Useful Notes: The Arab Spring

aka: Middle East Uprising 2011
الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام‎ Romanization , Translation 
— The motto of the uprising

In December of 2010, a young merchant immolates himself to death in protest of the thuggish policies of the Tunisian dictatorship. This soon leads to protests and, eventually, the resignation and flight of the dictator...and the beginnings of a revolutionary wave not seen since the end of the Cold War. The sheer size, importance, multitude of methods, and brutality of the unrest has made it a modern real life showcase of many tropes, listed below.

Unlike the revolutionary wave at the end of the Cold War, though, only one of the revolutions—the one in Tunisia—has successfully established a democracy. However, social changes are taking root across the Arab world as people begin to question, and some regimes have made changes to prevent damage; comparisons to Europe's Revolutions Of 1848 have begun to appear in the literature.

In General


  • Icon of Rebellion: The death of one young merchant became the signal that started the revolt in Tunisia and then across the region.


  • Full-Circle Revolution: Started under a military dictatorship, then went under an Islamist government, now it's back under a military dictatorship.
  • Meet the New Boss: The Egyptian army is well aware that the other Arab states used them as cannon fodder to try and destroy Israel several times and isn't going down that road again. They forced a peace treaty on the previous regime to ensure it would stop. When the Muslim Brotherhood government made noises about abrogating that treaty, the military got rid of them; exactly as they would have the previous regime if it had done the same thing.



  • Anarchy Is Chaos: The revolt against President Saleh distracted the military enough that there is now a four way war between Al-Qaeda, the Houthis, the Southern separatists, and the government.


  • Civil War: And one of the most brutal ones in recent memory.


  • Reasonable Authority Figure: In stark contrast to majority of the countries in which it happened, Oman got off rather lightly, as Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said made economic concessions and government reshuffles, as well as granting lawmaking powers to the national legislature.


  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Again! King Muhammad VI's government wisely (from its perspective anyway) ordered the security forces not to fire on protesters, preventing the revolution from reaching critical mass. The King nevertheless saw the writing on the wall and granted significant constitutional reforms.

In fiction:

  • An as-of-yet unpublished prequel to the youtube series The Road Gypsy stars an inexperienced Francis Easton and Cecil Banning as they travel to Egypt just before the uprising, then find themselves trying to get out before they are killed.
  • The NCIS: Los Angeles episode "Deadline" featured the team trying to track down a Libyan nationalist who was broadcasting pro-rebel television spots. Ironically, by the time the episode aired (October 11, 2011), Gaddafi had been overthrown two months earlier, and was killed a little more than a week later (October 20).

Alternative Title(s):

Middle East Uprising 2011