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Effects of the Arab Spring and the Conflict in the Middle East Research Paper

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Updated: Feb 17th, 2020

In December 2010, demonstrations, unrests, and protests began in the Middle East. This wave has swept many Arab countries including Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, and Yemen (Yacoubin, 2011). This wave of civil demonstrations is referred to as the ‘Arab Spring’ (Egypt Programme, AusAID, 2011).

The protests did have not affected the countries in equal magnitudes. Some have been popular unrests, which have led to the overthrow of regimes like in Tunisia and Egypt. Others have led to civil wars like in Libya, which led to the ousting of President Muammar Gaddaffi (Yacoubin, 2011). In other cases, there have been minor protests going on around the Middle East and the North Africa (MENA) (Egypt Programme, AusAID, 2011).

The Arab spring is arguably one of the major happenings in the world in the 21st century whose potential effects on the world political, social and economic landscape are permanent (Yacoubin, 2011).

The major aim of the Arab spring has been to reverse the social situation that exists between the ruling class in these Arab countries and the subjects. The hitch in the social domain surfaced in the late 90’s to early 2000’s. With the current unrests, civil wars and protests, the Arab masses at the grassroots have been drastically and fast empowered (Yacoubin, 2011).

Despite the whole world facing challenging situations such as rapidly increasing population, declining economic capability and corruption, it is worth mentioning that the current situation in MENA is only localized to the Arab world and has not spread to other parts (Egypt Programme, AusAID, 2011). This can be viewed as an indicator of inherent cultural affinity felt by Arabs thereby serving as an indicator of the physically powerful regional vibrancy of the Arab world (Egypt Programme, AusAID, 2011).

In this document, the effects of Arab Spring on the region itself as well as the global domain will be assessed. Particular emphasis will be paid to the political, social and the economic aspects of the region and its implication to the global picture. Since the events occurred in the near past, much of the documentation to be relied upon are policy briefs, reports and articles from humanitarian organizations relating to the uprisings (Yacoubin, 2011).

Situation analysis

Protests in Yemen

The protests in Yemen were initiated by issues of deep rooted corruption, low level of employment, declining standards of living and chronic poverty, all of which have emanated from the poor economic development in the country (Blumi, 2011). The populace attributes all these to the mismanagement of the country by the long serving president Saleh whom they feel should now relinquish power to other people.

Moreover, the citizens argue that the country lacks a well developed constitution under the rule of Saleh. The lack of well designed policies on human rights that currently see demonstrators being denied their right to assembly is a case in point. To this effect, they have been denied decent health, employment opportunities and have had low access to quality life (Boucek, 2010).

However, such unrests have come with various adversaries to the people as well as to the country, both at the local and at the international front. A brief by HCT, on June 7 2011, indicated various atrocities being committed to the citizens. These included deaths of anti regime tribal forces, injuries and displacement of people within the capital Sana’a.

The report indicated that about 95% of the population were displaced in the Abyan Governorate. Humanitarian crisis was evident as food prices escalated uncontrollably in some areas due to fuel shortages, which disrupted the market.

To this effect, it was feared that a majority of the people could not afford the food and it was estimated that one third of the population as living under poverty.

Further to this, lack of fuel did not only affect food prices for the Yemeni people in Sana’a, but it also caused delays in delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people particularly health services for the displaced in IDP camps. The fuel shortage hampered delivery of goods to people, access of water through ground water pumps and movement of people.

Furthermore, health and social services delivery was halted in a number of locations leading to fears of life threatening risks for those with unremitting ailments. Schools were reported to be closed with up to forty percent being closed in Abyan governorate and even higher percentages in some urban areas (HCT, 2011).

According to (HCT, 2011) the uprising had claimed 225 lives and left at least 3125 injured since it began in February 2011. The unrest in the capital saw 29 people being killed on June and over one hundred being injured.

Many others were displaced. The security risk that prevailed made it even hard for medical practitioners to report to duty thus making delivery of health services a major nightmare. Unrest in other parts of the country including Zinjibar saw more people being displaced. A total of 9, 947 IDPs were registered in 20 locations in Aden and another 4700 IDPs were also registered in Lahj (HCT, 2011).

