“Day of Rage” on the Day of Love: The Arab Spring Two Years On

Posted: 14th February 2013
“Day of Rage” on the Day of Love: The Arab Spring Two Years On

Valentine’s Day. The one day of the year most associated with chocolates and red roses is being marked by bird shot and blood on the streets of Bahrain. Clashes between civilians and security personnel this morning have left at least one civilian dead, adding to the toll of at least 55 deaths since the revolution began two years ago. Since a “Day of Rage” was launched in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, demonstrations against the regime have been a common occurrence.

Similar “Days of Rage” also kick started the revolutions in Egypt and Libya in early 2011. Protesters in Egypt took to the streets in earnest on January 25. In Libya, the demonstrations began in full on February 17, with small-scale protests starting two days earlier.

In the two years since then, the anniversaries have served as flashpoints for public gatherings in each of these countries. Whether these gatherings proved to be celebratory or demonstrative in nature depended, and continues to depend, on the relative success of the revolution as judged by the people.

In the case of Egypt, while former President Hosni Mubarak is out of power and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is no longer running the show, the now Muslim Brotherhood-led government has caused consternation among many in the populace. Protests against the regime on January 25, 2013 led to clashes with security forces. At least seven people were killed in the violence. While demonstrations were held last year, this year’s violence on the anniversary outpaces that witnessed in 2011.

In Bahrain, the monarch demonstrators sought to topple in 2011 remains on the throne. King Hammad bin Isa Al Khalifa has had little patience for protest, which has been best demonstrated by the constant use of police force to break up demonstrations against his regime. Such was the case a year ago and such is the case today. Given the life of this latent revolution, this was not unexpected.

Crucial Month for Libya?

The reality in Libya more closely reflects the situation in Egypt than it does in Bahrain. The first year anniversary of the uprising’s beginning was characterized by its peaceful nature. The mood was celebratory in the wake of the country’s success over former dictator Moammar Qaddafi. The victory was still fresh and optimism still high only four months after a once captive population beheld the corpse of their captor. The celebrations were _for _Libya, rather than _against _the government.

This year, however, there is more public pressure against entities hindering the realizati on of the Libyan revolution’s goals. People are calling for action to be taken against the militias, which, operating outside of the government’s purview, continue to wield considerable sway in the country. Calls for autonomy in eastern Libya’s Cyrenaica region have increased. The government has closed its borders with Tunisia and Egypt through February 18 and will man 1,400 checkpoints around the country through February 22.

The bottom line: there’s more of an edge to the anniversaries of the revolution in Libya this year than there was in 2011. Protests have been called for both February 15 and February 17 in the country. As in the case of both Egypt and Libya, this is not surprising. What should also not be surprising is more aggressive demonstrations in the days ahead in Libya as people gather to decry the failures of the revolution alongside those who bask in the now dated memory of a Libya recently freed of dictatorship.

What do you think?

Reminder: Join Recorded Future on February 19 for a webcast on monitoring web-based open source information. Special guest speaker is retired Navy Captain and maritime cyber analyst, Scott Phillpott.