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Upheavals and Transformation in the Middle East and in North Africa

Upheavals and Transformation in the Middle East and in North Africa

How Political and Social Transformations Change an Entire Region Over the Long-Term

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The Arab Awakening or Arab Spring has changed the geopolitical landscape.

Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations

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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?

Selected Projects

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

Amir Kabir University uprising Darafsh / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0


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


Learn more about the protests in Iran.

The Conflict in Yemen

Ünbersichtskarte zu den Konfliktparteien im Jemen Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V. (Stand: Juni 2020)


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.


Learn more about the conflict in Yemen



The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung publishes several podcast series devoted to developments in the Middle East and North Africa at irregular intervals.

Berlin Mideast Podcast

Visual 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”.


Learn more about the Berlin Mideast Podcast

From Beirut to Baghdad

Podcast Logo updated


“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.


Learn more about the podcast “From Beirut to Baghdad”

A Seat at the Table

a seat at the table cover image


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.


Learn more about the podcast “A Seat at the Table”


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 – Virtuelle Kunstausstellung Naher Osten und Nordafrika Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V.


“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.


Learn more about “Arts and Politics”

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Dr. Canan Atilgan

Dr. Canan Atilgan

Head of the Department Middle East and North Africa +49 30 26996-3201

Simon Engelkes

Simon  Engelkes bild

Desk Officer in the Department Middle East and North Africa +216 70 02 94 60 +216 71 96 23 81
Country Reports
Wana News Agency
October 17, 2022
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International Reports
Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters
February 8, 2022
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International Reports
Aziz Taher, Reuters
July 5, 2021
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Publications to the topic

Staats- und Regierungschefs, die am 32. Gipfel der Arabischen Liga teilnehmen, posieren für ein Gruppenfoto in Dschidda, Saudi-Arabien, 19. Mai 2023 IMAGO / Xinhua
Regional normalisation – Syrian perspectives
Turkish and Arab attempts to establish a new foundation for their relationship with Syria are viewed with concern especially in areas outside of the regime’s control.
La Tunisie, carrefour énergétique ?
Iraq REUTERS / Ahmed Saad
100 Days of the New Government in Iraq
A Balancing Act
Protest gegen den Tod von Mahsa Amini, einer Frau, die nach ihrer Verhaftung durch die Wana News Agency
Proteste im Iran
Für die Sehnsucht nach einem normalen Leben
Middle East Reactions to the First Year of the Biden Administration
Middle East Reactions to the First Year of the Biden Administration
A publication by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Israel and the Moshe Dayan Center.
Parlamentswahlen im Irak - Wahlurne Shutterstock / Sadik Gulec
Crisis of legitimacy or glimmer of hope?
Iraq ahead of the parliamentary elections on October 10th, 2021
 Protesters at a rally. Aziz Taher, Reuters
Ten Years After the “Arab Spring” – What Does the Region Think Today?
A Survey of Public Opinion in the Middle East and North Africa
Berliner Libyen-Konferenz Florian Gaertner /
Berliner Libyen-Konferenz 2.0
Absichtserklärungen ohne Auswirkungen?
Panorama der Hauptstadt Algeriens
Escaping the Blackbox – oder auch nicht?
Algerien nach den ersten Parlamentswahlen nach Bouteflika
spotlight on Sudan 2nd website
Spotlight on Sudan: Sudan's Foreign Policy Priorities
June 2021
Libya's Constitutional Quagmire
The Modern Arab State Video Out Now!
The Modern Arab State
The Modern Arab State Book Cover
The Modern Arab State
Digital Book Launch
Bildcollage mit Präsident Joe Biden vor der der US-amerikanischen und der jemenitischen Flagge sowie einer Stadtansicht von Sanaa Fotocollage mit Material von The White House/Adam Schultz und Rod Waddington / flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 /
"This war has to end"
100 Tage Biden und Perspektiven für eine Konfliktlösung im Jemen
International Relations in the Middle East and North Africa - What are the Public Perceptions?
KAS PolDiMed Survey
Trust in Political Institutions in the Middle East and North Africa
KAS PolDiMed Survey
alt StanHema
Kein Frühling, ein Vorbote
Zur Lesart der arabischen Umbrüche vor zehn Jahren
Unpacking the Arab part of Identity, Spring and World
Mediterranean Dialogue Series no. 35
A daily struggle of making a living as refugee in Lebanon KAS
Success against all odds
A daily struggle of making a living as refugee in Lebanon
Graffiti in Egypt 2012 Sam Dagher
A Tragedy and a Revolt for Freedom and Dignity
Sam Dagher on the Arab Spring in Syria and Iraq Ten Years after the Uprisings

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Events on the topic



Nahost aktuell
Israel im Spannungsfeld zwischen innenpolitischen Herausforderungen, regionalen Allianzen und globalen Machtverschiebungen

