Students will examine various aspects of the transformational change occurring in the Middle East and North Africa and develop a Google Earth tour presentation.
In his Second Inaugural Address in 2005, President George W. Bush proposed the United States foster democracy on a global level beginning with the Middle East. In his speech he stated, “…it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” For the most part, this had the stated policy of nearly all previous administrations since the end of World War II. But the reality was that many times the United States supported strong autocratic leaders who promised stability in order to protect our national interests abroad.
President Bush also reflected the way democracy has to emerge in any nation, from within and rooted deep in the soul of its people: “Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own….. Our goal is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.” It seems that in Tunisia, Egypt and several other Middle East and North African countries, people have finally spoken.
On December 18, 2010, people gathered in the streets of the capital, Tunis, and several other Tunisian cities to peacefully protest the death of a street vendor who had been harassed and abused by government officials and had been so distraught at the futility of his situation he committed an act of self-immolation—setting himself on fire. At first, these demonstrations were not unlike hundreds of others that had gone before in many countries in the region. And in typical fashion, the Tunisian police responded with a brutal crackdown to quell the demonstrations. But the frustration of many in Tunisia over living standards, police violence, rampant unemployment and lack of human rights unleashed a fury that spread across the country as thousands took to the streets demanding a change in the government. The protests only got larger as the government tried different tactics including imposing a state of emergency and firing government administrators to get ahead of the situation, but to no avail. The government fell in less than a month.
Events quickly spread to Egypt where demonstrations started January 25, 2011. Employing the tactics non-violent protest and social media, a core group of young, educated Egyptians, known as the April 6th Movement, organized daily demonstrations that rose into the tens of thousands of Egyptians demanding President Hosni Mubarak leave the country. Utilizing a communication network established through Facebook and YouTube, the April 6th Movement was to control the events on the ground and circumvent any efforts on the part of the government to stop the protests. Within 18 days, the thirty-two year regime of Hosni Mubarak fell.
Flush with what they saw as transformational change, thousands of citizens in Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Libya and Yemen have taken to the streets to exercise their voice, attain their freedom, and control their government. For decades, all these countries have prohibited their citizens from openly expressing their views, the people have made the extraordinary step to not be afraid of their government anymore. Instead, they have turned the tables and made the governments afraid of them. Even in the face of brutal reprisals by the police and military, the people have not withered in their resolve.
It’s important to note that each country in the region is unique in its government, population, economy and direction. For some, change might occur methodically as the autocratic governments agree to relinquish power systematically, allowing for a gradual transition to democratic rule. Other countries may fall into civil war or a slow, burning series of violent outbreaks designed to wear down the government into submission. Still in other countries, revolutionary forces might fail and the oppression will be even greater. For those citizens who are successful in overthrowing their autocratic leaders, they may not find true leadership amongst their own and will allow their revolutions to be hijacked by extremist elements promising liberation, but in the end operating no differently than the rulers they replaced.
In this activity, students will examine two political cartoons that comment on the emergence of democracy in Middle East and North African countries, once ruled by dictators. The first cartoon, “Democracy’s Nose under the Tent” is developed around the expression "If the camel gets just his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow." The expression is meant to be a warning against allowing a small undesirable situation to get worse. The second cartoon, “Liberty in the Arab World” depicts two of the Arab world’s most precious and untapped reserves: oil and liberty.
- Distribute copies or post on an overhead projector the two cartoons in the student handout #1: Liberty and Democracy emerge in the Middle East and North Africa.
- Organize the class into small groups of students. Review the directions and have the groups discuss the questions on the student handout for each cartoon.
- After the groups have finished their discussion, go over the following questions with the class:
- Discuss with students the meaning of the term metaphor and ask them how the first cartoon is a metaphor for the transition going on in some Middle East and North African countries.
- Point out to students that both images in the second cartoon illustrate two precious resources of the Arab world. Ask students what connection they see between oil deep in the earth and freedom and liberty in the soul of a nation?
- The revolutions occurring in the Middle East and North Africa have been described as “transformational.” Ask students how both these cartoons depict transformational events.
