The State of the Revolution

Moscow Protests


On December 17, 2010, a Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest incompetence and corruption in his government. The act sparked a nationwide revolution in the small north African country. On January 14 – just 28 days later – Tunisia’s dictator was forced to resign, and on October 23 of this year, the people had their first real elections.


As Bouazizi launched Tunisia’s revolution, so Tunisia launched a massive wave of protests across the entire region. Egypt was among the most visible of these. Hundreds of thousands gathered in Cairo’s giant Tahrir Square, and on February 11, their own dictator – Hosni Mubarak – was forced to step down. Early celebration has turned to pessimism, however, as the “interim” military government shows signs of refusing to give up power.


The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt succeeded with relatively little bloodshed. (Emphasis on relatively.) Libya was not so lucky. Clashes between the Gaddafi regime and the opposition led to a full-on civil war in which tens of thousands were killed. The U.N. got involved, supporting the rebels with an air campaign. On October 20, Gaddafi was killed. Power now is in the hands of the National Transitional Council, which seems to be moving toward democracy.


Protesters in Syria still have a long struggle ahead. Government forces have killed thousands of civilian demonstrators, but protests continue. Meanwhile the Syrian government has been increasingly isolated on the world stage, with the Arab League suspending Syria’s membership last month.


The revolution isn’t confined to the Middle East. This southeast Asian nation (also known as Burma) is still in the grip of a brutal military regime, which violently suppressed peaceful protests back in 2007. However, flickers of change are beginning to show through. The government recently released hundreds of political prisoners, including the iconic leader of the National League of Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi. The United States recently sent Hillary Clinton to Burma on the first visit of its kind in over 50 years, in recognition of this (still very tentative) progress.


Despite a number of increasingly undemocratic moves, Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin remains popular. However, public resentment against his party – United Russia – is growing. In Sunday’s election, United Russia lost its supermajority in the Russian legislature, and barely held on to its majority. Even that majority is widely considered illegitimate, with reports of nationwide election fraud. Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Moscow yesterday (see photo above). In the past, rallies in Moscow have been small, because of apathy and fear. That appears to be changing.

The World

Time is too short to list every country where progress is happening. I could talk about Yemen, Morocco, the Ivory Coast, even Iran.

In 1978, Freedom House listed 41% of the nations on this planet under the category “Not Free.” Today that number is 24%.

Progress is slow, and it comes at great cost, but it’s happening. The revolution is real.

4 responses to “The State of the Revolution

  1. Thanks for the awesome rundown. Honestly I tend to avoid the news, because so much of it is so unbelievably sad. I try to understand the general gist of what’s going on in the world, but the details sometimes make me cry. Anyway, your post shows the “domino effect” nicely.

    I always feel smarter after reading your blog lately!

  2. This year has been surreal, even if all of these countries still have a long way to go to find real freedom and peace. I read an article about Tunisia’s elections a couple weeks ago and was stunned by how energized and peaceable the entire process was. And weren’t they the ones trying to incorporate all ethnic groups into the government rather than allowing one group to seize all political power?

    Before this year it was easy to feel cynical about many of these countries and regions, the Middle East in particular. But now, like you said, the revolution is real. Incredible stuff.

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