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The Arab Revolts

Dispatches on Militant Democracy in the Middle East

Edited by David McMurray and Amanda Ufheil-Somers

Publication Year: 2013

The 2011 eruptions of popular discontent across the Arab world, popularly dubbed the Arab Spring, were local manifestations of a regional mass movement for democracy, freedom, and human dignity. Authoritarian regimes were either overthrown or put on notice that the old ways of oppressing their subjects would no longer be tolerated. These essays from Middle East Report-–the leading source of timely reporting and insightful analysis of the region–cover events in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen. Written for a broad audience of students, policymakers, media analysts, and general readers, the collection reveals the underlying causes of the revolts by identifying key trends during the last two decades leading up to the recent insurrections.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Public Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa


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p. ix-ix

We would like to thank Ted Swedenburg and Paul Silverstein for getting this project up and running, and Chris Toensing, editor of Middle East Report, for his essential input throughout the process. Rebecca Tolen, our sponsoring editor at Indiana University Press, ...

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pp. 1-11

On December 17, 2010 Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, to protest the humiliation and loss of income visited upon him by the Tunisian police. What Bouazizi experienced was a routine act of petty ...

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I. Tunisia

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pp. 13-15

Sidi Bouzid is a quiet burg located almost exactly in the middle of Tunisia. Its approximately forty thousand residents buy their produce from an open-air market ranged along a wide but sleepy street in front of a few single-story ...

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1. Tunisia's Wall Has Fallen

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pp. 16-23

For the first time in decades, Tunisia is free of one-man rule. The extraordinary events of December 2010 and January 2011 were nothing less than a political revolution: The consistent pressure of popular fury forced President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ...

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2. Tunisia's Post-Ben Ali Challenge: A Primer

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pp. 24-31

The January 14 departure of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali amidst popular protests was a long overdue demonstration of the possibility for genuine democratization in the Arab world. Mohamed Bouazizi, the street vendor whose self-immolation ...

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3. Authoritarianism and Civil Society in Tunisia

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pp. 32-38

A disturbing rumor made the rounds during the summer of 1997 at the Cafe de Paris, the Hotel Africa and the other haunts of Tunisia’s classe politique. Word had it that a constitutional commission was considering legislation allowing the government ...

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4. Structural Adjustment and Rural Poverty in Tunisia

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pp. 39-44

World Bank and IMF sponsored neoliberal reforms can have different effects on the political and social structure of receiving nations. Reforms may fortify a status quo unfavorable to the poor, or may even make a bad situation considerably worse, or they ...

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5. The Making of North Africa's Intifada

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pp. 45-48

As the waves of protest inspired by Tunisia rolled across the Middle East and North Africa, analysts were puzzled by the mysterious timing, incredible speed, and cross-national snow-balling of these uprisings or intifadas. In the six ...

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6. Beyond Ghannouchi: Islamism and Social Change in Tunisia

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pp. 49-56

On October 23, 2011, for the first time since independence in 1956, Tunisians were called to the polls in free and transparent elections. They were to choose 217 members of a Constituent Assembly that for a year would play a double role: drafting ...

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II. Egypt

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pp. 57-59

“The people want the fall of the regime!” Over the course of eighteen days in January-February 2011, Egyptians made this slogan world-famous. In Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, and in cities and towns across the country, millions ...

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7. The Praxis of the Egyptian Revolution

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pp. 60-75

If there was ever to be a popular uprising against autocratic rule, it should not have come in Egypt. The regime of President Husni Mubarak was the quintessential case of durable authoritarianism. “Our assessment is that the Egyptian ...

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8. Worlds Apart: An Egyptian Village and the International Tourism Industry

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pp. 76-82

Ayman wanted a job in tourism. But he did badly on his high-school language exams and spent two years at a school in Luxor, across the river from his village, struggling to master enough rudimentary English and German ....

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9. Strikes in Egypt Spread from Center of Gravity

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pp. 83-90

In the last decade of President Husni Mubarak’s rule, the longest and strongest wave of worker protest since the 1940s rolled through Egypt. In March of 2007, the liberal daily al-Misri al-Yawm estimated that no fewer ...

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10. Striking Back at Egyptian Workers

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pp. 91-99

The earliest mainstream narratives of the 2011 Egyptian revolution centered around a “crisis of the state.” Among the elements of the crisis were the utter failure of top-down political reform, as shown in the shamelessly...

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11. Sightings of the Egyptian Deep State

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pp. 100-106

The turbulence that hit Egypt starting in November 2011 seemed, at first glance, mostly a testament to the poor performance of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in handling the transition away from ...

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12. Egypt's Generals and Transnational Capital

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pp. 107-116

Before and after the ejection of Husni Mubarak from office, the size of the Egyptian army’s share in the economy has been a subject of great debate. The army is known to manufacture everything from olive oil ...

