The Arab Spring is the term that represents many protests and rebellions on the territories of the Middle East and North Africa. The series of those events became an active catalyst for different ideological and political movements and contributed to the clash of various views within Arabic countries. The purpose of this paper is to conduct a thorough research about the Arab Spring and its implications and to observe how those movements influenced Morocco.
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The rebellion in Tunisia at the end of 2010 symbolizes the initiation of the series of incidents on the designated territories that received the name the Arab Spring. It is the third period in history for the Arabic world that has this description. Events of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the XX century, and media and political upheavals of 2005 also used this term (Davis 1). Scholars offer numerous names aimed to describe the events in the Arab territories of those times. Such terms as “Arab Uprising,” “Arab Awakening,” “Unfinished Finished Revolutions,” and “Arab Winter” were used to represent the nature of those happenings. However, the Arab Spring remains to be the primary characterization of the political unrest that changed the regions of the Middle East and North Africa (Davis 1). Therefore, the movement originated in Tunisia and spread to other countries later can be described as the third Arab Spring in those areas, which gained an even more violent nature.
Events in Tunisia in December 2010 had a fast shift to Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Libya, and Bahrein in 2011 through 2014. Though those six countries represent the most significant participants of the movement, the Arab Spring had its influence on other Arab territories. Numerous protests with the requirement to listen to their rules occurred in Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, and other Arab countries. The primary goal of the uprisings was to reach political transformations that had democratic but, at the same time, revolutionary essence. In different areas, the events varied; for example, the first peaceful movements in Bahrain and Syria changed into intensive civil activism and civil war (Browniee et al. 4). In Tunisia and Yemen the revolution strived to create a just democracy with the values of freedom, while in Egypt, it “represented a return of spirit and consciousness” (Fawcett 332). The factors that had an impact on the rise of civil confrontation throughout the regions might have been different, but the strive for regime changes was the same.
The paragraphs above mention that the Arab Spring started in Tunisia. A devastating event symbolizes the start of the movements: a 26-year-old man set himself on fire out in the streets (Browniee et al. 10). Protests and riots followed his sacrifice with a major complain of unemployment, low economic opportunities, and unfairness. Similar to the chain of reaction, people started to go out on the streets in other countries, following the courage of Tunisia, seeking changes on a bigger scale. All of the areas involved wanted to reach the political regime change, the thrive in the economy, and better opportunities for people. The Arab Spring can be characterized as a period full of losses. Within three years of the movements, almost 100,000 people died in the territories of sixteen countries, while the subversion of autocratic regimes happened only in four of them (Browniee et al. 10). Therefore, it is evident that the serious intention to challenge the powers within the areas did not bring the expected results.
It is crucial to observe the state of the economy in the participated regions and how the Arab Spring influenced it. In 2013, HSBC bank estimated that, by the end of 2014, the total costs of the rebellions in the Arab world would reach $800 billion (Sottilotta 384). The costs imply the losses in the output, which had a critical impact on the relationships with foreign companies. Financial and economic losses of the uprisings can also be traced through the changes in the gross domestic product of those countries. In comparison with the year 2007, by 2011, each of the six primary Arab Spring activists experienced a severe decrease in GDP (Sottilotta 383). Consequently, in combination with ongoing turmoils, those areas started to represent even higher economic, social, and political risks.
Although essential protests were happening in the territories of Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Libya, and Bahrein, as mentioned above, the uprisings awakened the spirit of other areas as well. This paper will focus on the analysis of the case of Morocco in particular. While the riots were massive and the demonstrations were impressive in those six countries, the kingdom of Morocco had more individual uprisings. The protests had the same objective of eliminating discrimination and unemployment, and those individual movements in different areas often were happening simultaneously. In Morocco, there is a classification for the poor and the rich (Gelvin 158). The majority of the population does not receive proper conditions and opportunities. As far as the king of Morocco did not have oil to buy the loyalty of opposition, he got it by making tiny changes in the constitution (Gelvin 158). Thus, besides the absence of massive disturbances in Morocco, the population demanded justice and vast political reforms.
With the beginning of upheavals in Morocco, the government had decided that the best defense would be to invest in the country’s armed forces. The defense apparatus of the state is powerful and represents the only possible response of the rules to the emerging riots and protests. It is curious to mention that, with the emergence of the Arab Spring uprisings, Morocco increased the investment per head in armed forces (Hill 281). Throughout several weeks, public protests and opposition groups were heavy-handedly treated by the regime. Turmoils in other Arab countries at that time, the size of demonstrations, and their scope explain the seriousness of the defense mechanism (Hill 281). The absolute power of the king and unresolved chronic issues within the country, influenced by the upheavals of the most active Arab Spring participants, made people stand up and show their voice in Morocco.
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The 20 February Movement was one of the most critical events on the territory of Morocco, following the Arab Spring. On that day in 2011 almost 200,000 people went out on the streets expressing their demands and desiring changes (Hill 281). The decision for the emerging situation was addressed in the king’s speech at the beginning of March with a promise to reform the constitution. There was a fear within the government of what those demonstrations could have become (Hill 281). The interesting point is that Morocco has experienced riots before, but this time, with the third Arab Spring movement, the protesters were informed that they were not alone. Despite a strong urge to demand the changes, the protests in Morocco had a peaceful nature. According to Hill, “Morocco was distinct from other cases during the Arab Spring as the organizers of the demonstrations never escalated to the use of violent tactics” (282). Therefore, a timely response from the king reshaped the course of possible riots in Morocco.
Still, it is crucial to focus more on the 20 February Movement and its importance for the country. The point is that this unrest significantly differed from the previous protests because it had revolutionary potential. Unlike the last historical revolts, this event made an emphasis on peaceful demonstrations, but, additionally, it was more spontaneous and was not managed by specific opposition groups. The nature of the movement seemed extremely problematic for the government. After the king’s speech with promises, the demonstration was divided. Because of the uncertain nature of this uprising and with the absence of influential leaders and organizational structure, the escalating protest lost its drive and let the regime counter it (Belghazi and Abdelhay 39). However, the 20 February Movement in Morocco represented a big step towards desired changes.
In conclusion, the Arab Spring represents a radical wave of movements in the Arab world that had its implications not only in the actively participating regions but also in other countries. Aspirations for justice, freedom, democracy, and equal rights shook people throughout territories, encouraging them to go outside and require the change of political and economic state. Unpromising effects of the Arab Spring and its revolutionary nature continue having its implications till today. The Arab Spring had its losses and results, and Morocco became one of the territories that started to resist the existing controlling regime and paved the roots for future changes.
Belghazi, Taieb, and Abdelhay Moudden. “Ihbat: Disillusionment and the Arab Spring in Morocco.” The Journal of North African Studies, vol. 21, no. 1, 2016, pp. 37-49.
Brownlee, Jason, et al. The Arab Spring: Pathways of Repression and Reform. Oxford University Press, 2015.
Davis, John, editor. The Arab Spring and Arab Thaw: Unfinished Revolutions and the Quest for Democracy. Routledge, 2016.
Fawcett, Louise, editor. International Relations of the Middle East. 4th ed., Oxford University Press, 2016.
Gelvin, James L. The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know. 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2015.
Hill, Jonathan. N. C. “Authoritarian Resilience and Regime Cohesion in Morocco After the Arab Spring.” Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 55, no. 2, 2019, pp. 276-288.
Sottilotta, Cecilia Emma. “Political Risk Assessment and the Arab Spring: What Can We Learn?” Thunderbird International Business Review, vol. 57, no. 5, 2015, pp. 379-390.