It was a time of hope, excitement, change. There were peaceful gatherings and widespread protests, social media came to the forefront as a resistance technique, and leaders toppled in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen. For a time, it seemed as if revolution might be sweeping the entire Middle East, with unknown consequences. So whatever happened to the so-called Arab Spring? The biggest beneficiary may surprise you. And looking ahead, what other Arab countries are ripe for revolution? As with all things Middle Eastern, it’s complicated.
When the Arab revolutions were in their early stages – primarily in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya – hope ran high that a wave of democratic reform would wash across the region. Events kicked off with the Tunisian revolt in late 2010 and crested in Egypt’s Tahrir Square with the overthrow of the Mubarak dictatorship in early 2011. These revolutions were unique in modern Arab history for two reasons: first, they were internally and spontaneously generated and second, they were about universal values and aspirations – a desire for freedom, democratic representation, educational opportunity and decent jobs.
At the time, many people opined that this was very bad news for Al Qaeda and other extremists because the change had come about without the resort to violence that they had long urged.