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

  • Apocalypse How: Of the Regional/Societal Collapse variety in Syria and Yemen in particular. Diseases long beaten back have started to return, for example, and the sheer population movement out of Syria has led some in the media to declare that there is no Syria anymore.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: Many throughout the Spring:
    • In Iraq, it was Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah with Mosul shaping up to be The Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
    • In Libya, it was Misrata, Tripoli, and Sirte.
    • In Syria, it was Kobani, Aleppo, Homs....
    • In Yemen, it was Aden.
  • Balance of Power: While the protests and civil wars et al, are all due to local issues and economics, foreign involvement in these matters is only to possibly change the realities of this trope.
  • Cool Car: The technicals involved in the fighting, due to the sheer length of the conflicts, have evolved over time from simple pick up trucks with heavy weaponry bolted to the bed to rudimentary tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. Comparisons to Mad Max have been made more than once in the media.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: In an Arab League summit in 2008, Gaddafi gave one of his famous rambling speeches criticising the other leaders (and himself) for standing at the sidelines instead of defending Saddam Hussein during the 2003 war. His speech was punctuated by a warning that Saddam's fate could soon be theirs. His audience, Bashar al-Assad among them, reacted with ridicule. It is safe to say he was remarkably prescient about the future.
  • Deadline News: The area is so violent and chaotic that only the hardiest of reporters can broadcast from the heart of the revolution, exposing themselves to severe danger (and the risk of death) in the process.
    • CNN's Anderson Cooper was repeatedly punched in the face in Cairo and once refused to reveal his exact location in the city for fear of being captured and killed.
    • NBC's Richard Engel was nearly killed by a mortar in rebel-held territory in Libya, and was later kidnapped and held for five days in Syria — an experience he was sure he wouldn't survive. Engel, a veteran of multiple military embeds and two decades in the Middle East, is considered the leading expert on the region by pretty much the entire rest of his profession.
    • Marie Corvin of the Sunday Times, seasoned journalist who was famous for her eyepatch (courtesy of catching RPG shrapnel to the face when she was covering the Sri Lankan Civil War), was killed in 2012 during the Siege of Homs in Syria. In 2016, her family sued the Syrian government for deliberately targetting her as a journalist.
  • Death-or-Glory Attack: The most common strategy among any of the fighting groups in the Arab Spring:
    • In Iraq, Daesh's victories in Anbar and Mosul were due to this trope.
    • In Libya, during the first civil war, the failure of this strategy kept eastern rebels bottled up.
    • In Syria, the government tried and failed with a massive offensive toward Raqqa in mid-2016. The rebels tried the same against Assad's home province the previous year, again to abject failure.
    • In Yemen, the Houthis launched a full scale invasion of Aden, the second largest city in the country and the biggest remaining stronghold of their enemies. Unlike other examples listed, they nearly succeeded until the combined militaries of the Gulf Cooperation Council came to the assistance of the beleagured defenders of the city. Sadly, they did not learn from the Houthi's failure and have tried several attempts at this against Sana'a, to no success.
  • Democracy Is Flawed: The argument of those who opposed the removal of the Arab world's dictators by their own people, using the negative effects of the Arab Spring as their proof.
  • Disaster Dominoes: As described above, it all started with a Tunisian self-immolating himself in protest. His countrymen revolted, and then the rest of North Africa, and then the Middle East...
  • Eagle Squadron: In the Kurdish regions of Iraq and Syria, there have been reports of Americans and Western Europeans (some whom may have formerly served in the Iraq War) joining the fight against Daesh. In Libya, a lot of sub-Saharan Africans who has benefitted from Gaddafi's largesse joined Gaddafi's forces in a mixture of this and Private Military Contractors.
  • End of an Age: No matter the final outcome of the Arab Spring, it has essentially become a given that the post-Ottoman order of the middle east has been irrevocably changed.
  • Foil: Gaddafi and Assad, in the media and in their respective conflicts. The former was a Large Ham, was in power for decades, dressed strangely, and was almost funny if not for the very real consequences of his actions. The latter is The Quiet One, had only been in power ten years when the uprising began, dressed in impeccable suits, and comes off as somewhat frightening in interviews. Similarly, Gaddafi fell in less than a year, while Assad is still around almost five years on. Because of how close both of their uprisings were in media coverage, the contrast is even more stark.
