Consideration to geostrategic pulse 204 - “Arab Spring” among disillusions, hopes and extremism

“Arab Spring” among disillusions, hopes and extremism
Corneliu PIVARIU

On 17 December, five years have passed since the Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in the year 2010, a day considered the beginning of the “Arab Spring”. His death became a trigger starting upheavals in the Middle East, as the frustrations accumulated among several social categories that had been denied access to economic development, especially the middle class but also the young generation including people with superior education. They were all dissatisfied with the governmental policies ignoring the real situation of the great majority of the population, leading thus to increased unemployment and a general worsening of the people’s social situation.

Although the economies of the Arab countries had registered growth before those upheavals started, the benefits of that progress were distributed unevenly and unfairly, so the educated youth was not able to find decent jobs and the poor people and most of the middle class were forced to waste their energy in order to maintain the minimum survival level. The countries with the most serious events are, in alphabetical order: Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Oman and Syria. Iraq adds to the list, where the consequences of the 2003 war are still felt deeply; also, Yemen is another country where the developments were quite severe.

Here is, in short, what was hoped and what was achieved in these countries:

Bahrain: the protests started when the Shiite minority asked for a more democratic system and proper equality, as they were governed by the Sunni minority. Although at first national dialog was accepted along with more freedom of speech, the police acts violently against the demonstrators, the opposition leaders are arrested and then they are all forgotten by the international world. Arbitrary detentions and torture continue.

Egypt: the people wanted to get rid of Mubarak regime, corruption, monopolized economy and control over society enforced by brutal reactions of the police, torture and freedom of speech violations. Millions of young people asked for economic reforms and new jobs.

A new parliament and an Islamist government were elected, led by Mohammed Morsi; the protests continued and he was overthrown, a new government was established and legislative elections where many supporters of authoritarian regimes. The opposition is marginalized, the Muslim Brotherhood outlawed, the country split, torture and death sentences are omnipresent in the daily life of the country whereas the economic situation continues to be difficult.

Libya: the protesters wanted to overthrow the regime led by Moammar Gadhafi and his family, the police state and the generalized corruption.
After Gadhafi was out of office, the establishment of a stable government failed under the pressure of the Islamist groups. The rival tribes and numerous Islamist groups are fighting for the control over various parts of the country; from a state with a dictatorship system, Libya has become a failed stated.

Morocco: people demonstrated for the human rights to be respected and the political restrictions to end, for reduced royal prerogatives over parliament and government.

A constitutional reform marked the obligation of the king to appoint the prime minister from within the party that won the elections for Parliament. The king and those around him still control decisional power, as the royal house is still the main shareholder both in the public and in the private sector.

Oman: inspired by the protests in Bahrain, the demonstrators asked for higher salaries, more jobs, corruption terminated. The Sultan changed the government, gave higher wages, scholarships for students and pensions for retired people. Public meetings have been limited, punishments for spontaneous protests have increased, and the freedom of speech may be limited.

Syria: protesters asked for economic, political and social reforms, Bashar al-Assad and his camarilla to leave the office. The bloodiest civil war in the area in this century, after five years has over 250,000 fatalities, about 4 million refugees in the foreign countries and about 8 million internally displaced refugees. Life expectancy decreased by 20 years, to 55.7 years, and unemployment grew from 15% to 58%.

The Islamic State Organization (Daesh) appeared, controlling vast territories in Syria and Iraq, once more showing the difficulties faced by the Middle East, the vacuum dominating regional policies and the major obstacles against development to peace and progress.

The future (at lest the near one)… does not look bright at all.

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