Global Ethics Corner: The Arab Spring Turns One Year Old: What Next?

February 03, 2012

It has been one year since the start of the string of democratic movements dubbed the Arab Spring.

Citizens across the Middle East have risen up over the last 12 months in sometimes violent protest against the region's entrenched governments and autocratic regimes.

Protests and demonstrations continue in Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.

Western leaders have greeted the Arab Spring with cautious optimism.

At his State of the Union address to Congress last month, U.S. President Barack Obama declared, "How this incredible transformation will end remains uncertain. But we have a huge stake in the outcome."

As with most successful popular uprisings, the big question is: What comes next?

In Egypt, where the Mubarak regime was toppled in February 2011, military rulers have hesitated to hand over power to civilian authorities.

In Libya, where NATO intervened to assist anti-Gaddafi forces, rival militias continue to fight for control of territory.

In Syria, the ongoing government crackdown on opposition forces has grown increasingly violent and drawn the attention of international human rights activists.

As usual in the Middle East, Islamic religious leadership is a factor.

Islamist parties have won elections in Tunisia and are on the cusp of a major electoral victory in Egypt. Islamic political parties could alter the balance of power in the region and beyond.

Many Western governments worry that once in power, Islamist leaders could revert back to authoritarian forms of government, stopping the Arab Spring in its tracks.

What do you think? Will the Arab Spring lead to permanent democratic change in the Middle East? Or will the cure prove worse than the disease?

Photo Credits in Order of Appearance:
Joseph Hill
Omar Robert Hamilton
Lilian Wagdy
Pete Souza/The White House [also for picture 5]
Ramy Raoof
Ammar Abd Rabbo
Chris Brown
Joe Coyle
Steve Evans
Lorenz Khazaleh

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