  • Hereditary Republic: Syria has been this since the current president's father, Hafez, took power in 1970. It was fear of this happening in Egypt that was one of several reasons the Egyptian people wanted Mubarak gone, and likewise the Yemenis with Ali Abdullah Saleh.
  • I Have Many Names: The self-proclaimed caliphate based in Raqqa officially goes by the name the Islamic State. However, most refer it to the name it had prior to declaring the caliphate, which is translated from Arabic as either the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Before the war it was Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Outside of the English-speaking world however, most refer to it by the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, transliterated as either Daesh, Da'ish, or DAIISH. note 
  • Improvised Weapon: In addition to the modified vehicles described above, a number of rebel groups have come up with heavy weapons made from commercial or industrial ingredients available to everyday civilians.
    • The most infamous is the Hell Cannon which is effectively a metal tube that launches re-purposed gas cylinders filled with explosives and shrapnel to devastating effect. First created by the Free Syrian Army, they were subsequently adopted by the Islamic State and deployed in Iraq as well.
    • The Barrel Bombs used by the Syrian Government are an example too, as they were created from readily-available material to compensate for the Syrian Army's low supply of precision bombs, which depleted quickly during the first months of the war.
  • Neutrality Backlash: The West (and the US in particular) had collectively made an effort to stay out of the Spring when it first began. However, as the effects of the Spring have spread further and further throughout the world, the West is starting to suffer from this trope.
  • Patriotic Fervor: In the initial protests, it was this trope that drove people into the streets to fight for change (since the alternative and often only choice before the Spring was to give up on the country and leave for greener pastures), and it was this trope that was used by the more resistant governments in order to discredit any changes asked of them, leading to both poles of the trope.
  • Private Military Contractors: Used liberally by the Saudis in Yemen (mostly Colombian), and there are reports of some in Syria fighting on behalf of Assad (mostly Russian before Moscow formally intervened).
  • Regime Change: The ultimate objective of the Arab Spring everywhere, in one trope. Whether that means the people change the regime or the regime enacts needed changes, depended on the country in question....
  • Spreading Disaster Map Graphic: Has become extremely common since the beginning of the Spring, mostly in areas where the protests devolved into open war.
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: In the beginning, when the Arab Spring was a lot more optimistic, revolution-themed videos of this type started popping up on YouTube. The videos would all follow the same general pattern: Taking a speech of the dictator being targetted by revolution, take out key words and phrases, and restringing them into statements calling for their own overthrow, set to popular music. The most famous of them is Zenga Zenga, by Israeli musician Noy Alooshe, aping the dictator Muammar Gaddafi's speech denouncing the revolt in Benghazi.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: This has happened thrice so far in the Spring as of this entry:
    • The first was in Libya, as Gaddafi's forces marched on Libya's second city of Benghazi, with the Colonel himself boasting on national television his intent to level the city for daring to resist him. Soon after, NATO recieved UN authorization to intervene to protect the city from massacre, eventually leading to a more comprehensive no-fly zone being established over Libya as a whole.
    • Second time, in Yemen, when the GCC started sending their own military to directly assist the laughably overmatched Hadi loyalists, whom the GCC was backing to defeat the Houthis and reestablish order and who, sadly for the GCC, were only able to be a Curb Stomp Cushion at best. Naturally, since their direct involvement began, the battlefield has become more balanced.
    • The third instance was the direct intervention of Russian forces (particularly air power) on behalf of Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria. It is unknown as of yet what the consequences will be, with speculation going anywhere from Out of the Frying Pan to Awakening the Sleeping Giant to everything in between.
  • Tunnel Network: Sophisticated and widespread tunnel networks were used by nearly all factions engaged in urban warfare resulting from the Arab Spring.
    • The Islamic State creates massive networks of tunnels in the cities it controls in order to avoid airstrikes by the US-led coalition or the Syrian and Iraqi airforces.
    • In northern Syria, the Kurdish factions use tunnels primarily to move around enemy positions and perform ambushes and retreats more effectively. Kurdish tunnel networks are deployed preemptively to avoid a situation like Kobani where the Kurds were forced into open battle in an urban environment with their backs against the wall, something that did not suit well with their skills in mountain-guerrilla tactics.
