2011-2021, ten years later, where are the Arab Springs?

FSA soldier, May 9, 2013. On the wall, graffiti means “the revolution is peaceful” and “free Syrian army”.

REUTERS / Khalil Ashawi

Text by: Anne Bernas Follow

6 min

Ten years after the wave of protests that swept over almost all Arab countries, the results are grim.

If Tunisia has experienced a democratic transition, other countries have plunged into chaos.

A look back at this historic year and its consequences.


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The history of each Arab country is unique, but a common element unites them: with the exception of Qatar, the 22 countries of the Arab world went through a period of demonstrations and protests against the regimes in place in 2011.

The galvanized Arab world

In January 2011, Tunisia opened the ball for these movements following the immolation of a young street vendor from Sidi Bouzid.

Economic and social demands are quickly transformed into political demands.

"Get out" becomes the watchword of the nonviolent revolt which culminates in the fall of President Ben Ali on January 14.

The wind of the Tunisian revolution is spreading throughout this year 2011 to varying degrees, from Morocco to Bahrain via Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

At the origin of these Arab springs, a youth rising up against authoritarian regimes which abandon them, the lack of jobs and prospects.

The Arab peoples claim dignity, bread and freedom.

They want to free themselves from the fate that has been imposed on them.

► See also: Tunisia: "We are in a period of learning about democracy"

Sometimes called "revolution 2.0", the Arab Spring is spreading in the region and is gaining momentum in part thanks to social networks, a new weapon defying the censorship of the authorities of this youth more than ever raised.

A bitter record

If the democratic transition is quickly effective in Tunisia despite the difficulties which persist in economic and social matters, other countries do not know the same fate.

The Syrian revolution turns into an unprecedented civil war (more than 500,000 dead) which continues today;

Libya and Yemen are also in chaos.

In Egypt and Bahrain, authoritarian regimes have subdued protest movements.

For a civic revolution, not supported by political parties, to be able to succeed, there has to be a structuring of civil society

 ", analyzes Jean-Paul Chagnollaud, president of iReMMO (Institut de recherche et of Mediterranean Studies in the Middle East), professor emeritus of the Universities, director of the review

Confluences Méditerranée.

And this was the case in Tunisia where associations have always been able, sometimes laboriously, to function.

Moreover, the army did not play a major role in Tunisia, unlike Egypt and many countries in the Middle East.


And then

, continues the president of the iReMMO,

Tunisia has developed with republican values ​​since the time of Bourguiba. 


In Syria, if spring has failed, it is among other things because the regime is not authoritarian (as it was in Ben Ali's Tunisia) but totalitarian.

He quickly crushed any claim of any actor whatsoever, all form of civil society was eradicated.

Unlike Tunisia again, which has not experienced any outside interference, the Iranian and Russian presence in Syria since 2015 has helped stifle the revolution.


Also, Syria is a very special case

,” explains Jean-Paul Chagnollaud, “

it is not the state of society but the state of a clan



As for Egypt, where there was a strong structuring of society, spring quickly turned to winter because it was hijacked by the Islamists who won the elections in 2011-2012.

From there to speak of an Islamist winter?


No, the Egyptians were allowed to vote freely,”

continues the professor


The Egyptian case is the perfect example of the instrumentalisation by the army of the revolution.

The army is a state within a state.

We are rather today in an authoritarian system which is not an Islamist winter but in an authoritarian and arbitrary winter of the army.

Power even more brutal than Mubarak was



Ten years after the Arab Spring, Arab public opinion, hit by economic and social crises, thus feels a total lack of confidence in its regimes, reports The Washington Institute in the light of two polls published in Doha and Dubai.

Democracy is not a kind of instant coffee,

we can read in 

L'Orient le jour

," in order

to flourish and grow


it needs a favorable environment and a hospitable culture (...) revolted and took to the streets loathing the regimes that had tyrannized over them for so long.

But they lacked a clear, unified vision of the change they wanted.


At the regional level, the Arab Spring has also changed the situation.

Syria, Iraq and Egypt have lost their stature as regional powers.

“There remain the non-Arab powers,”

explains the director of the iReMMO:

Israel, which has done well, which has benefited from the support of Donald Trump and which has normalized its relations with certain Arab countries;

Turkey and Iran also remain today essential regional powers.

The Arab Spring has created a gigantic collapse in the heart of the Arab world.


Also to listen: The Arab Spring, ten years later: is it time for a final assessment?

A revolutionary resurgence?

Since 2019-2020, protest movements have resurfaced in Algeria, Lebanon and Iraq.

Even in Tunisia, as the demonstrations of discontent of recent days prove.

Aspirations for freedom therefore persist in the Arab world.

The beginnings of a new breath of revolution?

The future will tell, but it looks very dark.

The situation in Lebanon is alarming.


Lebanon has no state, so we can't overthrow power.

The system against which the demonstrators rose up is a system which is not only political but also societal

”, analyzes Jean-Paul Chagnollaud.


The same is true of Iraq.

The Iraqi nation does not exist, there is only an Iraqi people.

 The Sunnis indeed have their own history, so do the Shiites.

Then the Kurds who have a very large autonomy.

The history of the Arab world is well and truly still in motion.


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