Arabic Spring

Arabic Spring

Arab Spring, Arabellion, term for a wave of protests against existing power relations, which from 2011 onwards led to radical political upheavals in several countries in the Arab world.

The riots started in Tunisia. Here and in other Arab countries, social inequality and a lack of future prospects for large sections of the population formed the breeding ground for an uprising movement that demanded democracy and the rule of law.


After the self-immolation of a young Tunisian greengrocer on December 17th, 2010, there were nationwide demonstrations against the authoritarian regime of Tunisian President Ben Ali, which spread to Algeria on January 5th, 2011. Between mid-January and mid-March 2011, the unrest spread to other Arab countries. The intensity and consequences of the protests varied widely. While the overthrow movements in Egypt and Tunisia (“Jasmine Revolution”) overthrew the previous rulers within weeks, an armed popular uprising in Libya, supported by NATO air strikes, only led to a change of power after six months. In Bahrain, Syria and Yemen, the governments tried to stifle the unrest with armed violence, which they succeeded in Bahrain with the help of a Saudi Arabian military intervention. According to, in Yemen, a new president was sworn in in February 2012, but representatives of the old regime remained influential. Clashes between security forces and protesters broke out in Algeria, Morocco and Iraq. Also in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Mauritania and Sudan protests broke out. The Arab Spring was initially less political parties or religious groups than initially unorganized, predominantly younger activists. In view of state censorship of the media, the mobilization took place mainly via word of mouth and via social networks on the Internet.

Further development

In Syria, the uprising quickly lost its civil character and turned into a bloody civil war that was increasingly denominational and ethnic. In Morocco, Mauritania, Jordan, Sudan, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, there were fewer anti-government demonstrations in 2012 than in the previous year, which were bloodily suppressed, especially in the last two Gulf states. In some countries, the rulers relied not only on repression but also on concessions. In 2012, for example, the Jordanian king tried to calm popular anger over the difficult economic situation by dismissing his prime minister, and Oman’s sultan promised funds for new jobs in the public sector.

In the three North African states that experienced a revolution in 2011, the further development proceeded differently. While in Egypt the military, representing the interests of the previous regime, held up the democratization process for months until President M. Morsi , a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, prevailed in 2012, supporters of the overthrown dictatorship played in Tunisia no essential role. Rather, the line of conflict ran between the Islamist ruling party and the secular forces within the government and in the opposition. Unlike in its two neighboring countries, the first free parliamentary elections in 2012 in Libya did not result in a victory for the Islamist groups. This is where the decisive and increasingly armed conflicts between rival militias or regions took place. Renewed elections in 2014 did not lead to any stabilization either, as competing governments formed. The country was threatened with permanent disintegration into various zones of influence. In Egypt, the differences between President M. Morsi and the secular opposition quickly came to a head. In July 2013, Mursi overthrown by the military, which remained the dominant power factor. Former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was elected president in 2014. A bloody civil war developed in Yemen in 2014/15.

The upheavals of the Arab Spring activated the sectarian conflict potential between Sunnis and Shiites in many countries. In Bahrain, for example, the marginalized Shiite majority of the population protested against the Sunni royal family. In Saudi Arabia, most of the protests took place in the predominantly Shiite eastern province. In both cases, the governments accused the Iranian regime of fomenting Shiite uprisings. In the Syrian Civil War, on the other hand, the Sunni Gulf monarchies supported the armed opposition, consisting mainly of Sunnis, against the Alawite- ruled security forces of the Assad regime, which in turn received aid from Shiite Iran received. In Syria and Iraq, the situation worsened in 2014/15 due to the strengthening of the Islamic State. While the local branches of the al-Qaeda terrorist network concentrated on the overthrow in their respective countries, the Islamic State advocated the creation of a cross-border caliphate.

Arabic Spring