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Before 2011, it seemed that the Arab world followed the path of the world development. However, in 2011, Arab states started to claim that they have extreme power. Sociopolitical shock that is called the Arab Spring had a great impact on practically all Arab states, possibly except for the Comoros, Mauritania, and Somalia that are located on the periphery of the Arab East. In general, a degree of the impact of the Arab Spring on the political regimes of the Middle East and North Africa varied in different states. In some countries, the socio-political turmoil resulted in considerable changes in the political process, while in others, it included insignificant changes and old political structures remained. The first group includes countries where the “wave of democratization” resulted in the changes in political regimes, and namely: Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia. The current paper discusses the Arab Spring in Egypt. It is possible to state that Egypt belongs to the countries that felt the consequences of the Arab Spring most strongly, in the result of which, two presidents were removed.
The Arab Spring in Egypt
On January 25, 2011, a number of street demonstrations started in Alexandria and Cairo (Ketchley, 2017). The first protest action occurred in Cairo. In the next several weeks, the government of the country resorted to the isolation of opposition leaders, numerous mass arrests, and the disconnection of the Internet. They brought troops into the city to disperse the demonstration. According to different sources, about 800 people were killed during the clashes. Street demonstrations lasted for several weeks and ended with the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and his government after 30 years of rule (Ketchley, 2017). Egypt was headed by the Minister of Defense Muhammad Hussein Tantawi. In such a way, the militants occupied the government of the country.
Throughout its entire history, the army of Egypt served as a regulator in various political crises in the state. During the Arab Spring, the army did not intervene in the confrontation between the opposition-minded masses and the authorities. Nonetheless, when the president resigned, power was taken by the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces (Ketchley, 2017). The latter managed to stop the wave of violence, conduct a number of reforms, and organize democratic and transparent elections.
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In the course of the Arab Spring, people in the country demanded many changes. They wanted to reduce the level of unemployment, cancel a long-standing state of emergency, resolve food and housing problems, increase salaries, raise a standard of living, and get freedom of speech. One year before the revolution, Mohamed Mustafa ElBaradei expressed a desire to occupy a position of the head of the country (Ketchley, 2017). With this purpose, he founded an opposition bloc that encouraged people to make changes in the country. On February 2, supporters of former President Hosni Mubarak started to attack squeezing opposition forces with the help of firearms (Ketchley, 2017). Simultaneously, adherents of the Islamic movement Muslim Brotherhood became more active.
The movement had a great impact on the Egyptians. It is a political and religious movement that originated in 1928 (Ketchley, 2017). It became popular after the liberation of Egypt from the British power. The Muslim Brotherhood can be described as a highly conservative Islam of the Salafi sense (Ketchley, 2017). In many countries, the activities of the movement are considered terrorist. Its aim is to remove non-Islamic governments establishing the Islamic rule on the global scale and recreate the Great Islamic Caliphate. Apart from the political struggle, the Muslim Brotherhood uses armed jihad on the territory of various states (Ketchley, 2017). Mohammed Mursi was one of the representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and soon, he won in the elections. His supporters in the parliament endorsed the Constitution with the sharia elements (Ketchley, 2017). In addition, they supported a series of norms, which strengthen the empowerment of the president. However, his presidency did not last long.
At the end of 2012, the country entered a lingering political confrontation. The Egyptian army interfered in the rights of the strong, and one year later, Mursi’s rule was overthrown by the Egyptian army in the course of the military coup. The military endorsed the opponents of Islamists and removed Mohammed Mursi from power in 2013. During suppressing the protests, more than a thousand people were killed (Sadiki, 2015). The military minister Colonel-General Abdul Fatah Khalil As-Sisi headed Egypt and won the presidential election a year later (Sadiki, 2015). However, little changed in the country and a great number of experts believe that the As-Sisi regime represents the same cruel dictatorship as the Mubarak regime. In such a way, with the Arab Spring, people wanted to seek changes but their hopes were not justified.
