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The Arab uprisings (2011) throughout civil society has
caused uproar in international politics but most importantly heightening the
deep political and economic dynamics cycling in the Middle East. The Arab
uprisings, also known as the Arab ‘revolution’ (Charles, 2013) introduced an
anti-government movement, spreading throughout the Arab state, and challenging
superpowers to tackle mediate problems. Many theorists, have pinpointed how
crucial the Arab spring, is as it is still a continuous movement; however, the
fundamental question is if the ‘revolution’ has stimulated a change. Thus, I
shall be further discussing and integrating proposals, which will initiate a
debate to answer this statement.

The Arab uprisings, initiated in Tunisia as Mohamed Bouazizi
a fruit vendor faced harassment from the government as Tunisia’s inform economy
failed him. His reaction was a catalyst for the Arab uprising as he set himself
alight, thus stating how far individuals were ready to go to change the
political interrogation in the Middle East. After many failed dictatorship,
leader of Tunisia Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali, came into power in 1987; thus, using
his position to promise the people of Tunisia, a reformed democratic state and
greater human rights. Ben Ali, focused on using his authority to reinforce laws
and ‘dismiss oppositional parties by keeping his parties upfront in politics’
(J. Tyler, 2008) Ali, sought to limit freedom in Tunisia, and use the police as
a ‘state apparatus’ (Althusser, 1970) which is often done by government.
Furthermore, Tunisia was becoming a failed state, while unemployment for the
youth was becoming a heightening issue as Tunisia’s economy was facing
disparities. The notion of this Mohammed Bouazizi’s death, caused the
Democratic Progressive Party, to ask the government to verbally tackle issues
rather than harass individuals. This caused a change in the politics of Tunisia
as protests roared by the Trade Unions, causing President Ben Ali to step down
and go to Saudi after being in power for more than a decade. It also caused a
‘domino effect as police vanished from duty’ (BBC, 2011) allowing the community
to form and perhaps do a better job as they worked together. Following this
uproar, Beji Caid Essebsi took on the role of Prime Minister. However, civil
society was still facing injustice as over 70 people had been killed in
violence; the government deceived people as they released ‘lower figures than
those alleged by human rights’ (BBC, 2011) The dictation of the government, and
there handling of affairs reflects how controlling they were and perhaps why an
overthrow was called for. Tunisia, in this case had changed politically but its
need to protest continuously was still vital as a change politically did not
always mean a greater change.

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However, in an economic sense Ben Ali was able to reform
Tunisia’s economy, and foreign relations. Tunisia’s economically grew, as there
was a 3% increase in GDP (United Nations, 2010), and it continued to grow. The
increase in GDP, initiated a greater foreign trade relation with the EU. Thus,
suggesting the importance of the revolution, as it depicted change. Ben Ali,
was able to sustain foreign policy which encouraged peace within political
regimes. This notion, continued into the Middle East and Africa as Tunisia’s
diplomacy was the beginning of a Palestinian-American negotiation, as they held
peace gatherings. The notion of politics changed in the Middle East as they
cooperated with the US, such a relation which encouraged tackling terrorism;
Ben Ali was able to better support within the international system. Although,
Tunisia’s economy gradually reformed it did not mean civil society were
completely embracing these changes, unemployment was still a high factor in the
market, hence why Tunisians began to protest. The country had a 14.7% fall in
unemployment, however in comparison to Egypt, who’s inflation rate was over
three times of Tunisia’s, they had a much-developed economy. (United Nations,
2010) Both Tunisia and Egypt were titled ‘mostly unfree’, depicting the damage.
In turn to this Tunisia’s government had failed them once again, as Libyan
President Al Gaddafi, announced Ben Ali’s resignation as he fled the country.

Tunisia, set an example for other states in the Arab
community. Egypt, soon after followed Tunisia’s agenda. In 2010, Egyptians
sought to protest corruption, poverty and suppression. The youths of Egypt, set
out to make president Hosni Mubarak to resign as they longed for a democratic
state and voting. Tunisia and Egypt, had caused protests to widen through the
Middle East and Africia. Syria was involved also, while other Arab states had a
few protests, The Arab nation was in uproar. In Egypt, the ‘demonstrations were
not focused on religion rather it was aimed at nationalism’. (Ibish, 2011)
Prior to the revolutions, it was Islamic groups which initiated uprisings as
they were prepared to become martyrs for the sake of their country; following
this Islamic parties came together with the rest of the state to fight back
against oppression.

