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In this June 29, 2011 file photo, demonstrators throw a tear gas grenade during clashes with the Egyptian security in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. What appeared an unstoppable groundswell for change across the Middle East earlier this year, has splintered into scattered and indecisive conflicts that have left thousands dead and Western policy makers juggling roles ranging from NATO airstrikes in Libya to worried bystanders in Syria and Yemen.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

Nearly everyone has been following daily news reports for more than a year now of what’s commonly called the “Arab spring.” But it’s easy to lose sight of the composite picture of events in the region or the historical perspective.

Here are some tidbits explaining the basics. But please add your own factoids in the comment field below.

• The term, “Arab spring,” is a Western construct. Most Arabs and the local press use other descriptions: revolution, uprising, awakening, renaissance, and Arab citizen revolt.

• The term “Arab spring” was first used long before the events of the past year. It first appeared in 2003 in a New York Times Magazine article, “Dreaming of Democracy,” by George Packer. The first Arab writer to use it was Egyptian Saad Eddin Ibrahim. He wrote in February, 2005: “If seriously implemented, these steps [proposed Egyptian reforms] will transform Mubarak’s legacy. Along with events in Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine, it may well usher in an Arab spring of freedom, one long overdue.”

• Many consider the real beginning of the “Arab spring” to be April 6, 2008, when a textile-worker strike in the Egyptian city of Mahalla al-Kobra was organized through by means of the then-fledgling Facebook platform. An estimated 70,000 workers across the country protested in support of the workers’ demands for better pay and lower food prices.

Here are some facts about the countries and rulers  generally associated with the “Arab spring:”

• More than 10 countries in North Africa and the Middle East, which have had large public protests in the past year, some peaceful. Among the more prominent are Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain,  Libya, Syria and Yemen.

• Three countries’ rulers – those of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya -  have been forced from office. Cumulatively, they had been in power for a total of 95 years.

• Protests in Yemen and Syria are against leaders who have been in office 44 years. Together, their families have ruled the countries for a total of 73 years.

• An estimated 34,500 people have died during protests so far.  About 60,000 or more have been injured. The vast majority of deaths and injuries have occurred in Libya.

• During the turmoil, approximately 600,000 people have been internally displaced or relocated to other countries.

What other facts do you think the world should know? Feel free to add some in the comments below.

Middle East Voices

Middle East Voices is a unique social journalism project powered by Voice of America. The site, as a supplement to, is designed to present news, views and conversation to stimulate dialogue and understanding within, without and across man-made borders. On our platform, among other content, you will finds expert insights and community-submitted viewpoints on pressing political, economic, social and religious issues reshaping the Middle East and our world.


  1. Dickmcgee

    April 28, 2014

    Penis yup

  2. Jake Kohler

    January 16, 2014


  3. Progress Okwudiri Kio

    August 28, 2012

    hi naija

  4. Tenzin Khyentse

    November 16, 2011

    - 12,000 people have been convicted in Egyptian military courts since February with a 93% conviction rate.

    - The killing of Khalid Saeed was as much a catalyst for the Egyptian uprising as the self-immolation of Tunisian Mohammed Bouazizi.


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