By Farzad Farhadi

The Arab Spring, 8 years on; from Bouazizi self-immolation to Bread Revolution

December 30, 2018

TEHRAN - Protests have arisen in Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Lebanon and Jordan this year. This coincides with the eighth anniversary of the Arab Spring revolutions that began in Tunisia on December 17, 2010, leading to the collapse of the ruling regimes in some Arab countries, in particular Egypt.

Some protests, such as those in Lebanon and Tunisia, have been inspired by the French “yellow vests”, which began on November 17 against the economic policies of French President Emanuel Macron over soaring energy and living costs.

Meanwhile, the Sudanese protests were so intense they led to the overthrow the ruling regime. On December 19, protest rallies across the cities of Sudan, including Khartoum, captured the capital and ensued so far in the 14 provinces of the country’s 18 provinces. The deterioration of livelihoods has been the main cause. Bread prices were also a concern. The cost of a loaf of bread reached four pounds in Sudan.

In addition, Sudan has long complained about the lack of fuel, and also financial liquidity. Banks have prevented people from accessing their money to withdraw savings and turn currencies into U.S. dollars, and with the rises in bread prices, the chant “People Call for the Overthrow of the Regime” swelled. This demand became famous during the Arab Spring revolutions.

In the protests, according to official figures of the country, eight were killed and 22 others were wounded.

In 2018, Tunisia has witnessed sporadic protests centered on social demands. On December 24 in al-Qasrayn in western Tunisia, protesters and security forces clashed. This was followed by the suicide of Abdul Razzaq, a media photographer, who set himself on fire in protest over the disastrous social situation, and in particular unemployment.

The protesters demanded pay increases. Tunisian activists chose red vests, inspired by the “yellow vests” demonstrations in France. Activists have said more peaceful protests will be launched in the coming days against the economic, social and political situation. But disagreements between the president Beji Caid Essibsi and Prime Minister Youssef al-Shahed also caused problems. Al-Shahed said that lack of political support didn’t yield better economic results.

Tunisians continue to demonstrate and attack the security forces with stones, and the police also use tear gas.

The “yellow vest” has also appeared in Morocco, worn by the government and private sector workers on December 17. Again the issues were demands for better livelihoods and wages.

This protest movement came at the invitation of the Technician League, which occurred on the anniversary of the Tunisian revolution of December 17, 2010.

Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco, has sacked four ministers because of the inability to execute the program and pardon hundreds of prisoners. The government also conducted talks with labor unions for wages and pensions, labor rights, and employer demands.

In Libya, the protests occurred in the southern cities of the country. The Fezzan Anger movement forced El-Sharara oil field to be closed on December 8. There, protesters demanded more work and fuel for citizens.

Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj agreed with the protesters and promised to meet their needs and the field was reopened. Siraj announced the allocation of 120 million dinars in Libya ($ 85.4 million) for immediate use in southern cities.

Lebanese activists also chose the “yellow vest” for protesting the country's disastrous economic conditions. The first demonstrations were held this past Sunday when hundreds of people rushed onto the streets of al-Shohada and Riyadh-e-Salah in the center of Beirut.

The protesters wanted reduced taxes on fuel prices, the creation of a comprehensive health plan including health cards and the return of bond yields to 7.5 percent.

The protests arose because of the difficult economic conditions facing Lebanon, and over political disagreements that have brought the formation of a government to a standstill.

In 2018, Jordan saw protests against the difficult economic situation and the introduction of new taxes. Beginning last  February, protesters demanded that the government be dissolved because of rising taxes and fuel prices and the removal bread subsidies. 

The protests led to the resignation of the country's previous Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki. King Abdullah in June appointed Omar Al Razzaz to form his cabinet. But the failure of the execution of promises angered Jordanians. They want the dismissal of Al-Razaz and the current government.

It is undeniable that many Arab countries are facing harsh conditions. Lebanon and Sudan may be the worst off. There is the military rule in Sudan, and in Lebanon, the process of forming the government has been fraught with turmoil.

It is noteworthy that the main demands of the protesters in these countries are for better economic conditions.

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