Causes of the Arab Spring

Causes of the Arab Spring


Causesof the Arab Spring



Causesof Arab Spring

Introducesthe topic and provides background information about the Arab Spring.Culminates with a thesis statement


Discusseseconomic factors that led to the Arab Spring and highlights factorsthat were a result of external forces and those caused by internalforces


Discussescorruption in the Arab world with emphasis on Egypt, Libya, andTunisia where the uprising began.


Discussesthe role social media played in propelling the uprising. Highlightsthe state of social media in the Arab world before, during, and afterthe Arab Spring. Various social outlets that played a role arediscussed.


Summarizesthe essay by restating the topic.

Causesof the Arab Spring

Onthe seventeenth of December in the year 2010, a 26-year Tunisiangrocery vendor in Tunisia named Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fireafter a policewoman confiscated his weighing scales for hisunlicensed vegetable cart. The policewoman also allegedly spurt inhis face, slapped him, and insulted his deceased father. The placewhere the incidence took place is called Sidi Bouzid, and it is amongthe most depressed regions in Tunisia with unemployment among youthsgoing as high as 40%. The action of Mohammed would later lead to anuprising that involved almost the whole Tunisian population rangingfrom the wealthy and students to poor peasants (Ansaniand Daniele, 2012).What began as a minor demonstration escalated rapidly, resembling arevolution in characteristics, and with a new objective of achievinggreater political and civil rights. The revolution spread to othercountries in the North African region and the Middle East. Therevolution later became to be known as the ‘Arab Spring’ or ‘ArabAwakening’. The Arab Spring is a pro-democracy uprising whose aimis to bring down corrupt totalitarian regimes that oppress thepeople. The uprising has met some serious reaction from thegovernments of the countries in question. Government authorities usedlethal force while anti-demonstrators and pro-government authoritiesand militias respectively mounted extra pressure on demonstrators(Ogbonnaya,2013).Authoritarian leaders across the Arab world in countries like Yemen,Bahrain, Egypt, and Libya were shaken with some relinquishing powerafter decades of ruling. Ben Ali, the president of Tunisia by thenfled to Saudi Arabia while Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned from powerafter ruling since 1981. In Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, a dictator whohad held power for 40 years was killed after civilian forces defeatedhis soldiers at his last strongpoint. The uprising led to a civil warin Libya and Syria (Ansaniand Daniele, 2012, Ogbonnaya, 2013).The Arab Spring may seem to have been caused by the self-immolationof Mohammed Bouazizi, but with greater in-depth analysis, it becomesclear that there are more deep-sitting causes. The Bouaziziself-immolation incident was simply the final straw. This paper willdiscuss three major factors that can be argued to have been majorcauses of the Arab Awakening.


Accordingto Salih (2013), financial pressures are at the top of the list ofmajor causes of the Arab Spring. Many Arab economies have beensubjected to enormous pressure from IMF, World Bank and otherinternational financial organizations since the mid-1980s. Thefinancial pressures were caused by the Structural Adjustment Program(SAP) that led to the cancelation of government subsidies on basiccommodities, while increasing taxation on consumption for citizens inArab countries. One of the results of the program was increasedunemployment and granting of taxation and custom exemption to foreigninvestors. This led to economic impoverishment of the largest portionof the population in Arab regions as indicated by high unemploymentrates, especially among youths. Youths in the Arab world are themajority in the Arab world, rising to as high as 65%. Rise in foodprices was also very high, which made life even more unbearable. Onthe contrast, the ruling class was very wealthy as a result of theSAP program created by the IMF and World Bank. Therefore, youthsbeing the majority and under unbearable economic pressure, would goahead to rebel against the ruling class in quest for equality andpolitical and civil rights (Salih, 2013). Arab countries are verysensitive to world food prices because they are low to middle-incomecountries. There have been several ‘food riots’ in thesecountries which coincide with increases in rises in world foodprices. As such, a link can be identified between civil unrest and arise in world food prices. At the time of the uprising, there was arise in world food prices (Ansaniand Daniele, 2012).

Theglobal financial crisis of between 2008 and 2010 also played a bigrole in shaping the Arab Uprising. Most Arab countries of NorthAfrica have adopted international openness with a view of improvingtheir economies. International financial organizations require thecountries to maintain a given level of economic openness to theinternational community in order for them to receive funding. Thiscan be seen in part in the increase of Foreign Direct Investmentinflow to the region. In 2010, the region received 1.2% of global FDIinflows, which was a big increase compared to previous years.Previously, the region had received as little as 0.2% of global FDIinflows. Maintaining international openness has its advantages interms of economic benefits. However, it also exposes a country togreater dangers of contagion in case of a crisis that has aninternational impact such as the global financial crisis (Ansaniand Daniele, 2012).The global crisis stroke the economies of the Arab world in theirmost robust sectors through a fall in prices of oil, drop in tourism,and international for raw materials they generate. In more fragilesector, the Arab economies were affected in their manufacturingsector. Oil exporting countries such as Libya and Algeria wereaffected directly by falling oil prices, while neighboring countrieswere affected indirectly. Demand of manufactured goods in America andEurope diminished or got re-oriented towards Asian countries. Theresult was increased layoffs, rising food prices, and a general risein cost of living which culminated into increased civil unrest andserved as fuel for the Arab Spring (Ansaniand Daniele, 2012 Douglas et al., n.d).


