Protest Movements in West Asia: Some Impressions

July 2011

The pro-democracy uprisings in West Asia began with Tunisia, where the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country in a dramatic fashion and found refuge in Jeddah, his new home in exile in Saudi Arabia. The Tunisian revolt had a dramatic impact on Egypt, where a non-violent uprising, brewing for some years, sought the removal of the regime of Hosni Mubarak, president for 28 years. While the movement for change in Egypt was still underway, a pro-democracy revolt erupted in Bahrain, which became the first country in the Gulf whose people sought a fundamental political transformation. These uprisings have three common features: (a) they were led by the youth; (b) in terms of tactics, they were largely peaceful; and (c) in terms of demands, they seek democracy, constitutionalism, access to civil liberties and respect for human rights.