A revolution is a political phenomenon that calls for change of political ideologies, freedom and democracy. In addition, it is a collective behaviour characterized by unrest which is carried out by the masses under oppressive or tyrannical regimes. The uprisings that undertook place in the Middle East and the Northern Africa region in 2011 were popularly known as the Arab spring (Asheley 2011). The uprisings started in Tunisia and were executed using some of the popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The masses used the social media as a tool to portray their displeasure against autocratic leaders in the Arab world (Faris 2010). It should be noted that even before the major uprisings took place, demonstrations and protests had been going on in countries like Iran and Iraq. However, the 2011 revolts were very intense as the entire world watched in disbelief the toppling and execution of powerful and dictatorial leaders. The revolution in Egypt happened at a time when the country was experiencing mounting pressure from various western countries, key among them the United States.
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The Obama administration was very vocal in calling for the respect of people’s voices and in encouraging the leaders to exercise democracy. The Arab uprisings swept across the entire MENA region in the beginning of 2011. The uprisings were successful in Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt and are still going on in some countries like Syria. The revolution led to the death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and the ousting of Tunisia’s President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali (Haas 2012, p.271). In both Tunisia and Egypt, democratic elections have recently been held for the first time with the newly elected democratic leaders assuming office.
Revolutions do not just occur; they are influenced by several factors. According to Colombo (2012, p.1) and Pollack (2011, p.2), the movements that led to the Arab spring were triggered by several causes that had been simmering for a long time and they include social, economic and political dissatisfaction. The dissatisfaction resulting from the aforementioned pillars of society culminated in the repression of civil, media, and political freedoms, economic malaise and poor governance compounded by nepotism, corruption, increase in food prices, lack of opportunities and increase in the levels of unemployment (Colombo 2012, p.1; Hislope & Mughan 2011).
Similar sentiments have also been echoed by Malik and Awadallah (2011, p.2) who acknowledge that the Arab revolution was fully based on economic underpinnings and were mainly fueled by poverty and lack of economic opportunities. Lack of response by the ruling class and governments made people to despair and as such, taking part in the revolution was seen as the ultimate hope for the people. As noted by Sharabi (1998), the Arab region is characterized by bad political systems which encourage corruption, hinder freedom of speech, free elections and religious fundamentalism. It is worth noting that the military played a major role in spurring the revolution. For instance, after the 9/11 attack, Egypt impeached some of its citizens as part of fighting terrorism which is ironical since it led to oppression of the political freedom and democracy of the individuals.
The Arab revolution was spurred by the revelation of various forms of corruption among the ruling class. These revelations were laid bare by the famous Wikileaks diplomatic cables (Jamoul 2012). The diplomatic cables exposed high levels of corruption among Arab leaders. In addition, there was a massive discrepancy in income gap between the rich and the poor. This discrepancy is believed to be a major cause of the uprising in Egypt where corruption levels are very high. In research conducted to determine the causes of Egypt’s uprisings, it emerged that Egypt had the highest world food prices, and this threatened the welfare of the people.
As a result, this had a definite influence on dislodging the Egyptian social-political system (Jamoul 2012). This, coupled with the high levels of unemployment may have led to economic disability, thus playing a major role in subverting the political system. With the high prices of goods, high inflation, and over 25 percent of the young people in the Arab countries unemployed, the Arab spring was the ultimate action. Despite the fact that most of the countries in the 21st century have embraced democracy, freedom of speech, and political rights, the countries in the MENA region remain oppressive. This statement has been supported by Jamoul (2012) who adds that the violation of human rights in the MENA region was very widespread prior to the Arab uprising.
Colombo (2012, p.3) observes that the Arab spring is a political phenomenon that goes beyond the uprisings and the fall of the dictators. In essence, the Muslim movements and their respective parties were not only demonstrating on the basis of their political and religious ideologies but to also with a view to gaining political freedom and democracy after a long period of repression by autocratic regimes.
Research questions statements
The aim of the research is to explore the success and failure factors in the Arab spring. The major research questions are:
What are success factors in Arab spring?
