Three years ago, a fruit seller in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest against the corruption prevalent among the Tunisian police and the government. His act of defiance sparked off a series of protests that shook monarchs and authoritative governments across the Middle East, a region home to over 380 million people.
When the protests first erupted, they inspired a sense of hope in the Middle East. People believed that their collective action could inspire change in a region dominated by calcified and oppressive power structures. The sense of renewal inspired the BCC Middle East policy analyst Roger Hardy to coin the term “Arab Spring .”
Indeed, even now as one thinks back to the scenes of millions of people gathered in public squares in Egypt and Bahrain , one can’t help being moved by the feeling of optimism generated by the prospect of imminent change. The feeling of hope can best be described in the words of the great Syrian poet Nissar Qabbani:“To leave the backward desert life/Sit beneath the trees/Bathe in spring water/And learn the names of the flowers.”
But three years since its inception, has the Arab Spring delivered on its promise ? Has democracy been ushered in across the region? Has there been an improvement in the living standards of people? Have there been an improvement in the condition of religious minorities and women?
At first glance, the Arab Spring protests seem to have borne fruit in countries like Tunisia and Morocco. However, in countries like Egypt, Bahrain and Syria, they have deeply polarized the population. Hundreds of thousands of people have died, been tortured or displaced from their homes.
In the midst of all the fighting, human rights (particularly for the most vulnerable pockets of the population) seems to have taken a beating. And as 10 unpredicted outcomes of the Arab Spring brings to bear, social media has been exposed as a tool of the affluent and multilingual segments of the population -- a select few-- and so far, has proven unable to drive meaningful change.
Does this all sound complicated?
View this slide show of Arab Spring metamorphosis to quickly find out how different countries and regions have actually fared in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Learn what the people in each country aspired to and what has really transpired.