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Democratization of the Middle East

Written by Dick Pryor on Tuesday February 22, 2011


What began as a self-immolation in Tunisia has led to a historic upheaval in the Middle East.  In Tunisia, a 26-year old man set himself on fire after police confiscated fruits and vegetables he sold without a permit.  Hoping to provide for his family and in a moment of desperation and outrage, the unemployed college graduate struck a match to himself to protest the government of his North African nation.  The act ignited bigger protests that drove President Zine El Abadine Ben Ali from power after 23 years in office.

From Tunisia, the change movement spread to Egypt, which had been ruled for 30 years by the autocratic regime of President Hosni Mubarak.  As in Tunisia, educated youths took to the streets to push for democracy and a free market economy.  Young Egyptians flooded Tahrir Square in Cairo as the world watched in amazement.  Soon, they were joined by others, and the revolution was on.  The Muslim Brotherhood stayed on the sidelines; the Egyptian military, for the most part, did not inflame the situation; and after 18 days of social media-fueled protests, Mubarak resigned as president. 

It was not entirely peaceful.  The Egyptian Health Ministry reports 365 people died; numerous journalists were attacked and abused.  Fighting at times was hand to hand as protesters hurled sticks and stones at police.  But, in the end, the Mubarak regime collapsed under the weight of public opinion.

Following the lead from Tunisia and Egypt more movements have appeared in other Middle Eastern countries, such as Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and even Iran.  The possibility of more revolutions is growing, as the region is undergoing a seismic shift.

This week on Oklahoma Forum, we discuss the remarkable events and how they will affect American foreign policy with Oklahoma scholars Joshua Landis, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma; Zach Messitte, Ph.D., Dean of the College of International Studies at the University of Oklahoma; and Mohamed Daadaoui, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Political Science at Oklahoma City University. 

Our guests provide insight that you might expect to see only on a national media stage.  This is a program that highlights the great academic resources we have in Oklahoma and presents fascinating perspective on one of the most dramatic world events in decades.

Until next time,

Dick Pryor

(Pictured above, left to right:  Host Dick Pryor, Joshua Landis, Zach Messitte, and Mohamed Daadaoui.)




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