2018–2021 Arab protests
The 2018–2021 Arab protests are massive anti-government protests in several Arab countries, including Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Sudan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. Economic protests also took place in the Gaza Strip.
|2018–2021 Arab protests|
|Date||1 January 2018 – present|
(3 years, 3 months, 2 weeks and 5 days)
Full result by country
The deadliest incident of civil unrest in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein resulted in its Prime Minister being replaced. Sustained civil disobedience in Sudan resulted in the overthrow of president Omar al-Bashir in a military coup d'état, on the 3 June 2019 Khartoum massacre of protestors, and the transfer of power from a military junta to a combined military–civilian Sovereignty Council that is legally committed to a 39-month transition to democracy.
The alternative names "New Arab Spring" and "Arab Spring 2.0" refer to similarity with the preceding Arab Spring wave of pro-democracy protests which took place in 2010–2013.
Context and backgroundEdit
Tesbih Habbal and Muzna Hasnawi, Syrian editors writing in The Nation in October 2019, argued that the 2018–2019 sustained street protests in the Arab world starting with Sudan in December 2018, Algeria in February 2019, Egypt and Iraq in September and October 2019, Syria and Lebanon in October 2019, constituted a second wave of the process that started with the 2010–2011 Arab Spring. Syrian protestors in October held signs stating, "Syria—Egypt—Iraq: You've revived the spirit of the Arab people, from the [Atlantic] Ocean to the [Persian] Gulf!" Habbal and Hansawi described the process as having "profoundly changed the political consciousness of the region", overcoming fear of political activity and "setting a crucial precedent for challenging the persistence of authoritarianism". Habbal and Hansawi argued that the October protests in Syria "[proved] that even ruthless repression and tyranny cannot deter the resistance."
Habbal and Hansawi argued that the new wave of protests frequently included usage of the slogan "Al-shab yurid isqat al- nizam!" (The people want the fall of the regime!) used during the 2010–2011 Arab Spring.
Timeline by countryEdit
The Moroccan protests from 2018–2020 were not isolated and stemmed from problems that have existed since the Arab Spring came to Morocco. The riots and civil unrest were specifically resulting from the Hirak Rif Movement in 2016 and 2017 followed by a lack of reform on behalf of Mohammed VI of Morocco. The aftermath of the Hirak Rif protests in 2016 and 2017 has led to the imprisonment, detainment and trial of what is thought to be more than 400 protesters, journalists and political activists. After a lengthy trial period, which took until April 2019, to uphold the prison sentences of dozens of activists for up to 20 years. Several activists were sentenced to 20 years in prison including the leader of the protests Nasser Zefzafi. The upholding of these sentences sparked outrage among the relatives of the accused and brought thousands to the streets in protest of corruption and government indifference for the current standard of living. In May 2019 after renewed protests and demonstrations over the sentencing of Hirak Rif protesters the King pardoned an unknown number of protesters as a part of a royal pardon. It was the Kings way of marking 20 years on the throne but many see this as an excuse to suppress demonstrations and cool tensions with the protesters but give the impression that he is not making any concessions.
The internet has allowed Moroccan citizens to express their discontent with the government and recently soccer stadiums have become a major outlet for the expression of discontent. One such chant: 'Fbladi Delmouni' has gone viral since erupting from numerous stadium protests and has gained worldwide attention. The mostly young football crowds gather in the tens of thousands in Moroccan soccer club stadiums. Football stadiums offer protesters a sort of free haven to voice their cries for the injustices they face. Fbladi Delmouni literally translates to: "In my country they oppress me." There are a number of different chants with lyrics that sometimes change significantly from one parody to the other, however the reoccurring them of criticizing the government and the poor standard of living is present.
Protests in Jerada against the deaths of two people and impoverishment took place from 2017-18. Protests in July 2018 saw tens of thousands of protesters demonstrate against the jailing of Hirak Rif Movement leaders. Police used tear gas in them. Social protests took place in June 2018, October–December 2018 and January 2019. Renewed demonstrations in April–May 2019 against the sentencing of leaders of the Hirak Rif Movement led to the king pardoning the leaders. Protests in 2020 against Israel in June and impoverishment in February led to repression.
