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History As It Happens

Aug 24, 2021

In 2011 uprisings known as the Arab Spring burned across North Africa and the Middle East, toppling autocrats in four countries and igniting protests in several more. Leaders who had been fixtures in the region’s political landscape, such as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, were swept aside. Civil war exploded in Libya, Yemen, and Syria. The scenes were inspiring: public squares teemed with ordinary people demanding freedom in countries bereft of political tolerance and civil liberties during the century following the First World War and the treaties that carved up the Arab lands to the benefit of European colonial powers. With the partial exception of Tunisia, however, representative forms of government and pluralistic civil societies were stillborn, fueling additional grievances about the lack of human rights, corruption, and absence of economic opportunity and social mobility. In this episode, Dr. Elie Abouaoun, a human rights expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace’s offices in Tunisia, says the Arab Spring failed to produce fundamental change because the root causes of most grievances were left unaddressed.