What are failure factors in Arab spring?
The research will focus on two research variables: the success factors and failure factors in the Arab spring. In this case, relevant articles will be used in the evaluation and analysis of the above mentioned research variables.
Identification of the relevant evidence and associated data sources
In the course of the research, all research arguments, objectives and questions will be supported with relevant literary sources. This will facilitate originality and data validity. Both secondary and primary data will be used to explore the research information.
Research design is important in helping in the identification of appropriate sets of research methods. In addition, Creswell (2003) notes that effective research design means that the research methods can be selected in order to enable the researcher to obtain reliable and valid outcomes. In order to ensure that comprehensive research is carried out, the research study will mainly focus on secondary and primary data collection from the identified sources. The current study is based on exploratory research design which will be combined with qualitative design. The reason why exploratory research design has been chosen is because of its ability to enable the researcher to explore key facts and information in relation to the research problem. In addition, it acts as a good platform for developing an understanding of the issues identified in the research. Moreover, the design specifies valid, reliable and a generalized approach to data collection process. Lastly, the design allows in the selection and collection of relevant data.
For purposes of answering the research questions, the researcher will adopt two of the most successful revolutions in the MENA region which are the Egyptian and the Tunisian revolutions. Therefore, Egypt and Tunisia shall be the major case studies in the study although other countries in the region will also be used in order to amplify the research objectives. Other than the Arab Spring being successful in these two countries, the countries were also the first in the region to experience the power of the people who used the social media to topple autocratic regimes. In addition, the Tunisian revolution spurred the demonstration by youths in Egypt and other member states in the MENA region.
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Since the research study is mainly theoretical, qualitative research methods shall be adopted. Information shall be collected from existing sources such as blogs, print media articles, reports, surveys, and journals. Reports from high profile bloggers and journalists will also be used as these two groups of people played an integral role in setting a platform and kept the wheels of revolution moving.
Data presentation, analysis and discussion
The data analysis and finding section is vital to the dissertation since it helps in examining the results gathered from literature review and selected secondary methods. The collected data/information allows for qualitative analysis, which involves the discussion of the information in reference to the literature review. This will aid in determining whether the selected factors are success of failure in respective to the Arab Spring.
To better understand the research aim and objectives and in order to answer the research questions well, the network approach and the concept of revolution as political phenomenon will be adopted. According to Colombo (2012, p.3), the concept of commonality and deliberate diffusion can be used to understand what culminated in the unprecedented mass demonstrations in the Arab region. This can be supported by the fact that despite the different social, demographic, economic, and political conditions in the region, diffusion, sense of commonality and borrowing of mobilizing frameworks necessitated the outburst of the political unrest in the MENA region. In addition, social factors such as history and shared culture across the region spurred the Arab spring. With regard to the role played by media in the Arab spring, social media and communication theories would be applied especially the network theory which applies to the new media. The new media heavily relies on social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, blogs, and use of cell phones (Storck 2011)
Another theory that is related to communication is Manuel Castell’s network theory which is based on weak ties (Storck 2011). The theory will be used to explain how social networks characteristics are important in encouraging political activism by creating weak ties and anonymity among numerous parties. Weak ties allow the dissemination of information from closer people with stronger ties and spreads across different people sharing same ideas. Lastly, the research will use the modular phenomena of revolution which according to Beissinger (2007, p259), leads to cross case influence, herding behaviour, reputational effects and path dependence thus encouraging democratic revolution. Modularity concept will be able to explain the success and failure factors in the Arab spring as it will look at the borrowing of mobilization frameworks and mode of contention across Tunisia and Egypt.
Definition of revolution
The term revolution is very diverse and has different meanings based on the context in which it is being applied. With respect to the current research study, revolution shall be defined as a political phenomenon which involves a change in the location of sovereignty (Katz 1999). From a social context, a revolution is described as an unexpected abrupt social change which revolves around the major pillars of society. From a sociological point of view, revolution is a deviant behaviour which leads to social change as a result of socioeconomic unrests. As part of collective behaviour and unrest, a revolution is started by a small group of individuals upon maximal oppression or when the group does not agree with the social norms and values set by the ruling authority.