    • Syrian rebels use such networks to avoid government airstrikes and slow down ground offensives. They have also been known to dig tunnels underneath government positions and bases so that they can infiltrate them or blow them up.
    • Auxiliaries and paramilitaries supporting the Syrian and Iraqi armies use these mostly to get around entrenched snipers and gun nests, as they do not have access to reliable airstrikes.
    • Although much rarer, the Houthis and al-Qaeda in Yemen have been known to use tunnels to compensate for their lack of anti-air capabilities.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Faida Hamdi feels this way about herself. When she confronted Bouazizi and confiscated his cart, she could not have imagined how far reaching the consequences of her actions would be.
  • Urban Warfare: The Spring in general has become one of the primary examples of this type of conflict, running the gamut from riots and protests to running street battles with police and paramilitary units to WWII style sieges. Some of the longest sieges in modern military history have occured during this revolutionary wave.
  • Vehicular Turnabout: In the beginning, the rebels, whatever the country, started out with mere AK-47s and petrol bombs. Now? They drive the government's looted tanks and APCs....
  • Velvet Revolution: Despite the bad press the Arab Spring gets these days, most of the time, the protests actually resulted in this trope. Indeed, in places like Lebanon (with their garbage protests) and Iraq (with their anti-corruption protests) in 2015, that is still the case.
  • War Refugees: One of the biggest effects of the war beyond the region proper, at orders of magnitude that are only rivaled by the refugee situation during WWII.


  • Voluntary Vassal: Because of the demographic makeup of the island and the relatively small Bahraini Defense Forces not being equipped or experienced to deal with the uprising going on there, essentially became this for Saudi Arabia in order to safeguard the royal family's rule. Bear in mind, it was already this economically before the Spring, due to the lack of its own oil resources, but the uprising tightened the relationship.


  • Revolving Door Revolution: Started under a military dictatorship, then went under an Islamist government, now it's back under a military dictatorship.


  • Big Damn Heroes: A combination of US Airstrikes and YPG ground troops was instrumental in rescuing a large number of Yazidis who were stranded on Mount Sinjar and facing extermination by the Islamic State.
  • Darkest Hour: The Islamic State’s offensive on the summer of 2014 which saw mass executions across their territories, the expulsion of Mosul’s Christians, the Yazidi genocide, the end of the Kurdish economic boom and a real possibility that Iraq would collapse.
  • The Dreaded: The Hashd al-Shaabi are seen as this by the Sunni-populated areas. Likewise, Daesh for the Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad.
  • Former Regime Personnel: A great number of high-ranking Islamic State members were former members of Saddam Hussein's government. Lots of speculation abounds on whether they have become "true believers" or are just out to get their lost power back.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the senior-most Shi'a Muslim cleric in Iraq, has always avoided politics and generally preached for reconciliation. His call to arms (which resulted with the formation of the Hashd al-Shaabi) was a sign for many Iraqis that the situation had gotten really bad.
  • Propaganda Machine: The Islamic State was engaged in a charm offensive around Anbar and Ninevah for at least a full year before their 2014 offensive, going to great lengths to earn the regions’ support. It is telling that prior to 2014; even some of the Christians in Mosul had a good opinion of them compared to the government in Baghdad.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: The Sunni protesters on the 2011 movement went to great lengths to avoid antagonising the government, lest they invite accusations of Ba'athism or Jihadism. The government accused them of such anyway. More extreme groups used this to justify an insurgency. And this trope was soon replaced by another one.
  • Revolving Door Revolution: The locals of Anbar and Ninevah supported the Islamic State in hopes that it would protect them from a government they felt was corrupt and sectarian. They probably did not imagine how bad things would get.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Sunnis, Shias, Kurds and Turkmen don’t get along. And among the Shia, Da'wa, ISCI and the Sadrists have many differences in opinion. But until the Islamic State is gone, they need to work with each other.


  • Calling Your Attacks: What eventually got Gaddafi overthrown, when he announced to Libya and the world that he would massacre any who stood against him in Benghazi and everywhere else. That had acted as the catalyst the UN needed to authorize a no fly zone and have NATO carry out an aerial intervention.
  • Civil War: The first one of the several that have resulted from the Arab Spring.
