Egyptian Revolution: The Spread of the Arab Spring

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was one of a cluster of dictators controlling the Arab world who rigged elections and tortured dissidents (BBC, 2011).  He enriched himself at his people’s expense, much like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Muammar Ghaddafi of Libya, and Bashar al-Assad of Syria.  Through north Africa and the Arab world, there was a shared hatred for these dictators.  As the Jasmine Revolution of Tunisia spread throughout Tunisia, the rest of the Arab world watched in awe.  By January 12, 2011, Ben Ali bowed to the protests and fled the country for Saudi Arabia.  Ben Ali controlled Tunisia with an iron fist for 24 years, but it took a mere 24 days to overthrow his regime (BBC, 2011).

Inspired by the Jasmine Revolution, the Egyptians caught the fire of revolution.  Six months before Mohamad Bouazizi set himself on fire, Khaled Saeed was brutally beaten and murdered by Egyptian police for exposing the Mubarak regime’s corruption online (BBC, 2011).  Saeed’s brother took a picture of his brother’s disfigured corpse, and his family posted the picture online for the world to see.

Facebook had 5 million users in Egypt and hence Saeed’s story spread quickly. Emboldened by the events in Tunisia, a mass protest was organized through Facebook one day in advance on January 24, 2011 (BBC, 2011).  Since only 20% of Egyptians had access to Internet, a unique strategy was developed encorporating Cairo’s taxi drivers (BBC, 2011).  Since cab drivers were known to carry news, they were targeted to spread the word of the planned protest.  In addition, courageous dissidents such as Asmaa Mahfouz plead the Egyptians to unite and protest.  Great efforts were taken to confuse the Egyptian police by giving mixed signals as to where the protest was going to be held.  On January 25, 2011, more than 40,000 Egyptians took to Tahrir Square to protest the Mubarak regime, previously unimaginable.

Inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, and Syria soon joined the Arab spring with new ambition towards achieving democracy(Alexander, 2011).

Works Cited

Alexander, H. (2011, February 1). Jordan: revolution fears in Algeria, Yemen and Syria. Retrieved May 4, 2012, from The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/jordan/8297297/Jordan-revolution-fears-in-Algeria-Yemen-and-Syria.html

BBC. (2011, September 6). How FaceBook Changed The World The Arab Spring. Retrieved May 2, 2011, from YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnPR90dJ3Gk

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Arab spring: an interactive timeline of Middle East protests

The Guardian website provides a very neat interactive timeline of the Arab Spring, beginning from Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation and the Jasmine Revolution.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2011/mar/22/middle-east-protest-interactive-timeline

BBC Documentary: How FaceBook Changed The World The Arab Spring [1/4]

The Beginning of the Arab Spring and the Role of Mobile Technology, Social Media, and WikiLeaks

On December 17, 2010, a 27 year old Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after his fruit cart was confiscated by local police for nonpayment of bribes.  Mohamed did not have the means to pay the bribes and as his pleas within the town hall to release his cart fell on deaf ears (BBC, 2011). Humiliated and hopeless, Mohamed stood in front of the town hall, doused himself with fuel, and lit himself alight (BBC, 2011). The physical fire instantly transformed into a metaphoric fire of rage that spread throughout the Arab world through video captured by mobile phones and social media. Protestors gathered in front of the town hall, demanding justice. Fed up by the corruption of the government, joblessness, and touched by Mohamed’s plight, Tunisians took to the street (Reuters, 2010).

The Tunisian media was tightly controlled by the authoritarian government through censorship, and the great social unrest went unreported. Meanwhile, social media sites such as Facebook displayed the events that unfolded in an increasingly unstable country (BBC, 2011).

As discussed in Peter Walker’s Guardian article, Amnesty International hails WikiLeaks and Guardian as Arab spring ‘catalysts’ (2011), WikiLeaks’ role in the Arab spring cannot be understated. WikiLeaks is an international, online, non-profit organization that publishes submissions of secret and classified media from anonymous news sources, news leaks, and whistleblowers (About).  In particular, WikiLeaks’ revelations about Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s corrupt regime helped spark the protests in Tunisia (Walker, 2011).

Amnesty International’s secretary general Salil Shetty stated, “The year 2010 may well be remembered as a watershed year when activists and journalists used new technology to speak truth to power and, in so doing, pushed for greater respect for human rights. It is also the year when repressive governments faced the real possibility that their days were numbered” (Walker, 2011).

A quarter of the population of Tunisia had broadband, and 90% of Tunisians had mobile phones (BBC, 2011).  Hence, the Tunisians had access to one of the most advanced internet infrastructures of the Arab world.  Ben Ali censored political web sites, but was not bothered by Facebook as he saw only its value as a source of entertainment (BBC, 2011).

Works Cited

About. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2011, from WikiLeaks: http://www.wikileaks.ch/About.html

BBC. (2011, September 6). How FaceBook Changed The World The Arab Spring [1/4]. Retrieved May 2, 2011, from YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnPR90dJ3Gk

Reuters, T. (2010, December 19). Witnesses report rioting in Tunisian town. Retrieved May 2, 2011, from Reuters Africa: http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE6BI06U20101219

Walker, P. (2011, May 12). Amnesty International hails WikiLeaks and Guardian as Arab spring ‘catalysts’. Retrieved May 2, 2012, from The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/13/amnesty-international-wikileaks-arab-spring?