On March 22 and 23, CCAS explored the causes and outcomes of the so-called "Arab Spring" for its 2012 Symposium, “’The People Want the Fall of the Regime’: The Arab Uprisings and the Future of Arab Politics.”
The Arab world has witnessed unprecedented protests and popular mobilization since December 2010/January 2011. Across the region, millions of people have rallied to demand dignity and freedom, often in the face of violent repression. Al sha‘b urid isqat al nizam – “The People Want the Fall of the Regime” – has been the popular rallying cry. Uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen have already brought down four of the region’s longest-standing rulers. And significant protests have taken place from Morocco to Bahrain and continue in Syria, seriously threatening the Assad regime. No Arab state has been left untouched by the historic events unfolding in the region.
What explains the so-called “Arab spring”? What are the underlying political, economic, and demographic causes of protest in these countries? Are the events taking place in the Arab world best understood as “revolutions,” with all that this term implies, or as some other form of political change? What role have Arab militaries played in these developments and how have the specific character of military-regime relations affected the process and outcomes of political change? Are Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen – nations where autocrats have already been toppled – now undergoing “democratic transitions”? What is the state of politics in these societies after the “revolution”? And what is the current state of regime-opposition dynamics in Syria and other countries were major protests have taken place?
The 2012 Center for Contemporary Arab Studies Symposium explored these questions more than one year after the beginning of the Arab uprisings. Seven expert panels assessed these events, discussed their historical significance, explored their underlying causes, and analyzed what these dramatic developments mean for our understanding of Arab politics and for the future of the Arab world.