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A Year Later, the Arab Spring Continues

By Kaitlin O'Connell
On February 17, 2012

It has been a year since Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest after police confiscated his fruits and vegetables stand, beginning the domino effect of the fight for democracy and freedom from the dictating rulers of Libya, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and especially Tunisia. With the first incident being in Tunisia, a country who rarely ever has any kind of protest at all, the world took notice. Cars began to burn, protestors were being killed and demonstrations continued. By mid-February almost 4,000 Tunisian refugees had fled to the Italian island of Lampedusa, causing the Italian authorities to announce a state of emergency that would follow up with federal aid being brought and distributed to the island.

Tunisia was in a state of chaos and black smoke; President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was broadcasting throughout the nation that the protestors were "mercenaries and extremists," that they were hurting the tourism value that comes into the country and that would just hurt the economy more. His words fell on deaf ears and on January 14, 2011 President Ben Ali fled the country to Saudi Arabia with his family. Only a few hours later did Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannoucji announce that he would take over the presidency.

As Tunisia rejoiced, other countries began to notice their achievement and begin a revolution of their own. Egypt's first organized protest against President Hosni Mubarak began on January 25, 2011 with protesters gathering in Cairo's Tahrir square. Violence erupted just as quickly as the protest began with Mubarak's army firing into the mass of protestors; this carnage was the worst that the country had ever seen. And after only 18 days of protest Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that President Mubarak was stepping down and letting the military take over power in the country.

Almost everyone around the world can remember that night when the news broke that Mubarak had stepped down. Celebration swept through out Tahrir square and the nation. So much so that Libya began their protest only five days later lashing out at President Mohammed Gaddafi for censoring the nation and his lack of respect for his people.  These protests became the worst that the Middle East had ever seen, with hundreds of people dying each day. Young Libyan men began to take up arms against Gaddafi's army, finding and making weapons out of scrap metal, car parts as well as other various things. As the rebels fought, it seemed as if Gaddafi would never revoke his Presidency until October 21 when photos surfaced of Gaddafi's body. After eight months, a week and a day, with an estimated 50,000 dead, President Gaddafi was no more.

Today all eyes are on the nation of Syria, where civil unrest has recently been brought up at the United Nations Security Council. Almost every religious, economic and political group has taken up arms against each other. President Bashar al-Assad has blamed protestors on "conspirators." Still thousands of protestors return to the streets in the capital city of Damascus, to show their nation and the world that they are not giving up just yet. The neighboring countries of Turkey, Jordan and Iraq have had an increase in refugees as Syrians continue to flee their homes.  Today the United Nations has estimated that over 7,000 people have lost their lives.  As the United Nations meets, the death toll continues to climb, and yet still no solution has been made.

Only one question remains: will Syria be able to achieve their goal of democracy like the nations of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia or will the fight continue? This is something that only time can tell, as protests and demonstrations still go on throughout the Middle East and even in the United States. Is it possible that democracy will shine through or just the death toll and unjust that continues to rise?

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