The unrest is usually fueled by the need to have social change and any form of obstruction by the ruling class leads to spread of the unrest attaching itself to the most offensive aspects of the social structures (Yonder 1926). The collective behaviour and the resultant unrest culminate in what most of scholars refer to a revolution. It is imperative to note that a revolution is not only a political phenomenon but it can also be as a result of change in some of the social organizational aspects such as religious, industrial or economic, among other aspects. It may also involve the change in the attitudes and the perception of the masses against the political class. A revolution is sudden, chaotic, fatal, and dangerous but necessary. The most remembered revolution in the history of mankind is the French revolution which is an important part of the European history.
To some people, a revolution is seen as gleam of hope in a world of tyrannical regimes and darkness. To others, it carries the deepest fears and hope which require devotion and sacrifice. Revolutions also represent a formidable danger which is a threat to modern civilization as it derails social, political, and economic developments (Fahlbusch 2005, p.688). In other words, a revolution is a calamity of the highest order and if possible, it should be avoided at all costs. It is sometimes referred to as an outstanding catastrophe in modern nations. It should be noted that the most effective way of opposing a modern social movement is to label it is a revolution (Yonder 1926, P.433).
Background of revolution
The French revolution is regarded as the mother of all revolutions although it took place in the 18th century (Fahlbusch 2005, p.688). even as the French Revolution involved a lot of bloodshed and death, it played a major role in shaping the citizenship liberty and the concept of a nation. The major cause of the French revolution was people’s discontentment with the aristocratic government that had denied the French citizens their rights. In order to show the seriousness of the revolution, people who opposed the new social order by defying the nationhood or abusing the constitution were executed as a way of showing solidarity. Although the French revolution changed the socio-economic, cultural and political structures of the French society, its effects were felt across Europe. The French revolution ushered in the modern concept of nation /state and developed the institution and the ideology of national citizenship (Brucker 1989). Since then, numerous revolutions have taken place around the world and they have changed the economic, political and the social structures of different nations.
The term “Arab Spring” is used in reference to a group the revolutionary changes which have been witnessed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region from late 2010 onwards. Like the French revolution before it, the Arab spring was a culmination of increase in food prices, economic difficulties, and the need for political rights, among other factors. The uprisings in the MENA region saw the ousting of authoritarian regimes. At the same time, the remaining autocratic regimes were under a lot of pressure.
The Arab Spring began in Tunisia when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire as a way of protesting official mistreatment (Gelvin 2012). According to Parry, Medlyn and Tahir (2011, p.304) and Fahim (2011), a street vendor in Tunisia by the name of Mohammed Bouazizi was a catalyst to the Tunisian revolution and other uprisings across the MENA region. Bouazizi was denied a permit to operate his fruit and vegetable street business. This was followed by a wave of unrest and the ultimate confiscation of his wares. He later set himself on fire in the governor’s office as a way of protesting. This ignited political unrest leading to collective mass protests and the eventual ousting of the Tunisia’s autocratic president (Parry et al. 2011, p.304; Yang, Greenberg & Endsley 2012, p.164).
The Tunisian protests inspired Egyptian youths who used social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to organize and execute demonstrations and protests. Their efforts proved successful because eventually, President Hosni Mubarak was ousted from office. The revolt spread out to other MENA regions such as Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Libya, and Bahrain, among others (Parry et al. 2011). However, despite the upsurges and the demonstrations, only the uprisings witnessed in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq and Tunisia have been successful in dislodging the autocratic regimes. On 25th January 2011, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo and other major cities with the aim of dislodging President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. The protestors held demonstrations for several days, after which the president promised that he would not be seeking reelection in September 2011. However, the angry demonstrators continued to gather at the Tahir Square in Cairo. The protestors demanded that President Mubarak step down with immediate effect. As a result of the mounting pressure, the president eventually stepped down. The military took over power to ensure that peace and order were maintained until another government was elected. The revolution came at a price since an estimated 300 people died, while 750 policemen and 1500 protestors were injured during the clashes.
