Arab Spring Opens New Era
09 Dec 2011 by Patricia Zapor
WASHINGTON (CNS) — What turned out to be a
yearlong Arab Spring of grass-roots uprisings in 2011 left
several countries with new leadership and a death toll in
the tens of thousands, most from a full-scale civil war in
Meanwhile, protests in Israel and efforts by
Palestinians to obtain full recognition in the United
Nations ramped up pressure for achieving a two-state
solution to peace.
The wave of protests began Dec. 18, 2010, in
Tunisia after Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to
protest police corruption and to publicize his problems
with trying to run a small business. By the time Bouazizi
died of his injuries in early January, public protests had
taken root in Tunis and other cities. Longtime President
Zine el Abidine Ben Ali stepped down under pressure Jan.
14 and fled to Saudi Arabia.
Since then, Tunisia has dissolved its political
police force and other institutions associated with the Ben
Ali regime and moved toward creating a new government.
The spirit that overtook Tunisia in January
spread, leading to the resignation of Yemens prime
minister and to the overthrow of the governments of
Egypt and Libya, following protests that turned violent,
and then to outright war in Libya.
In a dozen other countries, unprecedented protests
ranged from peaceful and fairly restrained — as in Jordan
and Lebanon — to brutally violent in Syria. By May,
border clashes in Israel were connected to the uprising
Across North Africa and the Middle East, grass-
roots protests continued and escalated through the fall. In
August, after a sustained battle over the Libyan capital of
Tripoli, rebels overwhelmed President Moammar
Gadhafis compound and began taking over national
Libyas bloody civil war ended with the Oct. 20
capture of Gadhafi in a drainage pipe near Sirte. He died
later that same day, reportedly after being brutalized and
shot by his captors. An estimated 30,000 people were
killed in Libyas civil war.
Though the region is mostly Muslim, the protests
had repercussions for people of all religions.
For instance, in Libya, most Catholics were
foreign workers. Several missionaries told Catholic News
Service they remained in the country to help those people,
although they serve Muslims, too. Although some
migrants were evacuated, many who stayed behind lost
their jobs and had nowhere else to go, leaving them
searching for food, medicine, clothing and most of all,
In Egypt, the unity between Christians and
Muslims forged after the revolution seemed to deteriorate
as Islamic fundamentalists began attacks on Christians,
Cardinal Antonios Naguib, Coptic Catholic patriarch of
Alexandria, said in early November.
Christian leaders, including Father Rafic Greiche,
spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt, said the
army and police were confronting the Copts. He said that
people — not just Christians but many Muslims, too — are
frightened for the future of our country.
Coptic Christians make up about a 10th of the 81
million people of Egypt.
Tags: Egypt Syria Middle East Arab Spring Libya