While, it may seem that Tunisia’s aim of the protest was for
economic reform, it was also crucial a revolution was reached. The success of
Tunisia’s revolution, was a factor of the use of media thus why Egypt followed.
Technology is a tool, in which social media has allowed networking and further
political indulgence. Once, the video of Bouazizi setting himself alight went
viral it was clear globally he would be known. Tunisia was under one of the
most established internet schemes whom participated in the Arab uprisings.
Young people were demanding a change, the economy and government dictatorship
had slowly destroyed them; the rich and the poor came together to make a stand
with the help of social media. Educated youth, who had not yet experienced
employment were manic with the state of their lives. Under Ben Ali’s rule
unemployment was at 29.5%, he had made the youth feel as if there was a limit
to their freedom as they drowned in a tarnished informal economy. The media
permitted civil society, to express this anger thus showing the world what was
forbidden to share. Tunisians in anger, recorded the ovation by Mohamed
Bouazizi in hope that it would speak out to the world. News, internationally
e.g. BBC, Al Jazeera covered this uproar, articulating Ben Ali’s deceiving
political regimes while exposing Tunisia’s shattered economy, and
instability.  However, it was clear, once
the media took its toll the government had to foresee future turmoil. Thus, the
government strengthened their control over media, even to the extent of
bloggers being imprisoned for spreading the word of the uprisings. The media,
introduced the world to a political change in the Middle East, as it opened
doors for other Arab societies to come forward.

The Tunisian revolution, also brought attention to the
gender. Tunisia’s conservative (Bahia, Nar) suggested that it was ‘better to be
a woman then a man’, during the uprisings on social media. Women took this
chance, to use social media to deepen and express their political issues.
During both Presidents, Bourguiba and Bel Ali’s time. Women were repressed,
they were forced to cover. However, during the protests, it permitted women to
speak out and voice their opinion. ‘This was a time of change’ (Al-Ali et al)
The success of the uprisings, and Tunisia’s growth towards a stable democratic
state has allowed a range of new legislation, many protecting women from
violent attacks (Med, 2016). Now, Tunisia has addressed domestic gender
violence, Thus, the protests, encouraged laws to be changed. Tunisia’s
parliament now stands with 30% of representatives as female, meaning women’s
rights are gradually changing in the Middle East. It has been argued that today
95% of Tunisian females, are educated and are able to engage in politics and
other academics. In Tunisia, the Ennahda movement stands as the biggest Islamic
party inspired by the Iranian revolution, its reformation since the revolution
has allowed adultery to be illegal under shariah law and has promised women
more freedom in terms of appearance and politics. (Al-jazeera, 2011) Although,
while there is an element of change within Tunisia regarding women. It is clear
this is still a wider issue in the Middle East. Women, in Saudi for example
were only given the right to vote in 2015 (BBC, 2015) Thus it may be promising
to others that Tunisia’s success caused change, political views on gender
elsewhere in the Middle East are still corrupted and Arab protests are still
continuous for a gender gap reform.

Regarding this Marxist and feminists, believe there is a
gender gap in the labour market, where women are inferior. Thus, why it is so
common in the Middle East, as in a sense it integrates with Shariah law as men
are the women’s ‘guardian’ (Yakin, 2009) Feminist critical theory, assimilates
with Gramscian Marxism, where they believe gender is a social construct. Thus,
feminists have encouraged scholars to focus on a gender gap to tackle this
issue. (Lasswell, 1936) proposes that state leaders have the need for power,
and the notion of politics is often associated with aggression and masculinity
thus why Middle Eastern leaders express this in dictatorship, to avoid looking ‘vulnerable’.
In addition to Lasswell’s point on masculinity, feminists emphasise how
politics is a turmoil of hegemony and gender biased; which needs change. In a
capitalist world, women are often involved in a domestic sphere where their
reproductive labour is unnoticed in a capitalist society. As Marx explains
previously, institutions exploit women and reproduces ideologies which enhance
the concept that hegemony is normalised. Thus, this proposes that capitalism is
the structure of international politics, as individual rights are commonly exploited,
and democracies are unfavoured especially in Arab states, a gender division is also
present e.g. Tunisia and Egypt. Marxist feminists believe their ‘segregation
from productive labour, has allowed males to boost their control globally’
(Judith 1990). The main argument of feminists, is that the international system
needs a change, one in which gender is equal and patriarchal ideologies are no
longer common. This way in a sense if the Western world move away from these stereotypical
dynamics, it may encourage the Middle East to follow to avoid feeling even more
segregated. In a sense following the revolutions we have seen this as Tunisia
etc have followed Western regimes changing the politics in the Middle East as
this would have not been normalised before. The analysation of feminism,
focuses on capitalism dominating the international structure as it is clear economic
gains and male dominant prosperity has led to much more division, in gender and
in the world today. Furthermore, it is clear a change has happened, however one
again continuity is needed as there are political regimes in terms of gender
and poverty which need to still be tackled in contemporary politics.

