This document is a subsection of New Media and Social Movements > Arab Spring

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The Arab Spring: Context

"The Egyptian Revolution" by Jonathan Rashad
The beginning of 2011 saw the beginning of mass protests throughout the Arab world. Beginning in Tunisia, then Egypt, and followed by Morocco, Algeria, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. All protested the repressive and anti-democratic nature of their political regimes, and called for an end to corruption, improved living conditions, democracy and the protection of human rights. 1

The world has been riveted by events occurring throughout the Middle East and North Africa that have come to be known collectively as the “Arab Spring.” Popular protests have toppled dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia, creating opportunities for transitions to genuine democracy.

Tunisian Revolution

Following the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid, a series of increasingly violent street demonstrations through December 2010 ultimately led to the ouster of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January 2011. The demonstrations were precipitated by high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, lack of freedom of speech and other forms of political freedom,and poor living conditions. The protests constituted the most dramatic wave of social and political unrest in Tunisia in three decades, and have resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, most of which were the result of action by police and security forces against demonstrators. Ben Ali fled into exile in Saudi Arabia, ending his 23 years in power.

Egyptian Revolution

Protests in Egypt began on 25 January and ran for 18 days. Beginning around midnight on 28 January, the Egyptian government attempted, somewhat successfully, to eliminate the nation's internet access, in order to inhibit the protesters' ability to organize through social media. Later that day, as tens of thousands protested on the streets of Egypt's major cities, President Mubarak dismissed his government, later appointing a new cabinet. Mubarak also appointed the first Vice President in almost 30 years.

On 10 February, Mubarak ceded all presidential power to Vice President Omar Suleiman, but soon thereafter announced that he would remain as President until the end of his term. However, protests continued the next day, and Suleiman quickly announced that Mubarak had resigned from the presidency and transferred power to the Armed Forces of Egypt. The military immediately dissolved the Egyptian Parliament, suspended the Constitution of Egypt, and promised to lift the nation's thirty-year "emergency laws". It further promised to hold free, open elections within the next six months, or by the end of the year at the latest. A civilian, Essam Sharaf, was appointed as Prime Minister of Egypt on 4 March to widespread approval among Egyptians in Tahrir Square. Protests have continued through July 2011, however, in response to Sharaf and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' perceived sluggishness in instituting reforms.(More on Egyptian Revolution)

The Libyan Revolution

The 2011 Libyan revolution was an armed conflict in the North African state of Libya between Colonel Muammar Gaddafi loyalists and those seeking to remove his government.

Protests in Benghazi on 15 February 2011 led to clashes with security forces, who fired on the crowd. The protests escalated into a rebellion that spread across the country. 2

Libya spent more than 40 years under the leadership of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi before the 2011 Civil War pushed him from power in August 2011. On October 20, Colonel Qaddafi was killed as rebels finally took control of his hometown Surt. The country was formally declared liberated three days later, and the process of creating a new constitution and an elected government began. 3

Libya is currently governed by the National Transitional Council that has pledged to turn Libya into a pluralist, democratic state. 4

References and Resources

1 International Crisis Group, 'CrisisWatch 93', May 1, 2011
2 2011 Libyan civil war, Wikipedia,
3 'Libya — Revolution and Aftermath (2011)',, November 2, 2011
4 Libya Profile, BBC News, November 1, 2011