Arab Spring in Global Media
Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and other countries of the Arab world have a number of common features that unify them against the background of the European or Western world. The Arab Spring has become one of such aspects at the beginning of the 21st century that created even stronger connection based on the Arab spirit. The Arab Spring is a well-known wave of demonstrations and rebels in the Arab world. It is claimed to have started in December, 2011 in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, when a local fruit-seller, Mohamed Bouazizi, burned himself in front of the governmental establishment. Supposedly, the policewoman who humiliated him publicly when he refused to move his cart from the street made him act like this. This act of despair was immediately supported by the local people, who went into the streets after the news was published and spread all over the Internet. However, this was hardly the reason for the start of the Arab Spring but just a trigger for the riot to fire. With numerous protests in the Arab countries, various methods of civil resistance were used, including strikes, demonstrations, parades, public rallies, etc. One should also emphasize the crucial role of social media that have become a great informative means for the society. The aim of this paper is to discover the backgrounds lying behind the movement and trace to which extend the goals match the results that it has reached.
The Catalysts for the Arab Spring
The initial movement took place in Tunisia. Therefore, it is logical to analyze its underlying reasons as being similar to those of other countries. According to Jamoul (2012), such reasons can be divided into the internal and international ones. As a simple answer to the question why the population rebelled, one can definitely conclude that the main reason should be their deep and strong dissatisfaction with the conditions that the authorities provided. For Tunisia and other Arab countries, such dissatisfaction was caused by the high poverty, inflation, and unemployment rates, corruption, growing food prices, and human rights violation. For Egypt, the “income gap” predetermined by Mubarak’s control was the cause for the growth of food prices and high poverty levels (Jamoul, 2012). In addition, poverty as well as economic insecurity in all Arab countries was supported by high unemployment levels that deprived the labor pool of an opportunity to improve the level of life. Neither freedom of elections nor of speech was common for the Arab world citizens. Finally, the violation of human rights that was present in the Arab society became even more revolting with the references to the 9/11 terrorist acts (Jamoul, 2012).
However, there also existed the international reasons for the Arab Spring. For Egypt, the relations with Israel played a crucial role. Having become the “strategic ally of Israel” was not appreciated by the Egyptians who were against the Camp David agreement (Jamoul, 2012). Support of Israeli security at the expense of Egyptian citizens was perceived aggressively. Finally, Lebanese victory against Israel provided the aggressive moods with more courage. Therefore, this international reason became a strong reinforcement for the existing economically predetermined dissatisfaction of the Egyptian population.
Arab Spring and Social Media
The spirit of Arabs has obviously played an important role in numerous rebel formations in the countries. However, one cannot neglect the contribution of the media. It has played a great role for the Arab Spring development. Even though the news and television were the common means to inform people and let the idea spread, there are good reasons to pay particular attention to the possibilities provided by the Internet. The Arab Spring has become a “tweeted, blogged and texted” revolution (O’Donnel, 2011).
The political debates that appeared in the Arab world were mostly distributed through the Internet. Such conclusion was made by sociologists after the content analysis of YouTube, various blogs, and gigabytes of tweets (O’Donnel, 2011). These sources became the main ones for getting inspired by common revolutionary stories and letting discuss the possible awaited events. O’Donnel (2011) indicated that a number of messages about freedom and democracy in other countries in Africa or Middle East could be regarded as serious hints about the ripening population upraise. In such a way, social media unified people with the common democratic position and became a “toolkit for the freedom” (O’Donnel, 2011). Tweeter, Facebook blogs, and other statistics with 55 million views of the top Mubarak-related videos with comments from Egypt became a sufficient evidence of the human interest in political changes (O’Donnel, 2011). As a result, the wide usage of social media in the countries represents the pubic opinion and expectations very clearly. Social media have become a tool to identify the goals, build solidarity, and organize rebels.
The connection provided by the global media was also crucial due to the liaisons that it created throughout the entire Arab world. Even though such connections have already been strong due to the geographical position, cultural peculiarities, and economic issues, the information regarding the rebels, which became widely spread, made citizens of Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and other countries aware of the common problems with the authoritative regime and the demonstrations as the effective means to struggle against it.
The Consequences of the Arab Spring
The consequences of the Arab Spring movements varied among the countries as their uprisings were also different. The time frames, the leaders, and the government reactions predetermined the longer or shorter, more or less effective decisions.
After Bouazizi’s suicide, the rebels of Tunisia forced their former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to resign. He then escaped from the country to Saudi Arabia (Jones, 2013). By setting the country to the democratic direction, Tunisia is trying to fulfill the desires of its people despite constant “struggles between secularists and Islamist, and terrorism by jihadists” (Diehl, 2015). Along with successful democracy establishment, the government is gradually improving the programs of development and support to all religious and ethnic groups (Diehl, 2015). However, many citizens claim that nothing has changed significantly despite “the blood on the streets” which was spilt by rebels and activists (Jones, 2013). The level of unemployment is huge; the prices are high, and salaries stay small. Moreover, the safety issue bothers people as they are still scared to walk the streets due to robberies and attacks (Jones, 2013).
Egypt’s attempt of overturn is a partial failure. When the President Mubarak was overthrown, the country was expected to enter a new era of wealth and health for its people and develop its economy. The country ruled by the armed forces did not actually succeed. After 2012, the first “chosen-to-be-democratic” President Mohamed Morsi also failed within one year by driving Egypt into the direction that people did not support (Simpson, 2014). He changed the laws in order to obtain maximum power to make decisions on his own. Therefore, constant persecutions of journalists, opposition, and Christian minority led to new protests and resulted in Morsi’s removal from the post (Simpson, 2014). At present, the country is still economically weak and hardly makes its ends meet. An Egyptian activist Maikel Nabil Sand is now seeking political asylum, although he was expected to be the one who would participate in rebuilding the new country and improving the social situation. (Diehl, 2015)
Soon, dictatorship was overthrown in Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, Oman, Bahrain, and other states: they immediately started reforming laws and governments. However, the lack of support expected from Western countries to oppositions is obvious (Diehl, 2015). The growing number of radical Islamists endangers the democratic directions of the Middle Eastern countries. For instance, Syrian President Bashir Assad has withstood the possible overthrow, and revolution did not work there (Simpson, 2014). Libya is practically destroyed and has plunged into a mess even though it managed to win against its extremely strict and power-addicted leader Muammar Gaddafi (Simpson, 2014).
The catalysts for the movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and other Arab countries were very similar: dictatorship, economic decline, violations of human rights, corruption at different authority levels, sex and religious discrimination, etc. However, all these conditions had been accruing for long time but not within one day. Growing prices, poverty, and even famine existed in parallel with rich and greedy rulers and oppressors whose main goal was personal enrichment and wealth for decades. Therefore, the explosion of riots was simply a matter of time. One should emphasize the particular role of media as the influential tool to start riots. Tweets, blogs, YouTube videos, and many other connections became the means to raise the awareness of citizens and let them make constructive discussions. The results of the Arab Spring have both positive and negative sides. Fortunately, many countries have accepted the path of democratic development, thus providing their people with basic freedoms and rights. However, despite the world’s development, radicalism based on religion drives some leaders to strict opposition to the West. Such policy only escalates the conflicts, thus leading to constant anxieties all over the world.