Overview: Arab Spring and Egyptian Revolution


1. Map of Arab Spring 2. Map of Tunisia, where Arab Spring originated 3. Mohamed Bouaziz, a Tunisian street vendor sets himself on fire after local police accosted him; the catalyst of Arab Spring 4. Thousands of Tunisians protest against Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, (now former) president of Tunisia and his 30 year reign 5. Tunisia’s revolt inspired Egyptians to start their own protests, which was also fueled by Khaled Mohamed Saeed’s brutal death inflicted by the police 6. Egyptian citizens show their contempt for (now former) president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak and his nearly 30 year reign 7. Thousands of Egyptians gather to march in protest

Arab Spring, the widespread protests and revolts in the Arab world and in northern Africa, originated in Tunisia.

Brief History of Tunisia

1956: France ended its colonial rule in Tunisia. Habib Bourguiba then ruled for the next 30 years.

1987: Zine al-Abindine Ben Ali, or Ben Ali, dismissed Bourguiba on counts of senility. Ben Ali was a controversial leader, not only because of Tunisia’s corrupt government, but mainly because he tampered with the elections which allowed him to be re-elected up till 2009.

Dec. 17, 2010: The Catalyst of the Arab Uprisings. Jobless, university graduate Mohamed Bouazizi tried to sell vegetables/fruit without a permit in a town called Sidi Bouzid. When the police seized his cart, he set himself on fire. News sources, such as BBC News and the New York Times, reported this event as an act of protest against the oppressive political and economic laws of Tunisia.

This act also set the tone for the rest of Arab Spring: protests against ruler oppression and economic disparities, and for human rights.

The Scale of Arab Spring

Since December, multiple countries have protested, including Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan, which protested in January. Recently, Syria has also received a lot of coverage for its protests. This anthropological site will focus on Egypt, the first country to have had major protests after Tunisia.

(For a more detailed description of happenings in the region, please go to “Arab Spring: an interactive timeline of Middle East protests” on theguardian news site.)

Brief History of Egypt

3100 BCE: Egypt was established

1919: Egypt’s first modern revolution occurred.

1922: Egypt established its independence

1928: Muslim Brotherhood was established in Egypt

1952-1953: The second revolution occured, which ended with the creation of the Egyptian Republic

1954: British forces leave Egypt

1956:  Nasser rises from Prime Minister to become to President of Egypt

1958: Egypt and Syria join to form the United Arab Republic (UAR)- an attempt create unity in the region

1970: Nasser dies and is replaced by his Vice President Anwar al-Sadat

1981: President Anwar al-Sadat assassinated by Jihad members. A National Referendum approves Husni Mubarak as the new president.

1987: Mubarak begins his second term

1993: Mubarak begins his third term

1999: Mubarak begins his fourth term

2005: Mubarak begins his fifth term

Quick Facts

  • Current population: approximately 79 million
  • Language: Arabic
  • 2/3 of contemporary Egyptians have never had a leader aside from Mubarak

Why Egypt is Important to the United States

  • Since the 1970s, Egypt has been a key ally in the Middle East region for the U.S. After Israel, Egypt is the next highest recipient of U.S. foreign aid (at $ billion). Until recently, the American government had very close ties with the Mubarak regime.
  • Throughout the Israel-Palestine peace process, Egypt has been served as one of the few Arab interlocutors in the region. Egypt’s involvement in the Israel-Palestine peace process can be mainly attributed to the Mubarak regime. Egypt’s involvement in the Israeli-Palestine relationship could dramatically change as the Mubarak regime is replaced.
  • There is a clear domino effect occurring in the Middle East right now (i.e. Arab Spring). Similar protests have happened throughout the region and are continuing.
  • The revolution in Egypt has caused Egypt’s stock market to plummet. Because Egypt is such an influential country in the region, the unstable nature of the country has also caused fears over access to the Suez Canal, which has increased oil prices.
  • Egypt is one of the more powerful countries in the Middle East. It has been politically and financially backed by the U.S. (increasing its power in the region) and its population is double that of any other Arab country.

Major Actors in Egypt

HOSNI MUBARAK
  • b. 1928
  • came to power in 1981 after the assassination of Anwar Sadat
  • ruled Egypt for 30 years
MOHAMED EL BARADE
  • b. 1942
  • chief of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) until 2009 when he returned to Egypt and co-founded National Association for Change aimed at creating a democratic system in Egypt
OMAR SULEIMAN
  • b. 1936
  • involved in military intelligence and became the military intelligence chief in 1993
  • on January 29, 2011, Pres. Mubarak appointed him to Vice President
MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD
  • founded in 1928 in Egypt
  • one of the largest Islamic movements and the largest group in opposition to Mubarak

THE EGYPTIAN PROTESTERS
  • The group of individuals who are anti-Mubarak and see a different future for Egypt. These individuals represent different classes, genders, and ages. They represent a hope for a new Egypt. 

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