The overthrow of the regime with the help of the democratic revolution led to the fact that numerous Islamic elements gained freedom as well. They also received a right to fight for power in new Egypt (Ketchley, 2017). The growth of Islamic sentiment in Egyptian society became a result of this struggle in the form of the armed struggle for terrorism and power. Because of the Arab Spring, a conflict between the government and the Islamists started in the Sinai Peninsula (Ketchley, 2017). In addition, this conflict covers the territory of the Gaza Strip and Israel through underground passages (Ketchley, 2017). It is necessary to mention that groupings are in conflict - Hamas does not recognize al-Qaeda but cooperates with the Muslim Brotherhood (Ketchley, 2017). Apart from these major players in the region, there are also other terrorist groups and each of them fights for its own interests. Therefore, the Arab Spring led to the situation that several terrorist groups began their activity in the region.
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The Trigger of the Arab Spring
Self-Immolation of the Trader
There are many causes of the Arab Spring. The most important thing is that people wanted to achieve changes in their society. However, the act of self-immolation of the Tunisian street trader became a real trigger of the beginning of the Arab Spring. On December 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi committed an act of self-immolation in a protest against the outrage of local law enforcements, inaction of officials, and corruption (Abouzeid, 2011). For world history, this date is similar to the event of June 28, 1914, when the murder of the successor of the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, conducted by the Serbian terrorist, acted as a trigger point for the outbreak of World War I.
According to one of the versions of the investigation, the major cause for the decision of Mohamed Bouazizi became a confrontation with a local police officer. The trader did not have a license to sell vegetables and the police officer banned the trade and confiscated all products. What is more, the officer struck him in the face and insulted in front of other people (Lageman, 2016). After this, Mohamed Boisizi asked for help in the office of the mayor, but no one wanted to assist him. Apart from this, the police officer did not suffer any punishment. Mohamed could not withstand such an attitude from the police and local officials. Thus, he thought that the only solution was to go to the central square of his city and commit an act of self-immolation.
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One week after the incident, mass demonstrations began in Tunisia. People crashed cars, police stations, and state institutions. Firearms were used against demonstrators. As a result of this, one person was killed, while several people received injuries. The local authorities introduced a curfew in the city. Soon, the demonstrations spread to the whole state (Lageman, 2016). The police killed dozens of demonstrators in the clashes (Lageman, 2016). The president of Tunisia agreed eventually not to run for president for the sixth time in a row (Lageman, 2016). Then, the euphoria from Tunisia spread to other Arab states.
Poor Living Conditions
Many analysts do not believe that this incident can be a major cause of the beginning of the Arab Spring. Half-starved existence and unemployment of people in the Middle East accumulated to the point where people could not stand it and rose to rebellion (Lesch & Haas, 2016). Before the world economic crisis in 2008, the countries of the Middle and North Africa had stable development (Lesch & Haas, 2016). However, after the crisis, the situation became worse and the level of poverty increased dramatically. In such a way, poor living conditions led to the fact that people wanted to change their way of life, which resulted in the Arab Spring. However, these two causes cannot exist one without the other. Thus, it is possible to state that poor economic development of the region and the act of self-immolation of the Tunisian trader let to the beginning of the Arab Spring.
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The Arab Spring is a series of government coups and demonstrations in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and other states in the region of the Middle East. Mass protests of citizens became a reason of a large number of problems in the work of public services, resulting in military clashes and the changes of political regimes. The events, which began with the protests, evolved quickly into pogroms and open confrontations. The Arab Spring cannot be unexpected. It became the reflection of the dissatisfaction accumulating in the Arab world because of different acute problems of a socio-economic, demographic, and political character. The main cause for the protest was self-immolation of a small merchant in Tunisia. The wave spread to neighboring states including Egypt, where the power passed to the army and the head of Abdul Fatah Khalil As-Sisi.
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