Corruptionwas one of the major causes of the uprising. Corruption was deemamong the ruling elite class and government officials, which led tounequal distribution of state resources among citizens and regions.Members of the ruling class are extremely wealthy and they use theirwealth to amass more wealth at the expense of national development.They enter into national deals for their own benefits rather than fornational interests. This was one of the major reasons why themajority poor decided to launch demonstration against the leaders. Corruption scores as measured through the MO Ibrahim index andTransparency International scores reveal that countries of the Arabworld are extremely corrupt. MO Ibrahim index scores run from 0 to100, where 100=best and 0=worst. Transparency International scoresrange from 0 to 10 with 0 being highly corrupt and 10 very clean.These corruption measurement indices measure corruption in bothpublic and domestic sectors. Main components in the indices areelectoral fraud, nepotism, bribery, slush fund, political scandal,plutocracy, kleptocracy, and cronyism. In Egypt, corruption amonggovernment officials was 40 point on the MO Ibrahim scale, while inTunisia and Libya, it was at 49.0 and 0.0 points respectively. Egyptsaw its corruption rating deteriorate in 2008 with little effortsfrom the government to correct the situation (Rijkerset al., 2014).

Tunisiangovernment was deeply corrupt, and only gave power to the rulingclass. The country experienced extensive corruption in both publicand private sector, leading to abuse of office and power by familymembers and cronies of the president, Ben Ali. Competition facedpervasive barriers that led underperforming companies to remain inbusiness despite low productivity. The firms were merely ways forcronies of the regime to create rent, something that the led economyto be converted into a system of rents and privileges. Business inthese states was exposed to high levels of scrutiny, which isnormally associated with corruption. A company needed to be connectedfor it to survive in the regimes (Jamoul,2012).

Thecorruption in the police force was at its peak in these countriesbecause it is the police officers who enforced the oppressive lawspassed by the tyrants. In a video captured by one Khaled Said, policeofficers were seen distributing drugs they had confiscated amongthemselves. Bouazizi’s self-immolation was a result of the sameincident. Police confiscated items from the public and kept them forthemselves, something that angered people so much. Khaled Said whoexposed police corruption was later bitten to death by two policeofficers. In conclusion, the repressive violent nature of governmentsof Arab countries and their efforts to suppress personal libertiesagainst a backdrop of deterioration of the economy and corruptionwere at the heart of the Arab Spring (Jamoul,2012).


Beforethe Arab Uprising, terms such as marginal, alternative, and elitistwere used to describe social media in the Arab world. Social mediahad minimal penetration because of the states lacked internetconnectivity. However, with the events that began in 2011 afterself-immolation of Bouazizi, social media has come to the forefront,with social sites such as Twitter, YouTube, weblogs, and Facebookbeing credited with making the Arab Uprising possible (Gerbaudoet al., n.d).Social media played a huge part in planning, acceleration andpreparation of some of the uprisings in the Arab world. Social mediawas employed effectively to get people to wake up and fight for theirrights and freedom. It allowed people to connect in ways that theynever did before, causing angry groups of people to organize andmetamorphose in a way that led to redefinition of the relationshipbetween citizens and their governments. Had social media beenlacking, groups in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Tunisiawould have had difficulties spreading information, gathering, andunifying quickly (Hassan,2015).

Beforethe uprisings, uprisings that occurred had been highly credited tosocial media. Increased presence of the Internet and satellitetelevision through stations like Al Jazeera openly displayed thefollies of Arab leaders to the Arab public, which was initiallyskeptical. Arab leaders were exposed and could not go about theirbusiness in private while crushing symptoms of discontent in thepublic simultaneously. People had access to information andstatistics and possessed the ability to express their opinionspolitically without fear of being harmed by their leaders. Throughsocial media, social movements had access to new and vital tools toachieve goals initially viewed as impossible. The story ofself-immolation of Bouazizi was told over and over on Facebook as thevideo was shared and broadcast on YouTube. The story of beating todeath of Khaled Said by police officers was also told on social mediain all of the Arab world. These stories motivated people to unify andorganize themselves into a force to challenge their regimes. Youthswere particularly notorious users of these social outlets and werevery vocal in sharing their frustrations and desires. As a result ofthe assistance offered by social media, the countries have achieved abetter level of freedom and civil rights than before. Social mediacontinues to be widely adopted and liked by the public, and cannot bestopped by authorities again (Hassan,2015).


Inconclusion, the Arab Spring was fuelled by several deeply-seatedfactors than its immediate cause. Social media was at the heart ofpropelling the news and raising awareness in people while corruptionand economic hardships were the cause for the need to act.


Ansani,A., &amp Daniele, V. (2012). About a Revolution: The EconomicMotivations of the Arab Spring. InternationalJournal of Development and Conflict,2(03),1250013.

Douglas,C., Fischer, A., Fletcher, K., Guidero, A., Marktanner, M., Noiset,L., &amp Wilson, M. The Arab Uprisings: Causes, Consequences, andPerspectives An Extended Summary of a Panel Discussion with RamiKhouri.

Gerbaudo,P., Harkin, J., &amp Ghrer, H. Westminister papers in communicationand culture

Hassan,S. F. (2015). Socialmedia and the Arab Spring(Doctoral dissertation, Rutgers University-Camden Graduate School).

Jamoul,H. A. (2012). The Arab Spring: The Root Causes? TheLebanese Communication Group. February,20.

Ogbonnaya,U. M. (2013). Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya: A ComparativeAnalysis of Causes and Determinants. Alternatives:Turkish Journal of International Relations,12(3).

Rijkers,B., Freund, C., &amp Nucifora, A. (2014). ThePerils of Industrial Policy Evidence from Tunisia.Mimeo, the World Bank.

Salih,K. E. O. (2013). The roots and causes of the 2011 Arab uprisings.ArabStudies Quarterly,35(2),184-206.