In cooperation with Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center
As in 2011, today, many states of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are facing unprecedented political and economic challenges, which are fueling social discontent and anger. In late 2018, a second wave of discontent began to sweep through MENA countries namely in Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Oman, only to be halted by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the anger that triggered the protests has not disappeared nor have the underlying challenges that drove people into the streets in the first place. In reality, these conditions have been amplified by the high social costs of lockdowns and the crushing socioeconomic costs of proposed or implemented austerity policies. The war in Ukraine brought new elements to the mix—inflation, food, and energy insecurity, and larger public deficits—exacerbating the living conditions of these populations. Aside from oil-producing countries, economic conditions in most of the MENA countries are dire, with states moving into further austerity. Even if these states have profoundly changed since the so-called Arab Spring, they no longer have the fiscal space they once had to address the profound disquiet felt across the region, or the inequities and politics underpinning public discontent. Moreover, demonstrators across the region seem to be fighting harder than ever, and at significant personal cost, for an improvement in their civic rights (including women rights) today. Most recently, this has been visible in Iran, which represents another signal of the growing erosion in relations between populations and their leaders. Observing these developments, many analysts have discussed the possibility of a “new Arab Spring,” which has the potential to bring revolutionary change.
What ties together the protests of 2011 and the new wave of protests? To what extent do the conditions that brought about the 2011 revolts resemble those of today? To what extent do they differ? What do different national mobilization experiences have in common? How is the current wave of protest movements impacting the stability of individual states in the MENA region and what does this mean for the future of the region?