First Tunis, now Kiev: Comparing the Arab Spring and Ukraine's Soviet Winter

Published February 26th, 2014 - 16:10 GMT

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ukraine protests egypt protests
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Image 1 of 8: “Brutality knows no boundaries”: Populist uprisings have a steep human price tab. Egypt’s revolution saw 800 dead; 49 died during clashes on their 3rd anniversary! Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout crackdown saw officially 89 (and counting) killed and a staggering 2,929 arrested. Kiev's death toll exceeds 100 with 10 times that wounded.

Gaddafi Mubarak Yanukovych
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Image 1 of 8: “Leaders crumble under pressure” Faced with populist pressure, Yemeni & Tunisian leaders fled home and Egypt’s Mubarak resigned. Libya’s Gaddafi was killed after hiding in a drainage pipe. Vowing to stay in power, the Ukrainian prez was voted out by parliament, only to vanish with an arrest warrant! (Are there pipes in Kiev?)

Independence Square and Tahrir
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Image 1 of 8: The Mideast’s protests erupted in urban areas with ancient histories, unlike Occupy Wall Street cramming activists into an NYC park. Arab & Ukranian 'rebels' exploit spacious venues designed for public assembly. Maybe not what city fathers had envisioned for Egypt’s Tahrir, Bahrain’s Pearl, and Kiev’s Independence Square!

Yanukovych spanish gallon
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Image 1 of 8: Returning the country’s treasure to the people”: Arab & Ukrainian leaders treat public coffers as ATMs. Gaddafi’s son Saif paid Mariah Carey $1ml to warble 4 hits! Egypt’s Morsi jetted pals to the Red Sea to loll in swanky suites as his poor nation was imploding. Ukraine’s Yanukovych, an avid hunter, blew $115,000 on a boar statue!

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Image 1 of 8: “Pimp my crib! Protesters take possession of abandoned real estate”: Tunisian ex-prez Ben Ali’s palace is stuffed with posh gifts from powerful pals. His rare clock collection was supplemented by art & antiques paid for by - guess who? The 340-acre estate of the Ukrainian prez includes a golf course & private zoo... and gold light fixtures!

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Image 1 of 8: Color causes: Civil resistance in the ME (or Ukraine) is often led by student activists and nonviolent protest. Termed “color revolutions”, they adopt a flower or color as their emblem. Think Egypt’s Jasmine revolution, Tunisia’s Lotus, Kuwait’s Blue, Iran’s Green and Iraq’s Purple. Ukraine’s Orange revolution may be back in town.

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Image 1 of 8: “Dial M for Murder or Mayhem”: There’s an arrest warrant for Ukraine’s Yanukovych on charges of mass murder. Egypt’s Morsi is in court fighting charges of “inciting the killing of protesters" during his tenure. Tunisia’s Ben Ali “incited” murder. Why can’t they just golf like other world leaders?

sacrifice
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Image 1 of 8: Can this marriage be saved: Distinct populations within a nation will always compete for power & influence and naturally divide. In Egypt & Syria, the split seems to run down religious lines. In the Ukraine, it is a cultural & economic break. Can countries find creative solutions to cutting “the baby” in half King Solomon style

From Tunis to Triopoli, Cairo to Damascus, the popular protests that shook the Arab world in 2011 may have now reignited Ukraine’s very own Orange Revolution whose seeds were sewn 10 years ago. Kiev in 2014 is the latest hotspot of revolutionary turmoil to capture news headlines.

Last November, as the Ukrainian government sought stronger Russian ties (and rejected a closer EU alliance that was concurrently in play) peaceful student protests flared in the capital city. Stand-offs with authorities veered from calm to angry and quickly morphed into deadly violence.
 
Days of brutal clashes between police and anti-government protesters incited parliament to oust President Viktor Yanukovyvh (accused of violence against the people, he’s now a man on the lam, with a warrant issued for his arrest!). The city has been burning for months and turmoil intensified this past week with fatalities approaching 100 and hundreds more wounded.
 

Did the Arab uprisings influence this country’s split across its European and Russian identities? It’s tough to call but the Arab Spring has set a daring precedent for 21st century rulers who choose to ignore their people’s demands.

While revolutions often boil down to economics, the onset of unrest often leads to chaos and shape-shifting within any movement--no matter how organized it may appear during the first wind. Yet, protests - whether in Europe, the Middle East or elsewhere are fomulaic with each movement following the same dance steps. They commence peaceful protests and work social media to rally support. Big Brother may be watching, but so is the rest of the world as Little Brother uses personal tech gadgetry to broadcast real-time and uncensored action on the ground. Awareness expands, dialogue ensues, and support grows.

The Arab Spring demonstrated that the real challenge is not in deposing a leader but in successfully filling the power void so a new future can be realized. In Tunisia the experiment of Arab democracy has been solidified with a new constitution, while in Egypt the country still contemplates its fate under General Sisi. Uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen have had inconclusive results, and Turkey, despite the power of Taksim Square protests, has made scant headway in reforms.

If the Arab Spring is any guide, the Ukranian people face a long and difficult journey before they can declare the revolution that began in Kiev’s Independence Square a success. But their shot’s been fired; and the world has heard. Can change be far behind?

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