  • Confusion Fu: At the onset of the civil war when the protest was showing signs of becoming an insurgency, the Libyan Armed Forces made sound, strategic calculations on what assets to protect and where the rebels were likely to be operating. Unfortunately for them, the rebels were a disorganized, chaotic mess attacking targets that made no sense to attack and just being generally unpredictable. This ended up working to their advantage, preventing the armed forces from predicting their movements and crushing them long enough for the rebellion to gain momentum.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: During the initial war against Gaddafi, as well as the civil conflict that broke out between rival sides thereafter, there wasn't much difference between them in practice. Without his air force, grounded by NATO, Gaddafi's troops only had their green flag to distinguish them from the rebels, who flew the flag of the old monarchy. At present, the rival regimes in Libya differ only in that one is based in Tripoli and the other is based in Benghazi.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Gaddafi, when he was finally captured and already injured from an airstrike just moments before, was beaten and yelled at by the rebels and forced to plea for his life before he was executed with his own gun without trial. He was then put on display for days in a meat locker.
  • Elite Mooks: Besides Gaddafi's female bodyguards, there's also the infamous "Khamis Brigade" named after one of his sons.
  • Emergency Presidential Address: The famous "Zenga Zenga" speech he issued in response to the initial protests.
  • "Get Back Here!" Boss: After the fall of Tripoli when Gaddafi fled, the war effort to sweep up the remaining resistance from that point on was just as importantly an effort to chase down Gaddafi before he escaped/regrouped.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The rest of the world really got physically involved in the 2011 uprising after Gaddafi started threatening to blow passenger jets out of the sky if the UN didn't butt out, resulting other countries actively helping the rebels' attempt to bring him down.
    • Doubly so, since Libya has actually done this before.
    • He was reportedly fearful of military coups against him and deliberately kept his army weak to prevent this.
  • Just the First Citizen: Gaddafi's excuse for not leaving power when the protests first started.
  • Kill It with Fire: During the war he rounded up several dozen of his opponents in a cell and executed them with grenades.
  • Large Ham: Gaddafi. It was sort of his calling card.
  • Last Disrespects: Once the rebels killed Gaddafi, they did not immediately bury him, per Islamic tradition. Instead they laid his body out in the middle of a meat freezer (alongside one of his sons who had been killed with him), without bothering to remove his blood stained clothes or clean him up. Then they invited journalists and random onlookers from around the world to take as many photos as they wished.
  • Last Stand: Benghazi, just before the NATO intervention.
  • Last Villain Stand: After the brigade in charge of defending Tripoli surrendered without a fight, Gaddafi was considered an Anticlimax Boss for a time, until his remnant made their stand in his hometown of Sirte, where they resisted the rebels for nearly a month. He was killed as the city fell.
    • The loyalists sure put up one helluva fight - according to That Other Wiki, the total number of rebel casualties is six times higher than that of the loyalists. And the loyalists were greatly outnumbered, too (1,000-5,000 vs. 16,000 rebels).
  • Mouth of Sauron: Moussa Ibrahim was Gaddafi's chief spokesman, and often briefed the international media during most of the conflict, only disappearing when Tripoli itself fell....leaving those same reporters he used to brief every day at the mercy of the loyalist guards at the hotel, who held them hostage for days until the Red Cross negotiated their collective release.
  • Near Villain Victory: His forces were at the outskirts of Benghazi before the NATO airforce showed up.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Gaddafi died, and the Libyan state died with him.
  • Path of Most Resistance / Revealing Cover Up: Making headways into Sirte with no sign of Gaddafi, the rebels begun speculating that he might have already left the country. And then they stumbled on a loyalist safehouse that put up a much tougher fight.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Bureaucratized: After Gaddafi's fall, the National Transitional Council (consisting mostly of dissidents and intellectuals and ex-bureaucrats) tried to stabilize the situation, with only limited and distant support from the very nations that brought it to power, and even less support from the rebel groups distrustful of any authority. The result was this, leading to Libya's current situation.