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III. Yemen

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pp. 117-119

Thousands of Yemenis took to Sanaa’s Tahrir Square on January 27, 2011, to demand an end to the thirty-three-year rule of President ‘Ali ‘Abdallah Salih. After being driven from the square with tear gas and batons, protesters relocated to ...

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13. No Exit: Yemen's Existential Crisis

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pp. 120-127

A venal dictatorship three decades old, mutinous army officers, dissident tribal sheikhs, a parliamentary opposition coalition, youthful pro-democracy activists, gray-haired Socialists, gun-toting cowboys, veiled women protesters, ...

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14. The Economic Dimension of Yemeni Unity

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pp. 128-136

To the outside world, the unification of the two Yemens in 1990 resembled the German experience in miniature. North Yemen (the Yemen Arab Republic, YAR) was considered a laissez faire market economy, whereas the South ...

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15. Tracing the Cracks in the Yemeni System

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pp. 137-143

The sudden announcement in July 2005 by Yemeni President ‘Ali ‘Abdallah Salih that he would step down in 2006 in favor of “young blood” set the country and the region abuzz. Having led the northern Yemen Arab Republic ...

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16. The Snake with a Thousand Heads: The Southern Cause in Yemen

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pp. 144-151

In the summer of 2007, a lively and non-violent movement sprang up in the southern provinces of Yemen to protest the south’s marginalization by the north. The movement was sparked by demonstrations held that spring ...

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17. Tawakkul Karman as Cause and Effect

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pp. 152-156

Political activist Tawakkul Karman brought Yemen’s revolution to New York in October 2011, speaking directly with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and organizing rallies at the United Nations headquarters in lower Manhattan. The purpose of her ...

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IV. Syria

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pp. 157-159

“The people want the fall of the regime” appeared in spray paint on the walls of the southern agricultural town of Daraa, Syria, over the night of March 13, 2011. A band of young teen-agers was emboldened to paint ...

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18. Asad's Lost Chances

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pp. 160-168

On January 31, 2011 the Wall Street Journal printed words that Bashar al-Asad must have winced to recall. In an interview with the newspaper, the Syrian president said that Arab rulers would need to move faster to ...

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19. Behind the Resilience of the Syrian Regime

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pp. 169-176

Seasoned observers were long accustomed to making light of apparent political changes in Syria. Following the death of Hafiz al-Asad, who ruled Syria for thirty years, and the accession of his son Bashar to the ...

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20 The Evolution of Kurdish Politics in Syria

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pp. 177-187

Over the weekend of July 16-17, 2011 representatives of the opposition to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad met in Istanbul to choose a “National Salvation Council.” Among the diverse attendees ...

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21. Dramas of the Authoritarian State

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pp. 188-195

During August of 2011, which corresponded with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, viewers of the state-run satellite channel Syrian TV might have stumbled upon quite a strange scene: A man watches ...

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22. Beyond the Fall of the Syrian Regime

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pp. 196-203

For over a year, Syrians have endured what has become the most tragic, far-reaching, and uncertain episode of the Arab uprisings. Since protesters first took to the streets in towns and villages across ...

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V. Bahrain

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pp. 205-207

On February 14, 2011, in the wake of events in Tunisia and Egypt, Bahraini demonstrators massed at the Pearl Roundabout at the edge of the capital city of Manama and demanded economic and political ...

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23. A Revolution Paused in Bahrain

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pp. 208-214

An uncertain calm settled over the small island kingdom of Bahrain at the end of February 2011. The wave of peaceful pro-democracy protests from February 14-17 culminated in bloodshed, including the brutal murder ...

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24. Bahrain's Crisis Worsens

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pp. 215-221

In the summer of 1997, an upsurge of crude firebombings, street demonstrations, and heavy repression added some nine deaths and an unknown number of arrests and injuries to the toll of the political unrest ...

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25. The Battle Over Family Law in Bahrain

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pp. 222-231

On November 9, 2005, over one hundred thousand protesters—approximately one seventh of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s population at the time—flooded the streets of the capital, Manama. Most of the protesters were Shi‘a demonstrating ...

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26. Bahrain's Sunni Awakening

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pp. 232-238

Bahrain’s most recent bout with political unrest is approaching its two-year anniversary. Though there are multiple parties to the protracted conflict, analysts continue to focus almost exclusively on a ...

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27. In the Kingdom of Tear Gas

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pp. 239-246

The talk of the possible renewal of dialogue between the Bahraini government and the opposition so far has just been talk. The reality is that street protests, after simmering in outlying villages ...


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pp. 247-250


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pp. 251-260

E-ISBN-13: 9780253009784
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253009685

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Public Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa