March 05, 2015 00:25 UTC

In the News

What the Arab Spring, Europe Protests Have in Common

Thousands of Egyptians protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square in April. The crowds were demanding the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.
Thousands of Egyptians protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square in April. The crowds were demanding the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story


This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Experts say political unrest in the Arab World and protests in Europe have more in common than it may seem.

(SOUND)

The "Arab Spring" pro-democracy movement began in Tunisia. Protests forced President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to resign in January.

(SOUND)

A short time later, protests in Egypt forced out President Hosni Mubarak, another longtime Arab leader.

Mary Kaldor was part of the opposition movement in Hungary during the Cold War. She is now a professor of global governance at the London School of Economics.

MARY KALDOR: "People assumed that somehow the Middle East was different and that was based on assumptions that somehow Islam is different -- 'It’s not like us.' And that was an assumption that underpinned the war on terror, too. And I think what’s so wonderful about the Arab Spring is that it’s disproving that assumption. It’s showing that Arabs are just as democratic as everyone else."

As the Arab Spring grew, protests also began in parts of Europe.

(SOUND)

In Athens, thousands protested cuts in government spending and other budget reforms. Protesters occupied Syntagma Square outside Greece’s Parliament. Professor Kaldor says the anger was similar to what the Arab demonstrators felt.

MARY KALDOR: "It’s all about, I think, a failure of representation, a feeling that the political class is one class, 'We can’t influence them, it’s outrageous that they’re suddenly saying that we have to pay for what the banks did.' And I think that there’s a similar feeling of outrage in the Arab world. So I think there are very many similarities between what’s happening in Europe and what’s happening in the Arab world."

In Spain, protesters occupied the Puerta del Sol square in central Madrid, copying the earlier protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

In London, British protesters demonstrated earlier this year against their government's cost-cutting measures. Owen Tudor is international secretary for the Trades Union Congress in Britain.

OWEN TUDOR: "I think there are clear differences for what’s going on in different countries. We’re talking about democracies in Europe, dictatorships across much of North Africa. But many of the causes of what’s happened have been very similar. It’s about the economic crisis."

Israel recently had some of its largest demonstrations ever. Israelis have criticized housing costs, wages, taxes and rising prices for food and fuel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promising economic reforms but has failed to satisfy social activists.

Some observers see the Arab Spring coming to a halt in Libya and Syria. But Professor Kaldor says the protests have already changed the Arab world.

MARY KALDOR: "Nineteen eighty-nine brought an end to the Cold War. I think what twenty-eleven did was to sideline the war on terror. It marginalized al-Qaida. Osama bin Laden may have been physically killed in Pakistan, but he’s been politically killed by the demonstrations in the Middle East."

The protests in the Arab world might never have amounted to much without the use of social media to help organize protests.

(SOUND)

The Pearl Roundabout traffic circle in Manama became Bahrain’s own version of Tahrir Square. Protesters, mostly Shi’ite Muslims, set up camp and demanded reforms. Bahrain's minority Sunni government, with military help from neighboring nations, violently suppressed the uprising.

A crowd in Bahrain shouts anti-government statements at a funeral in April.
A crowd in Bahrain shouts anti-government statements at a funeral in April.

Today, many Bahrainis say they are afraid to use social media. Abdulnabi Alekry is chairman of the Bahrain Transparency Society. He says the government's use of social media to help identify opponents has pushed the country’s Sunnis and Shi’ites farther apart.

ABDULNABI ALEKRY: "It is causing a lot of damage to the national unity and it is causing even suspicion between people who work together or live together or are in the same society or club. It is a source of concern."

Al-Jazeera television recently showed how a Facebook page helped lead officials to a twenty-year-old Shi’ite woman. Visitors to the page were asked to identify her "and let the government take care of the rest." She was reportedly arrested and tortured.

