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Arab Spring,in modern North African and Middle Eastern history, antigovernment demonstrations and uprisings that, from late 2010, swept many of the regions' Arab nations. Arising in large part in reaction to economic stresses, societal changes, and entrenched corrupt and repressive rule, the Arab Spring began in TunisiaTunisia
, Fr. Tunisie, officially Republic of Tunisia, republic (2005 est. pop. 10,075,000), 63,378 sq mi (164,150 sq km), NW Africa. Occupying the eastern portion of the great bulge of North Africa, Tunisia is bounded on the west by Algeria, on the north and east by the
..... Click the link for more information. in Dec., 2010, after a street vendor in Sidi Bouzid set himself on fire to protest his treatment by police and other officials. Local youths quickly protested out of sympathy, and the protests spread, with citizens getting information by satellite television, Internet social media and websites, and mobile phones (all of which played a role in many nations). After failing to restore control by force and by offering concessions, President Ben AliBen Ali, Zine el-Abidine
, 1936–, president of Tunisia (1987–2011). Educated in France and the United States, he entered the army and became ambassador to Poland (1980–94), minister of national security (1984–86), and interior minister (1986–87).
..... Click the link for more information. fled Tunisia in Jan., 2011. In EgyptEgypt
, Arab. Misr, biblical Mizraim, officially Arab Republic of Egypt, republic (2005 est. pop. 77,506,000), 386,659 sq mi (1,001,449 sq km), NE Africa and SW Asia.
..... Click the link for more information. , thousands of peaceful antigovernment protesters inspired by events in Tunisia gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square and other locations beginning in Jan., 2011. The government attempted to suppress the demonstrations, but they continued as the army stood aside; a month later President MubarakMubarak, Muhammad Hosni
, 1928–, president of Egypt (1981–2011). Air force commander (1972–75) and vice president (1975–81) of Egypt, he became president after Anwar al-Sadat was assassinated on Oct. 6, 1981.
..... Click the link for more information. stepped down and a military-led government was installed.
Demonstrators in Algeria, Yemen, Libya, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco, Syria, and other Arab nations staged similar protests with more mixed results. The events in Egypt also led to large, sympathetic demonstrations in largely non-Arab IranIran
, officially Islamic Republic of Iran, republic (2005 est. pop. 68,018,000), 636,290 sq mi (1,648,000 sq km), SW Asia. The country's name was changed from Persia to Iran in 1935.
..... Click the link for more information. . Relatively small protests in AlgeriaAlgeria
, Arab. Al Djazair, Fr. Algérie, officially People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, republic (2005 est. pop. 32,532,000), 919,590 sq mi (2,381,741 sq km), NW Africa, bordering on Mauritania, Western Sahara, and Morocco in the west, on the
..... Click the link for more information. had little impact, but in MoroccoMorocco
, officially Kingdom of Morocco, kingdom (2005 est. pop. 32,726,000), 171,834 sq mi (445,050 sq km), NW Africa. Morocco is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea (N), the Atlantic Ocean (W), Western Sahara (S), and Algeria (S and E).
..... Click the link for more information. King Muhammad VIMuhammad VI,
1963–, king of Morocco (1999–), formerly Muhammad ben Al-Hassan, crown prince Sidi Muhammad. He studied at Muhammad V Univ., Rabat, where he received bachelor's (1985) and master's (1988) degrees in law, and at the Univ.
..... Click the link for more information. offered concessions that led to constitutional changes that reduced his powers, and in JordanJordan,
officially Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, kingdom (2005 est. pop. 5,760,000), 35,637 sq mi (92,300 sq km), SW Asia. It borders on Israel and the West Bank in the west, on Syria in the north, on Iraq in the northeast, and on Saudi Arabia in the east and south.
..... Click the link for more information. peaceful protests led to promises of reform by King Abdullah IIAbdullah II
, 1962–, king of Jordan (1999–), b. Amman, educated at Sandhurst and Oxford in England and Georgetown Univ., Washington, D.C. He joined (1984) the Jordanian military, rose swiftly, became (1994) head of Jordan's Special Forces, and attained (1998) the
..... Click the link for more information. but did not result in significant immediate changes. Prodemocracy demonstrations in BahrainBahrain
, officially Kingdom of Bahrain, constitutional monarchy and archipelago (2005 est. pop. 688,300), 266 sq mi (689 sq km), in the Persian Gulf. The two main islands are Bahrain and Al Muharraq, connected by a causeway.