  • Small Town Rivalry: The post-Gaddafi era of Libya has, broadly, been defined by the rivalry between the cities of Tripoli (Libya's capital and largest city, located in the west) and Benghazi (birthplace of the revolution and largest city in the east). The city of Misrata, third largest in Libya, is sometimes counted as a seperate player, as are the non-Arab tribal towns in the far south of the country. It is this rivalry that has led to the resumption of hostilities within Libya as Tripoli seeks to reimpose its will while Benghazi fights for local automony and federalization of the country and Misrata fights merely for its own interests, usually teaming up with Tripoli when it suits them.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: In order to prevent this, Gaddafi's body was not buried in his home town of Sirte, as per the family's wishes, but at a random location in the desert somewhere.
  • The Siege: The city of Misrata, third largest in Libya, was under siege by Gaddafi's forces for most of the war. Not only was it one of the most iconic events of the war itself (with many comparisons to the likes of Stalingrad at the time), but the rebels breaking of that siege was the turning point of the whole war, with Gaddafi on the retreat from then on.
  • Sanity Slippage: Just when the world thought the guy couldn't get any crazier, he started ranting about the uprising against him by his own people being fueled by Zionist agents, imperialist foreign powers and LSD, note while accusing the Western countries of orchestrating the whole thing in an insidious plot to destroy Libya's air conditioners.
    • This was just the tip of the iceberg for this trope. The more his power slipped, the more his sanity devolved. Many dictators get hit by this pretty hard when their power is threatened, and Gaddafi just fell significantly faster than most.
    • Of particular interest is the speech he gave while sitting in a broken car in a blown up building holding an umbrella, a large part of which was him commenting on the rain. No, we don't get it either.
    • After being deposed, he issued an epic rant which just screams this trope. In it he made three very conflicting points at once, including basically saying "fuck you" to Libya while encouraging them to rise up and rebel against the, well, rebels.


  • Aggressive Negotiations: In what was known as "Kneel Or Starve", Assad would surround a rebellious neighborhood or town, pummel them with artillery, and prevent any food from getting in or any people from getting out...until the rebels in question, starving and no longer able to fight, surrendered. Sometimes the rebels (without weapons) would be allowed to leave, and sometimes they'd be locked up instead. This tactic was later used by the rebels themselves, whenever they'd takeover a loyalist or ISIS-held town. The UN has since declared the practice a war crime.
  • The Alliance: One involving Iran and Russia and Assad on one side and Saudi Arabia and the West for the rebels on the other. Both view each other as actually being the makings of The Empire instead.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Syrian Kurdish militias have made it a point to show that a LOT of their fighters are women. They fight in their own units as well as with the men.
  • Better the Devil You Know: The Syrian Alawites put up with Assad not because they have any love for him, but because they fear they will be systematically persecuted by a Sunni-majority regime. This is also increasingly the attitude of the international community towards Assad.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: When Bashar al Assad took over his father Hafez's role as Syria's president, everyone thought he'd reform the government and make it democratic. He didn't, but he also was a lot less antagonistic toward his own people, so it was assumed when the Spring began there, that'd he'd buckle immediately (he was popular enough that people weren't calling for his ouster initially, just reform) and Syria would go the path of Algeria. Sadly, he proved that just because he wasn't a Large Ham like Gaddafi, who had fallen around the time the revolt in Syria began in earnest, didn't mean he wasn't as (and, as history has shown, more) dangerous than the Libyan dictator.
  • Civil War: And one of the most brutal ones in recent memory, with at least 300,000 dead and 11 million chased out of their homes (and half of THEM are now refugees elsewhere).
  • Deadly Gas: An unknown party used deadly Sarin nerve gas in August of 2013, prompting the international community to force Assad (the prime suspect as to who perpetrated the attack) to relinquish his chemical arsenal. This, unfortunately, hasn't stopped most factions from creating and using simpler and cruder chemical weapons, like chlorine and mustard gas.
  • Elite Mooks: Hezbollah and the Iranian Quds Force for Assad, former Saddam-era Iraqi military and Chechen militants for ISIS, and Al-Qaeda for most of the rest of the rebels.
  • Enemy Mine: All parties involved in the conflict have been accused of collaborating with each other at one time or another. Sometimes this meant ganging up on a third party, other times, it was to trade for basic necessities like food and electricity.
  • Exploding Barrels: One notable tactic of the war has been the Syrian Air Force's use of metal drums packed to the brim with explosives and shrapnel and then dropped on a populated area as a poor man's unguided bomb.