The above situation is just an illustration of the severity of the effects of the civil unrests on the population. The social well being including health services were constrained to a great extent thus making services delivery a challenge. The low fuel supply not only affected delivery of services, it also promoted sky-rocketing of food prices thereby affecting the poor. The unrest will continue to affect the economy of the country since much of the economically significant time is spent either at the IDP camps or at the streets.

Protests in Syria

Syria’s small size and lack of resources did not stop the Asad family from wielding a lot of political power in Syria. The Asad family has been ruling Syria since 1970, first through Afez al Asad, and later through his son, the current President Bashar al Asad.

President Bashar al Asad, just like his father, has been able to take over the control of domestic politics and has ensured that the country plays crucial roles in many situations in the Middle East (Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, Iran and Iraq) through radical foreign policies (Sharp and Blanchard, 2011).

Such consolidation of power and lack of democracy in the country coupled with one family rule, were the main reasons that triggered the unrests in this country, in March 2011. The uprisings were also informed by the uprising and actual ousting of presidents in Egypt and Tunisia. Other factors such as violation of basic freedoms like expression, movement, association and press also played critical roles in the civil uprising in Syria (Ziadeh, 2011)

The unrests have left more than 3500 people dead. Arising from fears of reprisals and threatening of families of protesters by the current regime, between 11, 000 and 25, 000 people fled the country (Sharp and Blanchard, 2011). It is also estimated that tens of thousands of others have been detained for their role in the demonstrations. However, the Syrian government agreed to the Arab league to stop the crackdown on civilians although this will wait for the test of time (Sharp and Blanchard, 2011).

The protests in Syria are not uniform. Though there are nationwide protests, Damascus and Aleppo have remained relatively quiet than many other parts. In addition, unconfirmed reports suggest that there are declining numbers of protesters in the streets as days go by (Sharp and Blanchard, 2011).

Protests in Bahrain

Bahrain gained her independence from Britain in 1971 after the 1970 UN referendum. The current leader King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is the son of the former leader King Shaykh Isa bin Sulman Al Khaliifa who died in 1999. Despite Bahrain having 70% of its population being Shiites, the Al Khalifa family, who are Sunni Muslims have ruled Bahrain since the 18th century (Katzman, 2011).

The injustice in Bahrain is such that the Al Khalifa family clung on to all the tactical departmental posts and about half of all the ministerial seats. Only four Shiite ministers existed and who held the less significant ministries. Furthermore, Shiites are not allowed to serve in the security forces (Katzman, 2011).

The New Action Chatter (NAC) as was passed on February 2002 under Hamad but did not satisfy the Shiite majority. This is because, the Chatter allowed the king via the prime minister to make all appointments in to the cabinet, while the Council of Representatives (COR) could not appoint or decent to the cabinet appoints.

The king has the power not only to dissolve the COR but also to amend the constitution. The ‘quota’ on female representation in the National Assembly as proposed in other democratic constitutions lacks in Bahrain (Katzman, 2011).

Serious unrests occurred during the 1990’s that prompted the inclusion of the majority Shiites into the government. To this effect, one can argue that Bahrain having an elected parliament is the most democratic country in the gulf (Nuseibeh, 2011). However, the grievances of the Shiites over power distribution, economic injustices and political representation appear not to have been met. As such, after the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, protests once again erupted in Bahrain (Katzman, 2011).

The above analysis has unearthed potential areas of interest in the regional and global political, social, and economic picture.

Effects of the uprising

Regional Political Power

Unlike in Egypt and Tunisia where the western countries including the US took position in support of the anti government groups, in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen such positions have not been publicly declared (Egypt Pragramme, AusAID, 2011).

The participation of the international community in the Arab Spring has been divergent. For instance, while the international forces facilitated the killing of President Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, Saudi Arabia military support helped in quelling the protests in Bahrain (Egypt Pragramme, AusAID, 2011).

