Arab Spring: Protests in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and More

In late 2010, a Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest police and government corruption. At the time, few knew that with that symbolic act, he had inspired a widespread protest movement. Shortly after, protests sprouted up through Tunisia, and called for the removal of that country’s dictatorial regime. This soon spread to countries like Egypt, Libya and more, and in 2011 a number of Arab countries saw uprisings and regime changes in what was being called the Arab Spring or Awakening. In this video, tracks the inception and rise of the Arab Spring movement.

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The Rise of the Arab Spring Movement

“The people want to bring down the regime.” Welcome to, and today we’ll be learning more about the Arab Spring.


For decades leading up to the Arab Spring, oppressive dictatorial regimes in many Arab countries frustrated their populations. Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi were just some of these powerful despots who aimed only to keep themselves in power and to accrue great personal wealth at the expense of the population.

Dictatorial Regimes

Often, the culture of fear these dictatorships promoted left populations believing their countries would collapse without their leaders. These groups were also kept depoliticized, and this was a huge factor in the 2011 uprisings.


These seemingly strong regimes quickly toppled under pressure from protesters and internet whistleblowers like WikiLeaks. At the end of 2010, that organization released a series of confidential diplomatic cables, some of which dealt with ongoing Middle Eastern conflicts. This served as a catalyst for the events that followed.

Mohamed Bouazizi

On December 17th, 2010, a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of the governor’s office in protest of police and government corruption.

Protests and Role of the Internet

People around the Arab world considered Bouazizi a hero for his extreme actions, especially after his death on January 4th, 2011. Protests sprouted in his hometown, and quickly extended throughout Tunisia and into more affluent areas. The internet proved invaluable to the proliferation of this movement through Tunisia and beyond, with social media sites like Facebook mobilizing protesters and Twitter spreading the message in spite of web censorship.

Fall of Tunisian President

The unrest caused Tunisian president Ben Ali and his family to flee the country in mid-January, and this marked the end of his regime. By mid-year, he and his wife were hiding in Saudi Arabia when they were found guilty of money laundering and drug trafficking in Tunisia.

Fall of Egyptian President

The turbulence quickly extended to other Arab countries. An uprising in Syria began in late January. Bahrain followed suit the next month. The New Year ’s Day bombing of a Coptic church in Egypt ignited clashes in that country. By the end of January, Tahrir Square and surrounding areas hosted hundreds of thousands of dissenters who were protesting against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his government. On February 11th, Mubarak’s resignation was announced, after 30 years in office.

Fall of Libyan President

Meanwhile, in the North African state of Libya, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi condemned the unrest in Tunisia. By mid-February, protests against his own government intensified. The regime responded with violent force, and a civil war soon broke out. By August, Gaddafi was ousted from power by rebel forces, and his government was replaced by the National Transitional Council. On October 20th, he was captured and killed.

Other Regime Changes

The sudden falls of these leaders caused several others to announce they would be stepping down or not seeking reelection: in 2011, governments in Sudan, Iraq, Jordan and Yemen announced they would undergo drastic changes.

More Protests

Throughout these events, similar government suppression and demonstrations took place in many other countries.

First Arab Spring Vote

By October, Tunisia went to the polls in the first vote to result from the Arab Spring uprisings. In fact, this was the country’s first ever free vote, and with it they chose to elect a previously-banned moderate Islamist political party. Other countries slowly began to follow suit by installing democratic governments.

A Work in Progress

Despite this progress, it was only the beginning of the transition period. The dictators had lost their vice grips on many countries; however, the daunting task of changing long-held political stances still lay ahead. In addition, many of the nations affected by the uprisings faced sharp economic downturns due to the region’s instability.

The Occupy Movement

Among its many effects, the Arab Spring was also credited as the impetus for another huge protest group in 2011: The Occupy movement started in Kuala Lumpur and also used the internet to spread across the globe. This, in addition to the Arab Awakening, signaled a worldwide confrontation of the status quo.

2011: A Year to Remember

By year’s end, there was no doubt as to the significance of the Arab Spring as a political liberation movement. Its effects were widespread, and 2011 will go down in history as a year to remember.

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