Social justice and human dignity were also not respected in most countries. Furthermore, this area of 300 million people was producing an unprecedented youth population, with around two-thirds of the total population below 29 years of age. At the same time, this young generation was annoyed by 25 percent unemployment, frustrated by diminished dreams, motivated greater personal freedoms, and equipped with technological tools of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

In addition to that, international influences from Europe and the United States, actors who have long been desiring for the abundant energy supplies, trade and investment regional security in the region, also induced the event in the name of “promoting democracy. ” Looking back to the causes of the Arab Spring, although Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation set fire to the revolution, the actual driving forces behind the revolt were primarily the development of social media and the internal social issues that have been smolderingly existing in the region for decades.

First of all, it is important to mention that even before the happening of Bouazizi’s self-emulation, the Arab World has long been striving for political changes because of the mass unemployment and low living standards of educated class. Unlike most regions, unemployment rates in the SWANNA region are highest amongst the more educated youth. According to Imed Drine in his article “Youth Unemployment in the Arab World: What Do We know? What is the Way Forward? , published by the World Institude for Development Economics Research, youth unemployment rate in the region was about 25 percent, among the highest in the world. The situation is even worse for young women with an unemployment rate of about 40 percent. Compared to other global regions, the region has shown the highest rate of labour force increase over the last three decades; the unemployment rate for young age groups is 40 percent in some countries.

In many Arab countries such as Tunisia and Egypt, it was very usual that university graduates were forced to drive taxis or sell grocery in open stalls to survive, and families with children struggled to provide food and education for their kids. On top of that, there were also drastic gaps between the income of the majority of the population and that of the top elite in most Arabic countries. “Egypt has had a massive income gap throughout Mubarak’s control, which is clearly the root cause of the original uprising. One half of Egyptians live on $2/day or less.

The average per-capita income in the country is just $6,200 and 24% of young people in the Arab region cannot find jobs” (source). In addition, in some Arab sub-regions, large budget deficits were pervasive mainly due to the unnecessary price subsidies on consumer products such as fuel that did not really help the poor but rather favored the affluent population. Other economic issues including poverty, rising food prices, and inflation have also been serious internal issues that eventually led to Arab revolution. According to two Russians researchers, A. Korotayev and J.

Zinkina, in their analysis on Egyptian revolution, Egypt was also one of the most fast growing countries in the world in terms of food prices. This fact had undoubtedly played a role in undermining the Egyptian sociopolitical system. While half of the population survived only on $2 per a day or even less and had to face a huge price inflation, the upper class was flooded with abundant resources. Such gaps in income and social classes are obviously undesirable, if not dangerous, for the stability of a society as they create tensions and tear down the sense of unity in the population.

They certainly set the stage for the uprising to occur, causing a small incident of Bouazizi to become a devastating social event like Arab Spring. Another internal problem that has made a great contribution to people’s discontent and rebellion was the corruption of Arab leaders and their aging dictatorship. The corruption was extremely widespread in Arab world, and economic hardships were unequally distributed. The political system only worked with and responded to the elites and large businesses in an attempt to accumulate enormous sums of money.

Only a small minority of the country actually benefited from this corrupted regime, the rest suffered and was neglected. Nothing could have been done or approved without bribery to the Arab leaders and their relatives. In most cases, whether an investment deal would be closed or not depended on the bribing and one’s connections. Besides the corruption issue, the political system was destabilized due to incompetent and outmoded leaders. “By the end of the 20th century, most Arab dictatorships were utterly bankrupt both ideologically and morally.

When the Arab Spring happened in 2011, Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak had been in power since 1980, Tunisia’s Ben Ali since 1987, while Muammar al-Qaddafi ruled over Libya for 42 years” (source). During the time of rising literacy and shrinking birthrate, instead of replacing the problematic leadership positions with younger, more educated, and innovative leaders, old and stagnant government was preserved, which eventually lead to the overall social and economic decline of the region. There is always the fear of being oppressed by the security services and the lack of political opportunities among the citizens.

Although people remained passive and submitted to the repression of their rulers until the Arab revolution in 2011, needless to say, most of them highly doubted the legitimacy of the aging political systems and their leaders. Their discontent and feelings of injustice with the government was the platform of the revolt and later became the potential source of further social disruption and conflict. In addition to being a counter act to the aging dictatorship, Arab Spring was simultaneously a response to human rights violation. The political freedom of expression of people was limited and there was a shift in power o the police endorsed by the law. This law “ . . . allow[ed] the state to detain individuals and censor and close newspapers more easily and allow[ed] authorities to try civilians in front of military and security courts under certain circumstances” (Sehata:2004). A regular citizen was oppressed, did not have a freedom of speech and was treated poorly by the security services. Even an educated person, as is evident in the case of the graduate student Mohamed Bouazizi, had to endure the same ill-treatment and injustice. Furthermore, the uprising was also a reaction to sexual abuse and domestic violence of women and children.

It attempted to bring equality, political, and social rights for disadvantaged groups, especially for women who were often considered the second-class citizens. Women were a driving force in the protests. “At the time of the revolution, we really observed that women of all social classes, including the lower class, were mobilized. Women stood in defiance of political regimes, and challenged their traditional exclusion from the public sphere” (Bertrand, The Voice of Russia). Women played a crucial role in this revolution since they were active participants who fought for their dignity, economic, political, social, and their children’s rights.

