Change ain’t easy, but will come

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3A_Arab SpringA look back at the Arab awakening, two years after its start

Taouba Khelifa
News Editor

[CURRENT AFFAIRS] – According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, revolution can be defined as “a fundamental change in political organization; especially the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed.”

In December 2010, millions of people rose against the dictatorial regimes that kept them, their parents, and their grandparents under strict systems of oppression, repression, and suppression.

While the Arab spring began more than two years ago, the Middle East and North Africa remain in great unrest. Uncertainty for the future is unknown and many are unsure what the next weeks and months may bring. Despite this unpredictability, the people are continuing their fight for freedom and justice. Hopefulness hangs in the air for a better future that will slowly but surely come.

But, the Arab awakening did not come without much despair and loss of life.

On Dec. 19, 2010 Tunisian native Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, after police confiscated his fruit and vegetable stall – the only source of income supporting him and his family. Only 26 years old, Bouaziz’s actions sparked the start of what has now become one of the biggest revolutions in the Middle East.

Beyond just high unemployment rates, citizens of the region were fed up with the injustices, inequality, and dictatorial systems that had run their lives, and ruined their countries. From governmental corruption, to high food prices, to poverty and human rights violations, the Arab world woke up — its people demanding their freedom.     Citizens who, for generations, were afraid to speak out against their country’s dictatorial regimes, saw a shift as people fought to bring the old regimes down.

Tunisia paved the way for the revolution, and shortly thereafter, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen followed suit, as thousands of people took to the streets in their cities and towns, calling on their rules to step down.

Stepping from the comfort of their homes, and demanding these freedoms was not easy, as the world witnessed much of the harsh realities of these freedom fighters. Emergency press conferences were held, where dictators like Syria’s Bashar Al-Asad called the protestors “troubled youth” and “uneducated thugs.” Libya’s late dictator Mammar Gaddafi labeled the protestors “cockroaches” and “alley rats.” Many of these leaders blamed hallucinogenic drugs for the uprisings, and some went so far as to blame Al Qaeda for creating terrorists in their countries.

Apart from these labels, protestors, activists and journalists were also arrested, beaten, tortured, kidnapped, and killed, as they continued to fight for their rights and freedoms. As many were soon to find out, the price of freedom is not cheap. Overall, the United Nations estimated that more than 98,000 people have lost their lives to the revolution, with the numbers growing as more lives are lost every day.

While Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt were successful in overthrowing their dictators, citizens and activists know that there is much work to be done still – recreating constitutions, establishing new democratic systems, and rebuilding cities and towns.     The “fall of dictators and the promise of freedom and justice brings a time of division and doubt in the Middle East and North Africa,” said The Independent correspondent Kim Sengupta.

But, hope, courage, and inspiration is at the heart of much of this revolution.

“While there is much to be concerned about, the cynics are overlooking the significance and inherent difficulties of what has been achieved. Strongmen have been ousted; decades-old one-party systems have been abolished; establishments and taboos have been challenged; and political and economic reforms have been promised, with varying degrees of implementation,” said London-based writer and Arab commentator Sharif Nashashib.

“Whether they like it or not, Arab leaders are being forced to heed the hopes, rights and grievances of their people, and to realize that suppressing them is having the opposite effect intended. A region long thought to be immune to change has become the inspiration and catalyst for protest movements worldwide,” Nashashib continued.

As the world continues to watch the Arab spring unfold, going into its third year, regions of the world have also caught the revolution flu bug. From the streets of Canada, to the sidewalks in Greece, and the city centers in Russia, people globally have woken up demanding a better future for themselves and the generations to come.

*death toll rates from news sources, UN statistics, and Human Rights Watch

Tunisia
Capital: Tunis
Dictator: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Uprising lasted for: 3 weeks and 6 days
Death toll: 338

Egypt
Capital: Cairo
Dictator: Hosni Mubarak
Uprising lasted for: 2 weeks and 3 days
Death toll: 846

Libya
Capital: Tripoli
Dictator: Mammar Gaddafi
Uprising lasted for: 8 months and 1 day
Death toll: 25,000

Yemen
Capital: Sana’a
Dictator: Ali Abdullah Saleh
Uprising lasted for: 1 year and 1 month
Death toll: 2000

Syria
Capital: Damascus
Dictator: Bashar Al-Asad
Uprising lasted for: 1 year and 11 months (ongoing)
Death toll: 70,000 + 

Bahrain
Capital: Manama
Dictator: King Hamad
Uprising lasted for: 2 years and 1 week (ongoing)
Death toll: 93 +

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons

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