- How do these cartoons characterize the statements made in President Bush’s Second Inaugural speech mentioned in the Background Essay?
Part 1: In this activity, students work in small groups to view a NewsHour video segment reporting on the spreading unrest going on in several Middle East and North African countries in the wake of regime change in Tunisia and Egypt.
- Review with students the essential points of the Background segment above.
- Divide students into small groups of 3-5 and show the video segment from the NewsHour story to the entire class or assign the video clip as homework before you conduct the activity.
- Distribute Student Handout #2 “A Review of the Protests in the Middle East and North Africa” and have them complete the graphic organizer as they watch the news segment.
- After students have completed their graphic organizers, have them discuss the following questions: (Also found on their handouts.)
- How do you explain the reasons for the demonstrations against the Libyan government?
- How has social media countered the power of state-run television to control the message in Libya?
- Explain the dynamics involved between the comments of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Assistant Secretary of State P.F. Crowley. What might be the intentions of each of their statements? What does each hope to gain by making these statements?
- What was your overall impression of the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comment about America being a bully? Explain.
- How does the presence of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet complicate matters for the United States in addressing Bahrain’s unrest?
- Follow up the viewing activity by discussing the following questions with the entire class.
- What do the protests in the different countries seem to have in common?
- What tactics have demonstrators used to display their discontent?
- What different tactics have the leaders of Libya, Bahrain and Yemen used to try control the crowds and stay in power?
- As the calls for regime change continue, what are the implications for the United States in each of these three countries?
TEACHER NOTE: For a very comprehensive historical background of Middle East leadership and U.S. foreign policy, go to Fareed Zakaria GPS
In this activity, students will take a close up look at several Middle East and North African countries in turmoil or potentially in turmoil. Tell students that they will be using the Google Earth tool to develop a “tour” examining the current political conditions in one of these countries. Before starting the assignment, allow students time to explore Google Earth, or guide them through using the tool and some of its features. You can find full access and information at http://www.google.com/earth. Once there, go to the “Help” pulldown menu to find the help index, tutorials and start-up tips. If your students are unfamiliar with Google Earth touring tool, take some time to demonstrate its functions. Create a tour of a site close to home to show features familiar to students.
Alternative Activity If your classroom is limited in its access to Google Earth, have students share the information they’ve found on their Middle East and North African country in a PowerPoint presentation or traditional report.
- Depending on your class size and the number of countries you want to cover, divide your class into small groups. Check to see which countries below are most active with political unrest.
- From the list of countries below, assign one country per group:
- Saudi Arabia
- Distribute student handout #3 “Mapping the Arab World Revolutions” to all students and review the graphic organizer research section and the “Directions for Recording a Narrated Tour with Google Earth.”
- Provide time for students to develop their Google Earth tour presentations.
- After each group has developed their tour, have them present to the class through a projection screen or have the small groups rotate to different computer screens to view each presentation. You can string all the tours together using the Google Earth touring feature. Have students take notes on the presentations for the discussion that follows.
- Debriefing Discussion: Make sure students cover these points in their presentations.
- What factors do nearly all these countries have in common in the areas of the government’s control of the people, level of the economy, employment, level of education, and majority age group?
- Where do you see differences between countries in the level of government control of the people, level of the economy and employment, level of education, and majority age group?
- What correlation, if any, do you see between the level of control held by the government and the brutality of the government’s response to the demonstrations?
- Why do you think some countries experienced more government brutality than others?
- What correlation, if any, do you see between the level of the economy/employment and the discontent of the people?
- What correlation, if any, do you see between the majority age group of the population and the majority of the demonstrators?
- What do you think will happen in the country over the next three to six months?
Assessment: Assess student performance on their working cooperatively with others and class participation during discussions. Also assess students on the quality of their completed graphic organizers, inclusion of that information in their Google Earth park “tours,” and the presentation of the tour itself.
- Students create their own political cartoons expressing their opinions on the political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.
- Student can organize a public forum to present their Google Earth tour presentations for parents and the public. If available, invite guest speakers to provide further information.