Role played by political ideologies in Arab spring
Ideologies play a crucial role in shaping political agenda (Moaddel 2012, p.1). Radical ideologies in the Middle East and the North Africa region were necessitated by anti-authoritarian movements (Moaddel 2011, p.2). As a result, political evolution in the region led to revolutions, uprisings and protests that eventually led to the toppling of autocratic regimes. Mikail (2012, p.1) observes that political based agendas have played a critical role in the politics of the MENA region.
Moaddel (2011,p.2) notes that although the Arab Spring was as a result of the radical Islam and pan-Arab nationalism which were ideological in their making, the uprising is believed to have been non-ideological. This statement has been supported by a study by Moaddel which shows that 66 percent of the Lebanese nationals and 88 percent of the Egyptians believed that the Arab uprisings were either a quest for economic prosperity or freedom (Moaddel 2011, p.2). In both countries however, 9 percent of the people believed that the movements were ideological in nature and were aimed at establishing Islamic governments.
Islam remains a potent force in the MENA political culture (Mneimneh 2011). Because of their power, organizational capacity and financial networks in the MENA region, the Islamists have emerged as the major winners of the Arab Spring. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood played a major role in ousting President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Although most of the Islamist movements had been banned by the ousted regimes, they are currently enjoying the benefits of the Arab Spring. For instance, the Muslim Brotherhood is now part of the current political leadership in Egypt. In Tunisia, the Ennahda has been on the forefront ensuring that democracy is achieved in the country. Religion and religious institutions such as mosques were able to offer a favorable context from where political mobilization and networking activities would be conducted. As a result, secular and autocratic politics declined, giving room to the up-rise of radical Islamism (Moaddel 2011, p.3).
Economic underpinnings and the Arab Spring
Low levels of GDP growth, unemployment, poverty, increase in food prices and poor standards of living are some of economic difficulties which led to revolutions in Europe (Jamoul 2012). All these are economic underpinnings which are related to the economic and social welfare of the people. Malik and Awadallah (2011, p.2) note that the economic fragmentation in the Arab world fueled the uprisings. For instance, economic underpinnings such as absence of economic opportunities, unemployment and poverty fueled the Arab revolution. The disparities between the rich and the poor in the region were due to lack of a concrete economic response raised political volatility in the region. Corruption affects the economy of a nation and was a major cause of the Arab Spring (Jamoul 2012). For example, the Egyptian military controlled the economy of the country as they held most of the economic resources in Egypt. In addition, the military’s budget did not undergo parliamentary scrutiny, thereby increasing avenues for corruption.
Poor performance of the economy coupled with the sporadic budge in the labour market increased the levels of unemployment in Middle East. As a result, the number of the unemployed youths increased dramatically. Breisinger, Ecker and Al-Riffai (2011, p.1) observe that high levels of unemployment and slow rates of economic growth necessitated an increase in food price due to increased inflation. Consequently, this threatened the very survival of the people. Similar sentiments have also been echoed by a World Bank report that shows that the high levels of unemployment as a result of poor economic performance was the major cause of the Arab Spring (Ahmed 2012). The report adds that if the regime had a GDP of 7 percent the chances of experiencing the uprising would have been very low.
Role of security in the uprising
The military and the police forms part of the security details in any country and they are involved in the maintenance of peace and order. With regard to the Arab Spring, Moaddel (2011, p.2) notes that the military and the police played a crucial role by ensuring that the Arab nationalism remained the main ideology. This helped to bring Arab nationalists into power. In Egypt for instance, the police and the army participated in the movements and called for peaceful demonstrations. Moaddel (2011, p.1) adds that the military played an integral role in ensuring that nationalists ascended to power. This is a clear indication of nationalism.
