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The Arab Spring: A Disastrous Ideological Experiment

Updated on March 18, 2017


The Arab spring denotes the independent uprisings that started in Tunisia in 2010 and spread across the Arab countries of Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Libya, and Syria. Other minor countries that experienced sporadic uprisings included Djibouti, Mauritania, Palestine, Somalia, Iran, Lebanon, Oman, Sudan, Algeria, and morocco. These uprisings, civil disobedience, and demonstrations can best be described as disastrous ideological experiments that were started without a clear mission and plan for success.

Cause of the Arab Spring

Causes of the Arab Spring are not well-known. It is alleged that it originated in Tunisia when a 26-year old man set himself ablaze to express his frustration and anger at the police for beating him up and confiscating his cart alleging that he did not have the permit to operate it. The demonstrations in Egypt were believed to have been inspired by the demonstrations in Tunisia and were held on the Police Day, a national day celebrated to commemorated the death of 50 police officer under the British rule in 1952. This led to the running street battles between the police force and the demonstrators, the stepping down of Hosni Mubarak, his arrest and eventual trial and imprisonment. In Libya, the demonstrations were inspired by the ones in Egypt and Tunisia and led to the ouster and death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. In Jordan, uprisings were sparked off by the death of one man from a heart attack and the injury of over 100 due to police brutality. In Bahrain, no clear reason is known for the uprisings; unemployment, higher food prices, emergency law are some of the reasons sighted. These are the similar reasons given for uprisings in Saudi Arabia. In Yemen, demonstrators demanded the end of the 32-year rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh. In Syria Djibouti, Mauritania, Palestine, Somalia, Iran, Lebanon, Oman, Sudan, Algeria, morocco and other Muslim countries, uprisings were inspired by the ones that happened prior.

Death Toll

Countries that experienced the Arab spring saw the death toll rise due to the police and military brutal crackdowns. In Tunisia, it is believed that in the earlier months of the uprising, over 219 people died--the number could be higher. According to Human Rights Watch, over 302 people died in Egypt. In Libya, it is believed that between 2,500 to 25,000 people died in the Libyan war of 2011. In Bahrain, over 93 people were killed, over 2,900 wounded, 2929 arrested, 4,539 laid off, 17866 tortured, 500 exiled, and 534 students suspended. In Saud Arabia, 17 deaths and 195 arrests were reported; over 225,000 people lost their lives in Yemen; in Syria, a voluminous number of 470,000 people have been killed since the Arab Spring of 2011. It is believed that one in ten Syrians has been wounded. And elsewhere in the Arab world, the death toll cannot be independently confirmed.

Refugee Crisis

The Arab Spring engendered a disastrous refugee crisis that has brought untold suffering to millions of people in the affected countries. In Libya, an estimated 1,002,982 people fled the country to the border of the neighboring countries of Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, and Chad during the war; an estimated 1,400 died at sea, and over 250,000 were internally displaced. In Syria, an estimated 13.5 million people still need humanitarian assistance--4.9 million are refugees and 6.1 million are displaced within. Most of the affected refugees are children, who are susceptible to exploitation and abuse. In Yemen, the Arab spring led to the rise of Houthi, a minority armed group that has plunged Yemen into a civil war that has caused an estimated 6,800 deaths and over 2.8 million internal displacements according to the United Nations.

Growth of Insurgency and Terror Organizations

The Arab Spring led to the growth of insurgency and the spread of terrorism around the world. This has been due to the fact that many jihadists, terror suspects, and sympathizers that were released from the Arab prisons eventually became terrorist operatives. It is important to note that since the Arab Spring of 2011, the number of terror attacks around the world has increased significantly-- eleven terrorist groups have so far been added to the US terror group list. According to the Daily Signal, the terror organizations that grow out of the Arab Spring include Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia; Ansar Bayt al Maqdis and Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem in Egypt; al-Mulathamum in Libya; al-Qaeda branch Al-Nusra Front in Syria; Al-Qaeda in Yemen and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq.


Although the Arab Spring has been credited for ushering in political changes in the Middle East, it failed to demonstrate the clear vision and it faded quickly without clear outcomes. What is not emphasized, however, are the disastrous consequences of the uprisings, which include the death toll in the affected countries, the disastrous refugee crisis, and the growth of insurgency and terror organizations around the world. The fact that the uprisings happened without a clear vision for success and faded away within a short period of time, but with disastrous consequences, it is fair to say that the uprisings were disastrous ideological experiments.


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    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 11 months ago from Auburn, WA

      I've always seen that period as a lost opportunity, particularly in Lebanon. We also failed to support demonstrations in Iran that were going on at the same time. Democratic movement need to be supported and funded. It works. Just have to be patient and smart about who we use within those nations.

      Interesting piece. Good work. Sharing everywhere.