Upheavals and Change in the Middle East and North Africa
Upheavals and Transformation in the Middle East and in North Africa
Almost all countries in the Middle East and North Africa have experienced far-reaching social and political transformations over the past few years. Starting with the so-called Arab Spring that began with a wave of protests in the Tunisian hinterland in December 2011, and swiftly reached cities such as Tunis, Cairo or Damascus. The calls of the predominantly young protesters for “bread, freedom, dignity” on the Avenue Bourguiba in Tunis and the Tahrir Square in Cairo, resonated with large swatches of the Arabic world and led to widespread upheaval within the region. Within one-year, authoritarian rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and in Yemen, who had ruled their countries for decades, were toppled.
Temporary Failure of the Democracy Movement: Freedom Is Scarcely Worth Anything Without Economic Success
Swift democratisation and a spring-like blossoming of the region did not follow, however. Instead, it became clear that: without economic development, freedom has hardly any value at all. Hence, since a coup d’état in 2021, the region’s former democratic trailblazer, Tunisia, is a prime example of the temporary failure of democracy movements in the region.
Elsewhere, the outcome of the 2011 protests is bleaker still. There were many places where geopolitical and identity-based conflict lines erupted, protests were violently suppressed and frustration led to radicalisation and instability. Political violence and escalating conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Libya forced millions of people to flee to neighbouring countries and to Europe.
From the “Will of the People” to Modernisation from the Top: Royal Dynasties as Drivers of Social Transformation
Whereas the dictatorial sham democracies were still the epicentre of social protests in 2011, ten years later, the royal dynasties are major drivers of social transformation in the region. The “Saudi Vision 2030” initiated by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, which has gradually opened a previously isolated country to investors, tourists and even its own society, is symbolic of many initiatives of Gulf monarchies that are preparing for a time following the energy transition.
Morocco’s development strategy looks similarly ambitious, and aims to comprehensively transform the North African country both socially and economically. Jordan, as the only Levantine monarchy, is focusing on cautious political reforms, which, however, are mainly being interpreted as “protest prevention”.
Ongoing Processes of Transition: The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Is Intensively Monitoring and Accompanying the Process
The dispute between citizens in the Middle East and North Africa and their political elites about demands concerning a modern state and the future of their societies continues. The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) accompanies this ongoing process of transformation via the work of its country offices in the region and from the headquarters in Berlin. In 2021, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung also used the ten-year anniversary of the “Arab Spring” as an occasion for the extensive appraisal of the manifold and protracted transition processes in the Middle East and North Africa.
The fundamental issues addressed here have lost none of their validity. Why did the “Arab Spring” fail in so many countries? Nevertheless, where can we see signs of democratic change? What future do young people wish for in the region today? How can participation and representation be organised in the societies of the region? Can Germany and Europe play a role here, too?
The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung regularly creates informative overview pages on selected problems and conflicts in the MENA region, where our experts will keep you up to date with current articles and assessments.
Protests in Iran
The violent death of the 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, Jina Mahsa Amin, caused by the brutality of the notorious morality police, has triggered a wave of indignation since mid-September 2022 that suddenly burst into widespread protests on the streets.
What began as a show of solidarity and a rejection of rigorous violence by the morality police quickly developed into a serious challenge for the Iranian regime owing to its spread to large parts of the county, and the emergence of calls for more rights and freedoms. The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung is observing the situation in Iran from the headquarters in Berlin and its country offices within the region, and provides information about current developments in the county on a dedicated page
The Conflict in Yemen
Despite attracting little public attention, a bloody civil and proxy war is raging in Yemen in the wake of a transition process initiated by the Arab Spring. The violent power struggle has led to a major humanitarian crisis in recent years, for which there is currently little hope of serious improvement. The problem and conflict situations are and continue to be complex. Nevertheless, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung endeavours to comprehensively analyse the conflict in Yemen, and to bring together experts and decision-makers from Germany and the region so as to seek political solutions.
The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung publishes several podcast series devoted to developments in the Middle East and North Africa at irregular intervals.
Berlin Mideast Podcast
With our regional podcast series “Berlin Mideast Podcast”, we examine and analyse at irregular intervals the current situation and important developments in the Near and Middle East. Here, we place a special focus on issues such as the position of women in the Islamic world, or the role of Arab armies in the region’s political systems. Of course, we also consider the situational advancements and set-backs more than one decade since the onset of the “Arab Spring”.
From Beirut to Baghdad
“From Beirut to Baghdad – Konrad’s Journey through the Middle East” is an English-speaking podcast produced by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s Iraq country office From Beirut, the podcast holds discussions with the Stiftung’s partners based in Syria, Iraq and throughout the Middle East on current issues affecting the region. Each episode illustrates current political, social, and economic trends and developments while also providing insights into life and work from Beirut to Baghdad.
A Seat at the Table
Our English-speaking podcast “A Seat at the Table” is about strengthening the role of women in the Middle East. With the podcast, our country office Iraq provides a platform for solution-orientated women in order to address issues and problems afflicting women in the Arab world, and to share practical advice, insights and lessons learnt with a broad public.
Virtual Art Exhibition
With a virtual art exhibition, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung together with its partner, the “I have Learned Academy”, has created a platform for artists from the Middle East and North Africa to present works focusing on problems and challenges in their region.
Arts and Politics
“Arts and Politics” is a virtual art exhibition that approaches current societal trends in the Middle East and North Africa via installations, graffiti and videos. Artists from Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Tunisia use their work to portray the challenges of their home countries.