The Middle East’s regional conflicts have been fueled for many centuries, with no plans to cease soon. In fact, many analysts even believe the next Arab uprising could be happening in plain sight. As more and more violent protests emerge, it is becoming evident that these protests embody similar characteristics to the 2011 Arab Spring. This begs the question: could Algeria and Sudan be the trigger for region-wide protest?
Ever since Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he planned to seek a fifth term, some of the largest protests in the history of the nation have erupted. After weeks of protests, Bouteflika reversed his decision to run for a fifth term and said he will not seek re-election. Furthermore, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir also faced high levels of backlash in the form of protests. These protests centered on political repression of the populace under al-Bashir’s corrupt governance. However, in al-Bashir’s case, fighting and violence only escalated from protestors as he declared the nation to be in a state of emergency.
Perhaps the next-wave Arab uprisings are already happening. Undoubtedly, in this round of uprisings, regional instability due to the volatile political, economic and social climate are arguably worse by orders of magnitude than they were in 2011. Before the Arab Spring, analysts often underpredicted revolutionary political changes; however, new changes in the world of protests have taken the world by storm, prompting more groups to rebel against their government. One recent change that sparked people to advocate for reforms is the increasing coverage of all types of media. For example, social media, broadcast news and political newspapers have invigorated citizens to act out against injustice as they see how media coverage of an issue proves to be a huge role in implementing change. Because of this, Arab autocrats have spent the past eight years attempting to rewire the region’s media and politics to prevent exacerbation of socioeconomic problems.
However, Algeria and Sudan are not the first to reach this level of political unrest since the 2011 Arab Spring. In the summer of 2018, massive protests rippled through southern Iraq; in the winter of 2018, major protests plagued Tunisia, Jordan and Iran. Seven of the 21 states conventionally defined as being in the Middle East have experienced a major protest event in the past several years. Due to the protests’ lack of revolutionary regime changes in the past few years, these protests are most likely overlooked and categorized as a regional pattern; however, popular mobilization reshapes politics at all levels independently of whether it topples the regime as new identities, coalitions and political claims are created, indicating structural change.
LET’S THINK ABOUT IT
Your SWAC leader will prompt you with questions concerning this idea: Given that media’s influence is continually expanding and connecting people, how do you think media affects the political atmosphere?
Express your thoughts and contribute to discussion with your SWAC peers! (Write your thoughts.)
Now is when the handouts should be passed out to students. This handout will cover an analysis of regional conflicts in the Middle East, specifically a case study of Algeria and Sudan. It is recommended that the handout be read aloud as a group instead of individually. Take some time after the document has been read to cover the material with the students and make sure that its been generally understood. Ask questions to students; get them to summarize what they’ve read and make sure that the students are engaged and understanding. The reading shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes.
We have two video resources below that will present the current event portion of the handout, one focusing on the impact social media has on political change, the other on the Arab Spring. Following each link, we’ve included a description of the video and possible questions that you can ask students to see what they’ve taken away from watching the clips. Each video clip is between 2 and 5 minutes; coupled with questions this segment should take no more than 15 minutes.
Social Media: The New Propaganda War Tool – BBC News
This four-minute video explains the significance of social media in the political sphere.
- Do you think social media has helped liberate more people or empower more corrupt governments?
- Why is a “picture worth a thousand words,” regarding conflicts in the Middle East?
Here’s How the Arab Spring Started and How it Affected the World – History
This four-minute video explains the start and impact of the Arab Spring.
- Do you think the Arab Spring caused more change for the better or worse?
- Why do you think religious extremist groups and militants were able to establish a foothold on many overthrown governments?
- After watching both videos and learning more about social media’s impact on the Arab Spring, do you think social media is a beneficial tool for change?
- Do you think that people in Middle Eastern countries plagued by turmoil would have rebelled eventually without social media?
(This should take no more than 10 minutes – total estimated meeting time: no more than 1 hour.)
Chappell, Bill. “Under Pressure, Algeria’s Leader Won’t Seek 5th Term – But Delays Upcoming Election.” NPR, NPR, 12 Mar. 2019, www.npr.org/2019/03/12/702509334/undr-peressure-algerias-leader-won-t-seek-fifth-term-but-delays-upcoming-electio.
Lynch, Marc. “Is the next Arab Uprising Happening in Plain Sight?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 26 Feb. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/02/26/is-next-arab-uprising-happening-plain-sight/.