Few imagined such a scene, such defiance: in Tahrir Square, a million Egyptians protested with a huge banner that read “PEOPLE DEMAND REMOVAL OF THE REGIME.” Young activists used social media tools such as Facebook to organize the first protest on January 25, the country’s Police Day. Eighteen days of mounting demonstrations later, with the country increasingly paralyzed, President Hosni Mubarak resigned after a thirty-year rule.
Mohammed Bouazizi, a twenty-six-year-old street vendor in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, is the one who lit the match that ignited the revolts against dictators throughout the Arab world. His self-immolation last December 17—after a government inspector confiscated his fruit and slapped him for trying to resist her authority—set off protests all over Tunisia and drove President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali from power on January 14. Before long, uprisings also posed threats to longstanding regimes in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria.
The Arab revolutions of 2011 are a turning point in Middle East history. Why did they occur? Why now? What comes next? In the Cairo Review Interviews, nine key figures give an inside look at the causes and effects of Egypt’s uprising and discuss the challenges now facing the country and the region.