These issues at its core, while they were exacerbated by the Death of Mouhcine Fikri, are due to the lack of a suitable standard of living for the Moroccan people. Massive projects have been taken underway to improve the infrastructure and development of the country but the young and poor people feel that their needs are still being ignored. One such project is to be Africa's first high speed train running from Casablanca to Tangier. The extensive renovations in the Rabat airport is another such project. The problem with these recent developments is that the majority of Moroccans that live in poverty do not benefit from them. Many of the nations poor live in rural areas in the countryside and do not benefit from flying in new airports or using high speed trains. Many still suffer from the poor quality of transportation within major cities like the bus system in Casablanca. and connecting smaller cities and towns within Morocco. Moroccans lack basic access to food and water and 22% of the country is unemployed. These recent projects have exacerbated the economic disparity between social classes in Morocco and generate more social unrest among the poor. One recent protest started in late 2017 and continued strong into 2018 over the lack of food and water. In Sidi Boulalam, a small village outside Essaouira, a stampede occurred when supplies arrived to the marketplace which resulted in the trampling and death of at least 15 people. It is worse in the interior of Morocco in places like Zagora, a small village in the southeastern desert of Morocco, where for the past 15 years people have been surviving off drinking imported bottled water.
The 2018 Jordanian protests started as a general strike organized by more than 30 trade unions on the 31st of May 2018 after the government of Hani Mulki submitted a new tax law to Parliament. The bill followed IMF-backed austerity measures adopted by Mulki's government since 2016 that aimed to tackle Jordan's growing public debt. Although Jordan had been relatively unscathed from the violence that swept the region following the 2011 Arab Spring, its economy had taken a hit from the surrounding turmoil and from an influx of a large number of Syrian refugees into the country. Jordan also hosts a large contingent of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees, further straining its finances. The UNHCR places Jordan as the world's second largest host of refugees per capita.
The day following the strike on May 31, the government raised fuel and electricity prices responding to an increase in international oil prices. This led to crowds of protesters pouring onto the 4th circle, in Amman, near the Prime Ministry's offices that night. Other Jordanians also gathered across the country in protest of the measure in unprecedented large numbers. On 1 June King Abdullah intervened and ordered the freeze of the price hikes; the government acquiesced but said the decision would cost the treasury $20 million. The protests continued for four days until Mulki submitted his resignation to the King on 4 June, and Omar Razzaz, his Education Minister, became Prime Minister. Protests only ceased after Razzaz announced his intention of withdrawing the new tax bill.
The protests have not been led by traditional opposition groups like the Muslim Brotherhood or leftists, but by diverse crowds from the middle and poor classes. Although some protesters set aflame tires and blocked roads multiple nights, protests were largely peaceful and few casualties were reported. They were staged after daylight hours as it was during the month of Ramadan.
The 2018 Tunisian protests were a series of protests occurring throughout Tunisia. Beginning January 2018, protests erupted in multiple towns and cities across Tunisia over issues related to the cost of living and taxes. As of 9 January, the demonstrations had claimed at least one life, and revived worries about the fragile political situation in Tunisia.
The Popular Front, an alliance of leftist opposition parties, called for continued protests against the government's "unjust" austerity measures while Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed denounced the violence and called for calm, claiming that he and his government believe 2018 "would be the last difficult year for Tunisians".
There are also the 2021 Tunisian protests which are a series of protests that started on 15 January 2021. Thousands of people rioted in cities and towns across Tunisia, which saw looting, arson, as well as mass deployment of police and army in several cities and the arrest hundreds of people. They ended on March 30, 2021.
The 2018–2019 Iraqi protests over deteriorating economic conditions and state corruption started in July 2018 in Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities, mainly in the central and southern provinces. During the nationwide protests erupting in October 2019, Iraqi security forces killed over 500 people and over 27,000 have been injured, leading Iraq's president Barham Salih to call the actions of security forces "unacceptable." Some police have also been killed in the protests. The protests are the deadliest unrest in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, with the death toll reaching 511 by 2 January 2020 and 669 by 13 January 2020.
The 2019 Algerian protests, also called Revolution of Smiles or Hirak Movement, began on 16 February 2019, ten days after Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his candidacy for a fifth presidential term in a signed statement. These protests, without precedent since the Algerian Civil War, have been peaceful and led the military to insist on Bouteflika's immediate resignation, which took place on 2 April 2019. By early May, a significant number of power-brokers close to the deposed administration, including the former president's younger brother Saïd, had been arrested.
The 2019 Egyptian protests consisted of protests by thousands of people in Cairo, Alexandria, Damietta and five other Egyptian cities starting on 20 and 21 September 2019 in which the protestors called for President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to be removed from power. Security forces responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and live bullets and, as of 6 October 2019[update], 3000 arrests had been made, based on data from the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. Prominent arrestees included human rights lawyer Mahienour el-Massry, journalist and former leader of the Constitution Party Khaled Dawoud and two professors of political science at Cairo University, Hazem Hosny and Hassan Nafaa. The wave of arrests was the biggest in Egypt since Sisi formally became president in 2014. Human Rights Watch called for all those arrested for peacefully expressing their opinions to be released immediately. Amnesty International described the Sisi government being "shaken to its core" by 20–21 September protests and that the authorities had "launched a full-throttle clampdown to crush demonstrations and intimidate activists, journalists and others into silence". Two thousand people, including Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) representatives, protested in Khartoum on 26 September in support of Waleed Abdelrahman Hassan, a Sudanese anti-Islamist student detained by Egyptian authorities, who gave a forced confession on MBC Masr television. The SPA stated, "the era when Sudanese citizens were humiliated inside or outside their country has gone and will never return". The Sudanese Foreign Ministry summoned the Egyptian ambassador and Waleed Abdelrahman Hassan was freed on 2 October 2019.