Arguments about the sustainability of the Arab spring and the fall of incumbent regimes in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen have taken various dimensions. While some note that the fall of the incumbent regimes is foreseeable in the long run, others perceive that oil rich Gulf States like Saudi Arabia will oppose such political dynamics so as to retain their grip on power.

Even if democracy is going to be attained in these countries, some countries in the Arab world where democratic institutions have existed, (Palestinian territories, Kuwait, Iraq and Lebanon), have shown a lot of draw backs. There has been internal fighting in countries that have resulted to extended periods of political deadlock (EIU, 2011). Nonetheless, some may enjoy full fruits of democracy such as the requirement in Tunisia of equal representation of women in electoral lists (Hope Schwoebel, 2011).

There are probable power relation trends in the MENA. There is a likelihood of Egypt resurfacing as the leading Arab power (Yacoubian, 2011). If the transition is successful, this will provide a guide to other countries in the Arab world. On the other hand, if the process flaws, there will be anti- democratic opposition in all the MENA countries.

Other potential issues likely to rise are the competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Although the Arab Spring is not likely to spread to Iran, there will be struggles to maintain supremacy in the region. Turkey may also become significant as a representation for democratic changeover in the region (Yacoubin, 2011).

Social effects

Protests in many countries were majorly driven by the youth with social media knowledge. They were able to mobilize people of various cultural, social, political and religious groups into action. Such groups lack proper policies and leadership that can drive their agenda (Egypt Programme, AusAID, 2011). Although such groupings are difficult to sustain, they have created an avenue for the representation of the youth in policy and decision making.

As Tunisia and Egypt undergo restructuring in their political institutions, Libya will have to come up with a functional civil society from the ground (Anderson, 2011). During these restructuring, social inclusion will take place and therefore this will promote social development to the MENA countries as a result of the Arab Spring.

Economic aspects

The Arab spring will favor the Oil producing countries that felt little weight of instability in the short term. The drop in tourist arrivals in Egypt by 45% may be replicated in other parts of the region like Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon and Jordan. This may harm their incomes (Riordan 2011). There are also likely declines in foreign investments in such countries as Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen (EIU, 2011).

Lack of economic reforms may call for a second revolution in some countries like Egypt (Egypt Programme, AusAID, 2011). On one hand, governments will have to take care of vested personal interests and corruption, while on the other, they will have to ensure political stability (Riordan 2011). Commodity subsidies may have negative effects to the economies on the long run though they may be politically beneficial to governments that distribute them (Saif, 2011). Thus, policies responsive to the target groups will be required.


From the above discussion, it can be concluded that the Arab Spring in MENA may be end up soon or later. However, no matter how long it will take to quell, the potential effects of such uprisings will continues to affect the economies of the region. They will also affect the political and social aspects of the region as well as of the world. It is therefore right to say that the way the issue of the Arab Spring has been handled, is critical to the world peace and stability now and in future.

Reference List

Anderson, L. (2011). . Foreign Affairs. Web.

Boucek, C. (2010). Yemen on the blink. Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). 2011. EIU, April 2011. Web.

Egypt Programme, AusAID, (2011). : Effects of the ‘Arab Spring’ on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Governance and Social Development Resource Center. Web.

Hope-Schwoebel, M. (2011). . United Sates Institute of Peace. Web.

Humanitarian Country Team, (HCT). (2011). Yemen Civil Unrest and Displacement. HCT situation report No. 1. Web.

Katzman, K. (2011). Bahrain: Reform, Security, and US Policy. Congressional Research Service. Web.

Nuseibeh, G. (2011). Bahrain needs a home-grown think-tank for long term stability. Web.

Rogers, P. (2011). Arab Spring or Autumn? Paul Rogers monthly global Security briefing, Oxford Research Group. Web.

Saif, I. (2011). , Carnegie Middle East Center. Web.

Sharp, J. M. & Blanchard, M. (2011). . Congressional Research Service. Web.

Yacoubian, M. (2011). . United States Institute of Peace. Web.

Ziadeh, R. (2011). Power and policy in Syria. Democracy in the Middle East. London: I.B Tauris.

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