Mohammed Bouazizi can probably be pinpointed as the man who started the trail that came to be called the Arab Spring after he set himself on fire following a move by officials to stop him from selling his vegetables in Sidi Bouzid.
Mohammed Bouazizi just however triggered the tightly held frustrations of an entire nation which immediately revolted against the decades of autocratic rule which had left them the worse for wear with widespread discontent at economic hardships and corruptions. Tunisia therefore erupted into mass demonstrations in December 2010. 300 people payed the ultimate price as they were killed during the subsequent unrest, but Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was finally forced to resign in January 2011, after 23 years in power and immediately went into exile in Saudi Arabia, he was sentenced to life in prison in absentia.
The victory of Tunisia in the case of resigning Ben Ali and sending him scurrying into exile was something of a cue to the rest of the Arab world as democratic uprisings arose independently and spread. On January 25th, 2011, Egypt’s police day (which is a National Holiday celebrating the 50 officers killed on the day in 1952 by the British in Ismalia, Egypt) Egyptian activists organized a demonstration.
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Demonstrations began in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt and spread throughout the country. As widespread strikes happened throughout the country, the protests gained more strength. The government of then President Mubarak attempted to crush the protests using both armed forces and plain cloth supporters, they also depicted the protesters as foreign agents using the state media and targeted both foreign journalists and human rights workers.
In a surprising outcome, both Muslim and Christian Egyptians demonstrated a solidarity that saw the Muslims protecting Christian demonstrators during Sunday service.
February 11, 2011 saw President Hosni Mubarak, who’d spent almost 30 years in office, resign his presidency and power was handed over to the military. He was sentenced to life in prison on June 2nd, 2012 by an Egyptian court for his role in killing unarmed protesters. On November 29th, 2011, Egypt held parliamentary elections in the midst of widespread violence and unrest, with the people still distrustful of the motives of the interim-military government.
The Muslim Brotherhood who put forward candidate Mohammed Morsy won Egypt’s election and proceeded to fill the power vacuum, disrupting the delicate balance between Islamic faith and the principles of a secular state. It therefore did not come as a shock when the police and army who had supported Mubarak and protected secularism staged a coup against the Muslim Brotherhood and succeeded in bringing the country back under military rule.
For such an impassioned movement which seemed to end so abruptly on all fronts after the massive loss of life and upheavals of nations and policies, the spirit of the Arab Spring is still one that must first of all be admired, then praised. The ability of all these people to band under a common purpose and fight for their freedom from oppressive leaderships (in most cases), with minute help from social media whose use was confined largely to a well-educated and affluent (and often multilingual) liberal elite is almost mind boggling.
So on this day of remembrance for Egypt, The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network are asking people to sign their petition to the Egyptian government and foreign ministries across Europe, demanding freedom for five well-known activists and citizens. The stories of the five imprisoned activists are included in the body of the petition. Please sign the petition and consider posting your support on Facebook and Twitter, where people are sharing pictures of themselves holding signs asking Egypt to #DetainNoMore.