However, although it may be that social media enlightened
the world with issues in Tunisia and Egypt; it is not fair for many outside
thinkers to argue that social media was the stepping stone for the Jasmine
revolution. Social media can easily be misinterpreted in such a scenario,
during these times media control was at its highest meaning the bigger picture
was not always centre. While it has helped with coverage, western media can
also insinuate a negative stereotype of Arabs, painting them as uncivilised.
Which is not the case, the media can often misguide westerners forcing them to
believe the Middle East is focused on ‘terror schemes’ when in fact it is
isolated individuals yarning for their freedom using social media. It is in
many cases, the politics that can be connotated with this as the Middle East has
had a series of controlling dictatorship, e.g. Egypt. In Egypt once they had
followed in Tunisia’s footsteps, the government also ‘controlled media affairs
to limit communication’ (Rebecca, 2012), for example the state security had
Twitter blocked, as well as text messaging. Yet this did, motivate many
Egyptians to act physically. The Arab uprisings, were heightened by social
medial, although it is the individuals who put their lives at risk that deserve
the most credit. Thus, social media, can in some ways be considered as a
catalyst for political change, in the Middle East as it shed light on many
hidden agendas.

The West, have always had a set view that the Middle East
would fail to move to democracy. However, it is the successfulness of Tunisia, and
its political regimes to move towards a stable democratic that has defeated orientalist
stereotypes. Orientalism is a theory which states Arabs are backwards, and
uncivilised people; it often involves seeing Arab Culture as unusual and at
times dangerous. (Hopkins, 1994) After the British and the French colonised the
middle east. The British and French colonist’s views were constructed on how
they saw the Arabs at the time. They saw themselves as superior in contrast to
the Middle East, which provided them with a justification to colonise these
countries. This relates to the politics in the Middle East as these unresolved stereotypes
has lead to a lack of relations worldwide as Arab leaders, somewhat have proved
some stereotypes to be true with their backward regimes. However, this does not
mean civil society live up to these stereotypes, it is social media which in fact
has played on these judgments as it is usually targeting a one-sided negative
view on Islam and Arabs. Theorist Edward Said, in his book ‘Orientalism’ has challenged
this perspective. Said, states that Orientalism is a mentality of the West,
which is an excuse to ‘dominate’ the East (Said, 1978). He argues that Orients,
should not make generalisations and depict them onto the world. These stereotypes
have in some ways allowed Arab leaders to suppress their societies as the
Western world avoid involvement due to the connotations of ‘terrorism’ regarding
the Arab world. Thus, in some ways it can be argued, with the help of the West the
revolution may have been reached sooner, and action could have happened earlier.
The Arab uprisings, in some way taught the Western world that those repressed
by their leaders just need change. In this element however, it is clear the
Arab uprisings haven’t changed politics completely in the Middle East as
relations are still problematic internationally and the stereotypes continue to
remain unchallenged.

To conclude, while it is clear the Arab uprisings made a statement,
the question still to ask is if the Arab uprisings are an element of ‘change or
continuity’ in the politics of the Middle East. Regarding this it is undeniable
to say the revolutions have made no change, when in fact the Middle East has
moved forward politically and economically. Tunisia has shown the world that to
make a change, it is crucial you voice your opinion despite the aftermath, the
domino effect following this rebellion encouraged an overdue movement within
Arab nations. Humans are naturally inclined to fight for their wants and needs,
and often if not satisfied conflict will arise thus suggesting why the Arab
nation continues to be in uproar until now, years of oppression has led to a fight.
A fight that is still continuous, while other countries have made landmark
others e.g. Palestine, Syria, Yemen are still searching for freedom. Thus,
while I say the Arab uprisings in the Middle East have made a change politically,
this is the means to a beginning not an end, as there are still drastic changes
that need to come to light to continue this reformation and break through to