TOPICS > World

Nations inflamed by Arab Spring yield different fates

February 19, 2014 at 6:39 PM EST
Photo by SALAH HABIBI/AFP/Getty Images
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: Since 2011, the Middle East has seen seasons of discontent, promise and renewed upheaval. The Arab spring bloomed in some places and faded in others.

Jeffrey Brown looks at the mixed product of these last years.

JEFFREY BROWN: It was just over three years ago that demonstrations engulfed Tunisia, inspired by a street vendor who set himself ablaze to protest corruption and intimidation.

In the process, he ignited a revolution across the region. But the uprisings and protests from Morocco to Oman, what came to be known as the Arab spring, have yielded decidedly mixed results.

The best may be in Tunisia itself, where Secretary of State John Kerry visited yesterday, praising the nation’s progress.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: I want to congratulate Prime Minister Jomaa and the Tunisian people on the very difficult road that they have navigated and the successful way in which they have moved through a very difficult transition to democratic rule.

JEFFREY BROWN: The transition began when the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali gave way to more unrest, as Islamists and secular groups competed for influence. The economy worsened. Assassinations of two powerful left-wing politicians eroded trust between parties. And attacks by an al-Qaida-linked faction stoked fears of a takeover by radical Islamists.

Despite it all, last month, the National Assembly approved a new constitution now being hailed as one of the Arab world’s most progressive.

RACHED GHANNOUCHI, President, Ennahda Party (through interpreter): Our people succeeded in making a peaceful revolution that enlightened the world. We succeed to avoid a civil war between us. But we achieved consensus.

JEFFREY BROWN: There’s been no such consensus in Libya, Tunisia’s neighbor to the east. Two well-armed militias have demanded the interim parliament resign. Today, they extended their deadline to Friday.

The prime minister dismissed the ultimatum.

ALI ZEIDAN, Prime Minister, Libya (through interpreter): From the time that the armed groups issued this declaration, I have found in most of the people the will of understanding, enthusiasm and preparedness to defuse this crisis and to contain this matter.

JEFFREY BROWN: Just this Monday, Tripoli marked three years since a day of rage against longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The revolt, aided by NATO airstrikes, ultimately toppled Gadhafi’s government and ended in his death at the hands of rebels.

In Egypt, the revolution that forced out President Hosni Mubarak has also given way to new upheavals. The Muslim Brotherhood took power in elections after Mubarak’s ouster. But, last year, demonstrators rose up against Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, and a military coup removed him from office. Now it appears Army Chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will run for president this year, even as a crackdown expands to include secular groups.

ABDEL MONEIM ABOUL FOTOUH, former presidential candidate (through interpreter): What is happening now is a counterrevolution against the January revolution, the pure revolution which the Egyptian people united to fight for freedom.

JEFFREY BROWN: Islamist militants continue their own fight, using violence, including Sunday’s bombing of a tourist bus in the Sinai Peninsula.

And Egyptians, Libyans and others in the region need only look to Syria for the worst-case scenario, all-out civil war. By one estimate, more than 140,000 Syrians have died, and millions more have been displaced, since the uprising there began in March 2011.