The increase in the use of excessive forces by security agents such as the police necessitated the need for freedom of free speech and democracy. For example, the victimization of Bouazizi and Khaled Said in the hands of the police spurred the rise of the uprising in Tunisia and the eventual ousting of the tyrannical regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Boazizi who was a street fruit and vegetable vendor was harassed, humiliated and his wares were confiscated by the authorities. According to Parry et al. (2011, p.304), the repeated prosecution by the police prompted Bouazizi to set himself on fire and this spurred revolts in Tunisia and later spread to other nations in the MENA region. The brutality of the police, the use of the military courts by security agents in Egypt and the inhumane killing of Khaled encouraged the citizens to mobilize mass protests through social media networks. This later created a sense of commonality among the oppressed people who teamed up to overthrow the tyrannical regimes.
Social media and the role of media in the uprising
The media which includes the use of newsprint, television, the internet, social media network and any other form of communication, plays an integral role in disseminating information (Yang, Greenberg & Endsley 2012, p.164). The uprising in the MENA region was facilitated by modern communication, globalization and the existence of historical and sociological factors. This can be supported by the views of Teague (2012) who note that the young literate youths used cellular phones, blogs, You Tube, Twitter, and Facebook to disseminate and share information in an unregulated version. The power of these tools started during the 2009 Iranian presidential elections which was a success. Through the use of the new media such as computers and cell-phones a new era has been witnessed in MENA region. For example, the movement in Egypt has been recognized by media pundits and political commentators as “Egypt’s Facebook Revolution” while that of Iran is referred to as the “Iran’s Twitter Revolution” (Teague 2012; Tsvetovat & Kouznetsov 2011, p.14).
In mid 2010, Khaled Said was abducted and beaten by the police to death. Later, the police claimed that the death of Said was as a result of drug overuse. However, images of Said’s body were circulated through the internet on the “We Are All Khaled Said” Facebook page which was created by Wael Ghonim. What started as a page emerged as a platform from where the Egyptian would share information and encourage each other to take to the streets. Although Ghonim was abducted by the police, the solidarity and the use of the media continued until President Hosni Mubarak was ousted. The authorities in MENA region were caught off guard by internet activism although they used it as a counterproductive measure but it backfired. Teague (2012) is keen to observe that commentators and highly recognized journalists such as Andrew Sullivan played a crucial role in the Arab Spring by investing their energy and time. The movement of the information shared via the media was increased by the fact that the Muslim culture encourages close family attachment.
Stepanova (2011, p.1) observes that social media networks played an integral role in the disintegration of the Egyptian and the Tunisian regimes, while at the same time necessitating socio-political mobilization in Syria and Tunisia. The Facebook campaign in Tunisia under the name “April 6 Youth Movement” kick started the uprisings upon positive reception from the masses. Although the nationwide use of media networks in Egypt reduced the pace at which the protests were being carried, it did not put off the quest to oust the dictatorial leadership. Al Jazeera, a TV news channel based in Doha, Qatar, cannot also be forgotten for the crucial role that it played in the Arab Spring. The TV channel ran live footages of the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and showcased the brutal images of the ruling class. Parry et al. (2011) note that “Al Jazeera, which played an indispensable role in the Arab uprisings, ran a piece on the monument to Bouazizi” spurred the uprisings (p.304).
Influence of social factors on the Arab spring
The high level of unemployment in the Arab region has been regarded as a major cause of the economic insecurity and destabilization of political systems (Pollack 2011; Ahmed 2012). Based on past research, over 24% of the youth in the MENA region do not have a job. From an economic point of view, this is a very high rate of unemployment and since the major governments have not put in place mechanisms for reversing the situation, the youths have become very desperate and angry with the regime. Thus, by taking part in the revolutions, the youths are actually venting their displeasure with the government at how it has handled the issue of unemployment.
According to Sharabi (1988), despite the high levels of political rights and democracy in most states in the world, the Arab region suffers from bad political regimes and systems as characterized by lack of freedom of speech, lack of free elections, religious fundamentalism, state of emergency laws, and high levels of corruptions. All these affect the social structures of any given society. For example, Egypt is noted as a major corruption zone owing to lack of political democracy and freedom. For instance, the emergence law of 1958 was issued in 1967. The country was engulfed in six wars that limited the freedom of speech and politics but gave the police the power to suspend some of the constitutional rights as part of ensuring security. In addition, the amendments of the constitution allowed for the detention of protestors and at the same time closed down some of the radical newspapers while others were censored. Also, civilians would frequently be tried in security and military courts. All these activities were carried out to impede political freedom and democracy in the region.