Besides all the internal issues discussed above, it is important to mention that there were also other factors that have contributed to the spread of this phenomena such as the use social networks. A big part of this uprising is intrinsically associated with recent social media and changes in the global social climate. It is very important to take into consideration the fact that social events are more than just susceptible to the conditions of their external environments. The Arab Spring, thus, is not an exception. We are living in an information-age where people interact and exchange ideas at a much higher rate and wider range than ever.

With the inventions of telecommunicational devices, the Internet, global social networks, etc. , it has become just a matter of a blink of an eye for a message to get to its targets. These technological advancements have also changed the way people commune and spend their time. People are becoming more and more inclined to communicate virtually rather than face-to-face. The number of internet users in both Tunisia and Egypt nearly doubled between 2008 and 2009. According the the CIA World Factbook, Egypt ranks 21st in the world in terms of the number of internet users; Tunisia, by contrast, ranks 60th.

Though internet access may not be as strong as, say, in the United States, in these countries it is comparatively cheaper and it is safe to say that a great many people in these countries have internet access of some kind. Also, according to the latest research conducted by the Internet World Statistics, around 90 milion Arab people use the Internet on a day-to-day basis to either look up new information or stay connected with their friends. This number makes up to 40% of the total population. The same research also shows that out of these internet users, 20% are registered on Facebook.

Taking other activities and social networks into consideration, the number would be many times that. As a consequence, these social and behavioral changes have brought about an environment extremely sensitive to word-of-mouth epidemics, and the Arab Spring is one of the benefactors. In countries like Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen, rising action plans such as protests made up of thousands, have been organized through social media such Facebook and Twitter. “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world,” said one Arab activist.

Activists were able to build extensive social networks and organized political action, thus, social media became a critical part of the toolkit for greater freedom. Furthermore, social networks have also broken the psychological barrier of fear by helping many people to connect and share information about the social uprising. It has given most people in the Arab world the knowledge that they are not alone, that there are others experiencing just as much brutality, just as much hardships, just as much lack of justice. There are numerous number of videos on YouTube where activists speak out their ideas and call for people reactions.

According to Catherine O’Donnell – a writer for the University of Washington – in her article “New Study Quantifies Use of Social Media in Arab Spring”, “During the week before Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, for example, the total rate of tweets from Egypt — and around the world — about political change in that country ballooned from 2,300 a day to 230,000 a day. Videos featuring protest and political commentary went viral – the top 23 videos received nearly 5. 5 million views.

The amount of content produced online by opposition groups, in Facebook and political blogs, increased dramatically. This enormous number not only indicates how popular the Arab Spring is but also implies how important social media are for the Arab Spring. Hussein Amin, professor of mass communications at the American University in Cairo said that social networks “for the first time provided activists with an opportunity to quickly disseminate information while bypassing government restrictions. ” Nowadays, just as much easier for activists to reach their targeted audiences, so too it is for the audiences to learn about new ideas and social events, all thanks to the advents of technologies and the extra amount of time people spend on social networks.

Despite all of the factors above, Arab Spring could have never happened if it was not for Bouazizi’s self-emulation. As mentioned above, there was always the fear of being oppressed by the security services. Before the happening of the incident, although the government did not respect people’s dignity, they remained passive and submitted to the repression of their rulers. Therefore, the bad social conditions in the Arab World and those influences from social media have only been the platform for Arab Spring to spark, and the precipitating cause that triggered the uprising is Bouazizi.

His act symbolized the frustration and desperation of millions in the Arab world and sett into motion a series of revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa. His death has urged people across the region raise their voice, fight for their own rights, and come fearless of the goverment. His was a cry for dignity, justice, and opportunity, which continues to be heard around a region undergoing tumultuous change. His death has not taken people’s anger to a next level but also gathered people who face the same issues with the government together. Thanks to him, in today’s Middle East, people have come to realized that they do matter.

Thanks to him, people in the Middle East has learned to voice their concerns and fight for their rights. Many people are now engaged in what could be a life-long struggle to fight long-standing grievances and take greater control of their lives, all thanks to Bouazizi. His death is like that one extra salt crystal that makes a solid form out of a saturated solution; for decades people had been remaining passive and submit to their tyrants and the next second those aging dictators had to crumble just because of one incident. Nothing would have happened if Bouazizi had not reacted against oppression and a lack of espect. The revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt provides a keen example of how new media can be used to afford people political agency. The movement’s participants innovated with the technology to compose coordinated efforts, compose an identities (using the technologies affordances rather than its prescribed templates), compose quickly and deliberately, and compose messages to change the materiality of where they live. Furthermore, this uprising also reminds people around the world that people do react to social injustice and ill-treatments from the government.

It is also of utmost importance not only for the Arab people but also people from all over the world to honor the sacrifice of Bouazizi as he has initiated the revolution that has awakened people’s power and changed the way governments look at their people. Although we cannot tell whether Arab Spring will have fix those social issues in the Arab world and have a positive impact on the society or not, it is a firm confirmation that with today’s social media, people do and will respond to any kind of social justice.

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