  • Gambit Pileup: On the geopolitical side, every major power involved has stubbornly followed its own strategy in the war to the exclusion of the rest, leading to this trope, with the further possibility (even if still remote) of escalating into something worse.
  • Genghis Gambit: Assad has repeatedly tried this. His first attempts were by opening up his prisons holding suspected jihadis in the beginning stages of the civil war, in the hope they would form their own group. That it had Gone Horribly Right is an understatement here. Once Daesh (and a stronger Al Qaeda) were around, Assad would then deliberately ignore them so that they would get stronger, hoping the rebels would fight them instead. This was only partly successful. Once the Russians became involved, this practice ended.
  • Government in Exile: Technically has one, called the Syrian National Council, but no one has really paid them any heed since it became clear early on that negotiations would be fruitless and the SNC had no connection to (or loyalty of) any rebel forces in the field.
  • Graffiti of the Resistance: The start of the Spring in Syria is attributed to a brutal overreaction of Assad's security forces to a bunch schoolkids spraying pro-Spring graffiti in Daraa, and the resulting ire of the public. They became the collective icons of the uprising that followed, which soon devolved into the brutal civil war it is today.
  • Mexican Standoff: The Siege of Aleppo in 2016 devolved into this when the government and rebel forces simultaneously besieged each-others' holdouts in the city. Some analysts have actually referred to the trope by name.
  • The Power of Friendship: In a very twisted way, this is what kept the Syrian government from collapsing through years of conflict. Despite ongoing detente, the West was quick to jump ship from Syria when the war broke out (as they had done with Libya prior). On the other hand, Russia and Iran have supported the government even at times when pulling away would have proven more beneficial for them. As a result, Putin has become very popular among government's supporters in recent times.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Because the war in Syria has gone on the longest of the Arab Spring conflicts, several personalities have made themselves well known to observers of this conflict, particularly in the pro-Assad and Kurdish camps, but the other factions have them as well. Generals Suheil al-Hassan and Issam Zahreddine for the Syrian Aran Army, Commander Abu Layla for the Syrian Kurds, and Abu Mohammad al-Julani of Jabhat al-Nusra (now renamed Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) among them. In Julani's case, this was deliberately invoked, appearing in videos with his face covered and his appearance unknown to all but his closest associates. This was likely done to avoid being tracked but it did make him a borderline-mythical figure.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: While the actions of Russia and the United States are based on important calculations and objectives and are quite serious (and deadly) in their effect on the situation on the middle east in general and Syria in particular....the media in both countries has, with varying levels of glee, taken to depicting the Obama-Putin relationship in this manner because of the Syrian conflict.
  • Sixth Ranger: Turkey, consciously playing both sides.
    • After the failed July 2016 coup in Turkey, Ankara has warmed up to Russia considerably.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Bashar al-Assad is notoriously softspoken and comes off as very cold in interviews, especially given the direction of the war these last few years.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: This is one of the reasons Daesh has lasted as long as it has, despite making enemies of practically everyone.
  • Whole Plot Reference: Many in the media are taking note of the increasing similarities between the proxy nature of this conflict and the one from the Spanish Civil War.


  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Tunisia is thus far the only nation that went as far as to overthrow its pre-Spring government to actually come out okay without devolving into Civil War like Libya or going into Full-Circle Revolution like Egypt.
  • Icon of Rebellion: The death of one young merchant became the signal that started the revolt in Tunisia and then across the region.


  • 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.
  • Ash Face: Early in the uprising when Saleh was still president, someone tried to assassinate him with an explosion. It failed, but not before injuring him in such a way that many noted this trope when the first images of him post explosion came out. Before and after. Though it earned a chuckle from his enemies and neutral observers, it did require him months of therapy to heal.
  • Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards: Hadi himself and his ministers are guarded by Emirati troops rather than his own army.
  • Defiant to the End: If you are a northerner or Houthi-supporter in the south, do not expect to win over the locals. On the flipside, don't expect the denizens of Sana'a to support you after bombing them into submission, regardless of their political beliefs. As a national cliche as well, Yemenis are known to be this to any outsider in general.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: Due to the Saudi blockade of Yemen, both literal and economic, Yemen's banking system has seized up and therefore can no longer pay for food...or recieve them even if they could. This has led to 19 of the 22 governorates food insecure and 10 of those at the brink of outright famine.
