TUNIS, Tunisia – The Arab Spring was sparked in Tunisia three years ago when Mohammed Bouazizi set himself afire on December 17, 2010. Bouazizi’s self-immolation was a result of his frustration with the conditions in Tunisia and it inadvertently started a revolution that spread from Tunisia to other North African and Middle Eastern countries. Protesters rose up to fight for liberation from authoritarian governments and to have better economic opportunities. One may ask, however, has the Arab Spring brought forth democracy and economic growth?
The conditions have actually worsened in some Arab Spring countries. It has been three years since the Arab Spring began and violence, economic decline and political instability continue in multiple areas. Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria are all failed states, according to the 2013 Failed State Index. All of them have moved up on the list since 2010 and Yemen, now in the top 10, ranks in at 6 on the list, up from 15.
Corruption and political instability have increased in Libya, Syria and Yemen. Transparency International conducted a survey to measure corruption on a scale of zero to 100, zero being the most corrupt. Libya had a 6 point drop at 15, Yemen dropped down to 18 by 5 points and Syria fell to 17 with a 9 point drop. Over four-fifths of Middle Eastern countries rank below 50. Furthermore, the global average is 43, whereas the Middle East average is 37.
Lawlessness in Yemen allowed corruption to sweep through the military, police force and the government when President Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted last year. Moreover, corruption was the norm during Moammar Gadhafi’s rule in Libya and it has not ceased since his government collapsed. The order of the Syrian state is in jeopardy as the nation is eroded by civil war, smuggling and bribery.
Tunisia ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali from power and was celebrated as a major victory. Tunisians were optimistic that democracy would soon replace Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime, however, two years have passed and the Tunisian government finds itself in a state of collapse. In fact, polls reveal that 81% of Tunisians disagree with the direction Tunisia is headed, with nearly half the population, at 52%, finds Tunisia is worse now than it was under Ben Ali. However, democratic values remain significant to the wide majority.
Syria and Egypt have struggled the most in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Syria is embroiled in a deadly civil war with President Bashar al-Assad who is still in power and a death toll of 126,000. Civilians make up 44,381 of the deaths along with 6,627 children and 4,454 women. Though most of the deaths have been from the use of conventional weapons, the United Nations has found overwhelming evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Assad.
Violence ensues in Egypt where protesters and security forces continue to clash. In fact, Mohammed Morsi was forced out of office after he was elected president following the removal of Hosni Mubarak from power. The military now acts as the interim government and opposition towards its power has grown. Islamists and secular protesters have both been targeted by the interim government now that unapproved protests are illegal. Moreover, numerous student protesters have been incarcerated and killed since the crackdown began.
The aftermath of the Arab Spring shows that change is an ongoing process, due, in part, to the fact that democratic governments and the institutions that hold them accountable are not built overnight. The removal of authoritarian leadership does not always result in instant success. For the most part, though setbacks are always a possibility, it takes time for a country to rebuild.
– Brittany Mannings