The Roots of the Arab Spring   /   Fall 2011   /    The Roots Of The Arab Spring

The Arab Spring and Failed Political Legitimacy

David Cook

In such a suicide-averse culture as that of the Middle East, where traditionally suicide rates have been among the world’s lowest, it is odd to realize that the Arab Spring began with a suicide—that of Mohammed Bouazizi (who lingered a month, dying on January 4, 2011). Bouazizi’s inability to gain a permit for selling fruits and vegetables led him to dowse himself with fuel and light himself on fire in protest. It was a death with which many in the Arabic-speaking Middle East could evidently identify, as the ramifica- tions of his act continue to reverberate and have led to the collapse of two seemingly stable regimes (Tunisia and Egypt), virtual civil war in three others (Libya, Yemen, and Syria), and mass public demonstrations in almost all of the others (Sudan, Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, and the Palestinian Territories). Even such long-stable countries as Morocco and Saudi Arabia have seen demonstrations, although not on the scale of the other countries.

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