..... Click the link for more information. were violently crushed in February and March with the help of Gulf Cooperation CouncilGulf Cooperation Council
(GCC), officially Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, organization (est. 1981) promoting stability and economic cooperation among Persian Gulf nations.
..... Click the link for more information. (mainly Saudi) forces and the protests acquired a sectarian cast as Bahrain's Sunni government focused on Shiites in the opposition.
In Yemen, Libya, and Syria, protests in early 2011 led to prolonged conflict that approached or turned into civil war. YemenYemen
, officially Republic of Yemen, republic (2005 est. pop. 20,727,000), 207,300 sq mi (535,800 sq km), SW Asia, at the southern edge of the Arabian peninsula. The present nation of Yemen was formed in 1990, when the Yemen Arab Republic (the former Yemen or Northern Yemen)
..... Click the link for more information. 's President SalehSaleh, Ali Abdullah
, 1942–, Yemeni political leader, b. Bayt al-Ahmar. Saleh joined the army in 1958 and rose through the ranks, becoming a colonel in 1982. An active participant in the 1974 coup, he became president of the Yemen Arab Republic (or Northern Yemen) and
..... Click the link for more information. offered concessions and promised not to seek reelection, but rallies and then civil strife continued. Saleh himself was severely injured in an attack in June, and in December, after protracted and previously fruitless negotiations, an interim government that included opposition members was established. In LibyaLibya
, republic (2005 est. pop. 5,766,000), 679,358 sq mi (1,759,540 sq km), N Africa. It borders on Algeria in the west, on Tunisia in the northwest, on the Mediterranean Sea in the north, on Egypt in the east, on Sudan in the southeast, and on Chad and Niger in the south.
..... Click the link for more information. , protests against QaddafiQaddafi, Muammar al-
, 1942–2011, Libyan army officer and dictator. He graduated from the Univ. of Libya in 1963 and became an army officer in 1965. In 1969 he formed, along with a group of fellow officers, a secret revolutionary committee and led (1969) a successful coup
..... Click the link for more information. beginning in Feb., 2011, soon became a revolution that, with protection from a UN-approved no-fly zone enforced by NATO and Arab aircraft, overthrew the longtime dictator in October. Nationwide antigovernment protests in SyriaSyria
, officially Syrian Arab Republic, republic (2005 est. pop. 18,449,000), 71,467 sq mi (185,100 sq km), W Asia. It borders on Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea in the west, on Turkey in the northwest and north, on Iraq in the east and south, and on Jordan and Israel in the
..... Click the link for more information. in Mar., 2011, at first resulted in concessions, but persistent demonstrations were violently suppressed by Bashar al-AssadAssad, Bashar al-
, 1965–, Syrian political leader, son of Hafez al-Assad. A medical doctor, he left Syria (1992) for an ophthamology residency in London when his elder brother, Basil, his father's designated heir, was killed (1994) in an automobile accident.
..... Click the link for more information. 's security forces. Despite that, protests continued throughout 2011, and some security forces joined the protests and attacked government forces. Syria's unrest also had a sectarian component, with Sunnis dominant in the opposition to the Alawite-led government, and as the conflict there became a civil war in 2012 and continued into 2013, militant Sunni Islamists played a prominent role.
In general, the political changes were greatest in those nations ruled by authoritarian leaders rather than monarchs. Marked foremost by an opposition to repression and corruption, the events brought together a mix of prodemocracy and human-rights activists and Islamists—groups that overlapped to varying degrees—in most nations. Although moderate Islamists were prominent in many of the protests, more conservative Islamists emerged as a significant political force in Egypt in the post-uprising elections that took place in Dec., 2011–Jan., 2012. In mid-2013, however, the military ousted Egypt's elected Islamist president after a new round of antigovernment demonstrations.
See studies by R. Wright (2011), M. Lynch (2012; ed., 2014), L. Nouelhel and A. Warren (2012), T. Ramadan (2012), P. Danahar (2013), F. A. Gerges, ed. (2013), M. Muasher (2014), T. Cambanis (2015), and R. F. Worth (2016).