Event Reports on the topic

Event Reports on the topic

Konrad Neuhaus und Dr. Peter Lintl
Israels Perspektiven 75 Jahre nach Staatsgründung
Eine Bilanz des 41. #HessenKAS Facebook-Live vom 10.05.2023
The Chairman of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and former President of the German Bundestag, Professor Dr. Norbert Lammert, opened the panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities for cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean. MSC/Jens Hartmann
"Zeitenwende" in the Eastern Mediterranean?
Discussion Event of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung at the Munich Security Conference
Ich werde nicht hassen: Meine Töchter starben, meine Hoffnung lebt weiter
Die Geschichte von Prof. Izzeldin Abuelaish
Simon Engelkes Thomas Ehlen /
Sechs Wochen vor der Fußball-Weltmeisterschaft
Politische und wirtschaftliche Potenziale in Katar und den Nachbarstaaten am Persischen Golf / Eine Bilanz des Wiesbadener Tischgesprächs 10. Oktober 2022
The Agony of Choice – Political Participation in the Middle East and North Africa in the 2020’s KAS
The Agony of Choice
Political Participation in the Middle East and North Africa in the 2020's
Kristin Helberg Johanna Frank
Hoffnung für Syrien
Experten diskutierten über Lösungen und Perspektiven des Weltkonfliktes
70 Jahre Israel. Das gelobte Land
Impressionen eines Seminars der KAS-Südbaden
"Steht der Nahe Osten vor dem Abgrund? - Aktuelle Lage und Lösungsansätze"
„Die Entwicklung des Landes ist bemerkenswert“
Stellvertretender Generalsekretär Dr. Gerhard Wahlers trifft den tunesischen Staatspräsidenten Essebsi
Jemen Panel 1
Politische Lösungen im Jemen gesucht
Fachgespräch zur sozio-ökonomischen und humanitären Lage im Jemen
Den Dialog wieder in den Blick nehmen
Potsdamer Forum "Politik & Sicherheit" zu den Entwicklungen in der Türkei
"Brüderliche Zukunft?!" Herausforderungen und Perspektiven der deutsch-israelischen Beziehungen
Eine Bilanz des Frankfurter Gesprächs 6. März 2017
Würde unter Druck
Zwischen Pilgern und Politik: Mit Katholischer Kirche und KAS durch Israel
Wie stabil ist Jordanien?
Wie viele Dinge braucht der Mensch?
Der Besitz von Tuareg und Deutschen im Vergleich
"Nur durch Dialog soll das Volk zum Frieden gelangen"
Friedensnobelpreisträgerin Ouided Bouchamaoui sprach über Tunesiens Erneuerung
Touristische Entwicklungen im Iran: Ein Land zwischen Repression, Regionalmachtbestrebungen und Reise...
7. Hafis-Dialog Weimar
Eine tägliche Qual
Eine “Selbsthasserin” über die Zustände an israelischen Checkpoints
„Die Iraner haben uns immer wieder positiv überrascht“
Beim 5. Ramadan-Dialog diskutierten Experten über neue Dialog-Möglichkeiten mit dem Iran
Tunesien: Hoffnungsschimmer im Ausnahmezustand

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Media library

Podcast Erstimme #69
Das moderne Israel
In dieser Folge unseres Podcasts sprechen wir mit Dr. Gisela Dachs, Publizistin, Journalistin und Professorin, über das Moderne Israel und aktuelle Entwicklungen im Land.
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Video-Gespräche mit Expertinnen & Experten
10 Jahre neue marokkanische Verfassung
2011 gab sich das Königreich Marokko eine neue Verfassung, die das Niveau & die Qualität politischer Partizipation für Bürgerinnen & Bürger erhöhen sollte. Wo steht Marokko heute?
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Video to the KAS PolDiMed Book
The Modern Arab State
This video summarizes the key findings of the book "The Modern Arab State," which is available digitally on the KAS PolDiMed website or in print at our offices.
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Gespräch mit unserem Büroleiter in Tunis, Dr. Holger Dix
Tunesien zehn Jahre nach der Revolution
Wie ist die Situation im Land heute? Wie haben sich Zivilgesellschaft und Tunesien weiterentwickelt und wie bewertet die internationale Gemeinschaft den Demokratisierungsprozess?
10 years after the "Arab Spring"
Amjad Badr on political developments in Libya
10 Years since the Arab Spring
„Digital Democracy“ in Tunisia
How the organisation „Chnowa Barnemjek“ uses the digitalization to strengthen democracy.
10 years since the Arab Spring
Assessment and Expectations of the Arab Spring Generation
We asked participants of the MENA Leadership Academy of KAS: What does the Arab Spring mean to them, where does their country stand today and where will it stand in ten years time.
10 Years since the Arab Spring
Where does Tunisia stand today? A conversation with Yadh Ben Achour
We talked about this with Yadh Ben Achour, university professor, president of the Higher Political Reform Commission and member of the UN Human Rights Committee.
10 Years since the Arab Spring
Where does Tunisia stand today? A conversation with Maya Ksouri
We talked about this with the Tunisian lawyer Maya Ksouri. The interview is available in French with German subtitles.
10 Years since the Arab Spring
Where does Tunisia stand today? A conversation with Hichem Elloumi
We talked about this with Hichem Elloumi, Chairman and CEO of the Cofiab Group and Vice-President of the Tunisian employers' association UTICA.

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