According to a World Bank official, poor education in the MENA region was the major cause of the Arab Spring (Ahmed 2011). Other notable causes according to the World Bank include low levels of GDP which translates to poverty and high levels of unemployment. In Tunisia for instance, the level of unemployment was very high as the GDP growth was only at 5 percent. Economists at the World Bank have observed that given that the GDP was high, instances of unemployed among the youths would not be witnessed and the tension created in the labor markets would have been avoided.
In addition, in spite of the availability of large oil deposits in the region, this has not encouraged the unemployed youth to seek alternative methods of employment. O’Sullivan, Rey and Mendez (2012, p.4) note that unemployment among the educated youth is very high in the MENA region. For example, more than 43 percent of youths with tertiary education in Saudi Arabia are unemployed; more than 11 percent in Algeria, 14 percent is Tunisia, 22 percent in the UAE and Morocco, and 24 percent in the Palestinian authority (O’Sullivan et al. 2012, p.4). On average, unemployment is about 25% in the MENA region, and this is a very high rate compared with the 17.3% rate of unemployment in the OCECD countries. Generally, unemployment is over 50 in Palestinian Authority, 30 percent in Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, 25 percent in Egypt and Jordan. All these unemployment percentages represent the youths of the age between 15 and 24 years.
Breisinger, Ecker and Al-Riffai (2011, p.1) have reported on the level of dissatisfaction among youths with their living standards. The youths who took part in the study came from Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and other MENA countries. Generally, an estimated 35 percent of the MENA population has shown dissatisfaction with their standard of living. This is because of the low GDP growth which has led to an increase in unemployment and prices of consumer products. With high levels of inflation as a result of low GDP growth rate led to food insecurity in the MENA region (Breisinger et al. 2011, p.1). Consequently, this culminated in high food price inflation thus affecting the standard of living of most people in the region. As a result of the dissatisfaction of people in the MENA region with poor living standards and food security, the Arab Spring emerged sweeping across most of the nations.
Although most of the countries in the MENA region have been on the forefront in the fight against poverty, high levels of child malnutrition and poverty are still prevalent (Worden 2012). Social related issues such as child malnutrition, poor social and physical statuses of mothers, low levels of access to quality healthcare, water and sanitation, and education are some of issues that are believed to have instigated the need to oust the ruling autocratic leaders (Breisinger et al. 2011, p.1). In the MENA region, most of the nations had managed to maintain social order through redistribution and repression. However, this strategy became less effective when the nationals could not take it anymore.
Outline of the dissertation
The primary aim of the current paper will be to determine the success and failure factors in the Arab spring. The first section of the dissertation will be an introduction. This section shall introduce the problem statement, the study questions, aim and objective. It will also introduce the study undertakings, background information, definition of a revolution and how and when the Arab Spring was started.
Section two is the literature review which will draw a conceptual framework of the study and discuss major theories related to the uprisings. Reliable and relevant literary sources will be used to explore the roles played by political and religious ideologies, the role of economy, the role of social factors, the role of media and the role of security in the Arab spring. Under all the mentioned chapters, the research will discuss the factors related to the main questions: Is it success or failure factor? What are the success and failure features within the factor?
The last section will look at the outcomes under the literature review and offer a conclusion on the findings. In addition, it will also determine whether the findings have answered the research questions and offer recommendations deemed as important to future studies.
Timetable for completion
The timetable below gives the different tasks that will be undertaken by the researcher from the start of the project to its end as well as the presentation of the dissertation paper.
Table 1: Dissertation time frame.
|Literature research and write up||1-2 weeks|
|Methodology write up||2 weeks|
|Compilation and analysis of results and findings from primary and secondary sources||2 weeks|
|Results – Write up||3-4 weeks|
|Discussion, analysis – Write up||1 week|
|Conclusion and recommendations||1 week|
|Presentation of the final project||2 – 3 weeks|
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