The Middle East Domino Effect
After the citizen’s revolt in Tunisia, which began in December, a domino effect rippled through the Middle East. It triggered massive protests of students and working class people all demanding democracy, employment options and a transparent, non-corrupt government.
Before December, the Middle East was beginning to see a growing middle class, with certain nations seeing an emergence of gender equality and liberal social norms. However, in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen and Libya, the governments were repressive to freedom of speech, employment options were limited for the college educated youth and people began to see the lavish upscale lifestyles of their presidents and prime ministers while they were still hunting for work.
The Beginning: Tunisia
The peace and political stability in the Middle East shattered when a Tunisian street vender set himself on fire in protest of the confiscation of his products and the harassment that was inflicted upon him by officials. Within days, violent protests erupted across the nation in opposition of Ben Ali, the second President of Tunisia who came to power in 1987. The protestors were able to communicate and circulate calls to meet through social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Many of the protestors were college-educated students who violently demanded more jobs and called for the resignation of Ali.
After weeks of violent protest during which 78 people were killed, Ali fled the country after failing to appease the demonstrators with promises of an election. On Feb. 22 the head of a Tunisian government commission began to rescind the oppressive laws of Ali’s government and attempted to make the transition to a multiparty government. The elections for a new constituent assembly are set for July 2011.
Egypt erupted in massive protests in January as the revolutions in Tunisia appeared to spark deepened grievances and hostilities toward Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt for 30 years.
After 18 days of protesting Mubarak resigned. During these protests, 365 people were killed and thousands were injured. People in the streets clashed with police while screaming “We are not leaving – we are ready to die here – Please tell the world to pray for us.” According to NBC News Feb. 1, there were between one-half million to two million protestors on the streets. The parliament has been dissolved; the military will rule for six months; and the caretaker government, which includes Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik, will continute to operate until a new one is formed. On March 11, Shafik resigned, and was replaced by Essam Sharaf, the former transport minister.
In the midst of the Egyptian protest, between 250 to 1000 protestors began demonstrating in Algeria Feb 12. Their demands included: improved living standards, a transparent democracy and a free media. The Algerian government, led by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has consistently had more police in the streets than protestors to ensure that the protests do not strengthen and challenge the authority of the government.
So far, there have been three separate marches to the capital, which have all been viewed as unsuccessful. The minority of the people who are protesting are becoming weary due to the heavy violence and lack of progress. Although the progress is slow, people are still protesting, but most of the protestors, who are students, are having difficulty connecting with the ordinary people.
Although comparatively small, citizens of Bahrain have also taken to the streets demanding more responsiveness from their government.
The protests in Bahrain have centered on the demand for democracy and the resignation of the president. On Feb. 16, thousands of protestors stamped on Pearl Square, a symbolic center in the nation. The next day, hundreds of armed police officers fired live bullets, threw tear gas and concussion grenades at the thousands of people who were sleeping in the capital, resulting on the death of five people. On Feb. 18 citizens saw even more violence when government forces fired upon the protestors.
The opposition to the government has decided to meet with the prince of Bahrain, Hamad Ibn Isa Al Khalifa, but no date has been set, and daily protests are still occurring throughout the nation.
On Feb. 16, people from all social classes revolted against Col. Muammar eel-Qaddafi who seized power in Libya in 1969. He has controlled Libya, an oil rich nation in North Africa, by censoring information by military force. Protests began with an anti- government opposition group in Benghazi, it rapidly and spontaneously spread to the capital. Qaddafi responded with violence.
Currently, the opposition appears to be steady and unwary, and the Qaddafi government has said that they are willing to use military forces to prevent the takeover of the government. The frequent clashes in Libya between the two groups look as if the nation is falling into a civil war. The protest could go on a few weeks or, potentially, months.Share