The 2019 Gaza economic protests, dubbed as We Want to Live protests, began on February, initiating with the popular call "We want to live" by a group of politically unaffiliated media activists. The group has been nicknamed the 14 March movement. The protests aim at high costs of living and tax hikes in the Gaza Strip.
The Lebanese protests are a series of protests that constitute a reaction against sectarian rule, stagnant economy, unemployment, endemic corruption in the public sector, legislation (such as banking secrecy) that is perceived to shield the ruling class from accountability. It is suspected that the direct trigger to the protests were due to the planned imposed taxes on gasoline, tobacco and online phone calls such as through WhatsApp, as protests started breaking out right after unanimous Cabinet approval of the WhatsApp taxes, due to be ratified by 22 October.
In contrast to the 2005 Cedar Revolution, and similarly to a process started in the 2015–2016 Lebanese protests, the 2019 protests were non-sectarian, crossing the Sunni–Shia Muslim sociological and religious divide and bypassing traditional political party alignments.
Street protests took place in August and September 2020 over issues of poor provision of services in several cities in Libya, including both cities controlled by the Government of National Accord (GNA) in the west (Tripoli, Misrata, Zawiya) and by the Libyan National Army (LNA) in the east of Libya (Benghazi). The de facto LNA-associated government led by Abdullah al-Thani offered its resignation on 13 September 2020 in response to the protests.
The Sudanese Revolution was a major shift of political power in Sudan that started with street protests throughout Sudan on 19 December 2018 and continued with sustained civil disobedience for about eight months, during which the 11 April 2019 Sudanese coup d'état deposed President Omar al-Bashir after thirty years in power, 3 June Khartoum massacre took place under the leadership of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that replaced al-Bashir, and in July and August 2019 the TMC and the Forces of Freedom and Change alliance (FFC) signed a Political Agreement and a Draft Constitutional Declaration legally defining a planned 39-month phase of transitional state institutions and procedures to return Sudan to a civilian democracy. In August and September 2019, the TMC formally transferred executive power to a mixed military–civilian collective head of state, the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, and to a civilian prime minister (Abdalla Hamdok) and a mostly civilian cabinet, while judicial power was transferred to Nemat Abdullah Khair, Sudan's first female Chief Justice.
- Late-2019 Sudanese protests – a continuation of street protests during the 39-month planned transitionary institution period
Summary of conflicts by countryEdit
|Country||Date started||Status of protests||Outcome||Death toll||Situation|
|Tunisia||1 January 2018||Ended in February 2018||2018 budget repealed||1||2018 Tunisian protests|
|Jordan||30 May 2018||Ended on 7 June 2018||Prime Minister Hani Mulki resigns and is replaced with Omar Razzaz.
||2018 Jordanian protests|
|Iraq||16 July 2018||Ongoing as of October 2020||Resignation of the Iraqi Prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi (remained as caretaker for two months)||669|
|Sudan||19 December 2018||Ongoing as of July 2020||Ousting of Omar al-Bashir in a military coup d'état||246|
|Algeria||16 February 2019||Ongoing as of October 2020||Resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika under pressure added by the military||3|
|Gaza||14 March 2019||Ended in March 2019||Protests repressed by Hamas security forces||2019 Gaza economic protests|
|Egypt||20 September 2019||Protests ended on 27 September 2019; prisoners unreleased as of November 2019||2019 Egyptian protests|
|Lebanon||17 October 2019||Ended on 16 October 2020||Prime Ministers Saad Hariri and Hassan Diab resign.||11||2019–2020 Lebanese protests|
|Syria||7 June 2020||Ended on 15 June 2020||Sacking of Prime Minister Imad Khamis.||2020 Suweida protests|
|Total death toll and other consequences:||926+
|Count excludes ousted short-term leaders: Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf in Sudan quit after one day in response to protests; Abdel Fattah al-Burhan led the military-only TMC in Sudan and in response to protests became the chair of the mixed civilian–military Sovereignty Council of Sudan that replaced the TMC.|
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