Bahrain is not the only country said to be using social media to find government opponents. Syrian security forces have also been accused of using sites like Facebook and Twitter to identify activists.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

___

Contributing: Henry Ridgwell and Phillip Walter Wellman

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Learn with The News

  • Miners arrive to help with the rescue effort in Zasyadko coal mine in Donetsk March 4, 2015. A blast at the coal mine in the eastern Ukrainian rebel stronghold of Donetsk killed more than 30 people, a local official said on Wednesday, with dozens more min

    Audio At Least 33 Dead in Ukraine Mine Explosion

    A coal mine exploded early Wednesday in the rebel-held city of Donetsk. Also in the news, the US Justice Department released its Ferguson police department report; China has announced it will increase its military spending by 10 percent; and Mexico captured a Zetas drug leader. More

  • Video UK Group Brings Eyeglasses to Rwanda

    Most people in developed countries do not have a problem getting prescription eyeglasses. They go to an ophthalmologist -- a trained specialist who treats problems and diseases of the eye. But in poor countries like Rwanda, it may take a lot more time, effort and money. More

  • FILE -  People sit by a tent at a makeshift camp in Calais, northern France, Sept. 7, 2014.

    Audio Paris Tent Camp a Sign of Troubles Facing Asylum Seekers

    France has Europe’s second largest number of asylum seekers. Rights activists have criticized the France's treatment of asylum seekers. The most recent criticism came from the Council of Europe, Europe’s top rights group. Now, French lawmakers are considering a plan to improve the asylum process. More

  • FILE - A construction crew works on a site where a new hospital is planned, in Navua, Fiji.

    Audio China's Aid to South Pacific Rises

    A new report says China alone has provided $1.4 billion in foreign aid to the South Pacific region. The researchers say China is likely to become the region's third-biggest donor after Australia and the United States. It says the aid might help ease tensions between China and countries in the area. More

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 3, 2015.

    Audio Israeli PM: Iran Nuclear Talks Are a ‘Very Bad Deal’

    Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to US lawmakers Tuesday. Also in the news, Sec. of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif meet for a second day to discuss Iran's nuclear program; Russia blocks European leaders from Nemtsov funeral; and North Korea says joint military exercises could spark war More

Featured Stories

  • FILE - An embryologist works on a petri dish at a London fertility clinic.

    Audio 'Three-Person Babies' Debate Goes Beyond Science and Religion

    Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy uses the genetic material from three people to create babies. The stated purpose of the therapy is to help mothers avoid passing genetic mutations to their babies. Some say MRT will lead to 'designer babies.' Others say it is dangerous, immoral or just wrong. More

  • Steam and smoke is seen over the coal burning power plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009. Coal power plants are among the biggest producer of CO2, that is supposed to be responsible for climate change.

    Audio Capturing CO2 Is Costly and Difficult

    Most scientists agree that increasing amounts of carbon-dioxide gas in the atmosphere is partly to blame for climate change. Climate change can have a big effect on weather conditions around the world. Scientists are looking for the best and least costly methods for capturing the gas. More

  • Kerry and Declan Reichs (Courtesy Photo)

    Video Choosing to Be a Single Mother

    U.S. officials say birth rates for unmarried women over age 40 have been rising in recent years. In fact, the rate in 2012 was almost 30 percent higher than just five years earlier. There are single mothers by choice. They are generally older, successful, well-educated, and financially secure. More

  • Audio Young Writer’s Plays Explore Race, Identity in America

    Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' latest play 'An Octoroon,' is showing at a theater in New York City. It is based on a 19th Century work by Dion Boucicault. It tells about a white man who falls in love with a woman who is part black. At the time, mixed race marriage was banned in southern US states. More

  • Audio Understanding the Misunderstood Teenage Brain

    A common battle cry of teenagers to adults is, "You just don't understand me!" Well, they might be right. A brain scientist (neuroscientist) and mother to two teenagers says the teenage brain is quite different from the adult brain. She "debunks," or clears up three common myths about teenagers. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner blog
Confessions of an English Learner blog

 

 

 

Tell us About Our Programs