  • Enemy Mine: Before his ouster from power Saleh and the Houthis had been at each others throats. After he lost the Presidency he allied with them, and brought the military units still loyal to him to fight for them, the results were their rapid advance across the country. The same can be described for Hadi's loyalists and the southern seperatists, with the former only being able to stay on the battlefield because of the latter's willingness to fight, while the latter was only able to hold out because of the former's supplies and money.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Prime Minister (and Vice President) Khaled Bahah, from most reports, was considered more popular, more respected, and more competant than Hadi, his superior. Indeed, most saw him as a worthy successor to lead Yemen should the war ever conclude with the government still standing. Naturally, this irritated Hadi and led to a tense relationship between the two until Hadi finally and unceremoniously sacked Bahah in favor of a nameless pencil pusher as prime minister and Major General Mohsen as vice president.
  • Middle Eastern Coalition: The Gulf Cooperation Council (consisting of the Gulf monarchies and Jordan and Morocco) created a Multinational Team of the regional militaries to assist the Hadi government and local anti-Houthi militias in the civil war. This task force numbers anything from 4,000 to 10,000 strong and, if successful, may lead to the formalization of this force to protect the Arabian Peninsula. Only Oman has opted out (while non-GCC members Egypt and Sudan have opted in).
  • Puppet State: The Hadi gov't, even after Aden was liberated by the Saudis, still operates in exile from Riyadh. Indeed, one of the primary reasons the Houthis give for their rebellion (the others being anti-terrorism and anti-corruption) is that the government is this.
  • Revolving Door Revolution: The people overthrow Saleh and appoint Hadi. The Houthis then overthrow Hadi and appoint themselves. Then the Saudis attempt to displace the Houthis to reappoint Hadi again. And thats not even getting into the intentions of the southern seperatists or Al Qaeda.
  • Rock Beats Laser: The Houthis in particular have managed to pull this off for years, even before the Spring, but they really showcased this when they managed (with help from Saleh, their former foe) to continue a massive advance into hostile southern Yemen while Saudi Arabia was bombarding almost no effect. It was only when the Saudis and Emiratis sent in their own troops into the fray that any headway was made at all.
    • Even his own supporters are only using him for resources (since he's the one getting money from the Saudis)
  • The Quisling: What many, if not most, Yemenis view President Hadi as, especially since the Saudi intervention began.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: What are normally called "pro-Hadi" or "loyalist" forces by the media actually comprise of several factions whose intentions are blatantly at cross purposes with one another. The representative faction, those loyal to President Hadi, have been mostly wiped out by the Houthis. The main local force involved with the "loyalists" are actually southern separatists. The tribes in the east and center are barely involved in the fighting at all, and are only considered loyalist because they have not taken an active side on the conflict...and those who have are now with AQAP. The Coalition of mostly foreigner militaries are the only faction keeping the "loyalists" in the fight. The tension between these entities is a major reason why they continue to lose against the more isolated Houthis.

The Arab Spring in fiction:

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    Live-Action TV 
  • NCIS: Los Angeles:
    • The 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).
    • Another episode featured industrial espionage in the form of Turkey attempting to steal tech for communications satellites, apparently spurred on by fears the Arab Spring could spread to Turkey (they were hoping to derail such grassroots movements by interfering with communications).
  • The Castle episode "Pandora" states that Dr. Nelson Blakely's used his "linchpin theory" (finding a small event that will set dominoes falling on a larger one) to start the Arab Spring.
  • Madam Secretary references both sides of it repeatedly.
    • "Another Benghazi" deals with an uprising outside the US embassy in Yemen ending in a bombing, similar to the Benghazi attack except the ambassador is successfully extracted by Private Military Contractors hired by Liz.
    • "Catch and Release" prominently features an American-born member of Daesh, inspired by British-born Mohammed Emwazi.
    • "Sea Change" has the Tunisian ambassador guilt-trip Liz regarding the fact that the Tunisian revolution actually succeeded and the US is neglecting them; Liz and Dalton ultimately make plans to replace a storm-damaged naval base in Bahrain with one in Tunisia.

    Web Original 
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Middle East Uprising 2011, Arab Spring