Wrapping up the Arab Spring (2011-2013), Part 1: Introduction

Painted Tapes via Flickr
Painted Tapes via Flickr

What happened to the Arab Spring, this unprecedented wave of protests spreading throughout the Middle East? Since Ibn Khaldun’s goal is to shed light on current developments in the region, it seems appropriate to first recapitulate the events briefly; events that have brought the Middle East back into the spotlight of global news-coverage and political debate.

In a region where regimes were across the board considered stable, we have seen public protests erupting in the majority of the countries of the Arab World since early 2011, asking for freedom, dignity and social justice (ḥurriya, karāma, ‘ādala). Some governments were toppled while others are in jeopardy since, and still others consolidated their rule.

What are we to make of this? Let us peruse the key developments of the Arab Spring in an attempt to classify the states of the Middle East; considering both earlier critical junctures and possible trajectories. There are, regarding the countries covered by Ibn Khaldun, five main categories:

  1. Presidents ousted, now in transition: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen

  2. Repression and Civil War: Syria

  3. Monarchical restabilization and consolidation: GCC, Jordan, Morocco

  4. Relative calm in (former) war-ridden countries: Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories

  5. Frontier areas of the Arab Spring: Iran, Israel, Mauritania, Turkey

The categories will be outlined briefly in order to help us understand basic developments in the Middle East. Over the next weeks Ibn Khaldun will elaborate on these categories in general and moreover provide the reader with in-depth analyses of some countries. Again, the aim of this endeavour is not to provide a comprehensive and detailed accord for the developments in every respective country. It should also be noted here, that it is not possible for all countries to be classified unambiguously. Yemen, for instance, is here listed amongst those countries in a transitional period. One could, however, arguably stress the war-ridden character of the country (civil war in 1994) or, up until the transfer of power agreement, the repressive state response. Syria, on the other hand, could be categorized as in transition if al-Assad is toppled. These examples exemplify that ideal types are barely found. However, the categorization at hand aims to instigate a systematic understanding of events, without claiming absolute certainty.