Social Revolution to Sweep North Africa and the Middle East?

On January 23 I started to get very excited. The Tunisian revolution was in full swing and related demonstrations broke out in Yemen, Algeria, and Jordan. In Saudi Arabia a man set himself on fire.

Then on January 25, Egypt had its largest anti-government protest, reportedly since food protests in 1977. Egypt's protests have continued and we're waiting to see if Friday turns into a big day with the people gathering in mosques to pray and the mobilize.

Protests have continued in Yemen.

Jordan activists are organizing protests for Friday.

There are two things that are facilitating trans-national diffusion of protest: Al-Jazeera and the internet.

Al-Jazeera is the top TV station (in viewers) in most Arabic countries and provides excellent coverage of anti-government protests. (I'm not sure why this station that was setup and subsidized by the undemocratic Qatar government continues to be tolerated by the Qatar government)

The Internet lets the opposition get their message out - whether by email, blog, facebook, youtube, or twitter. There are so many ways of disseminating information that it is very hard for an authoritarian government to stop it. Currently Egypt has been regularly blocking Twitter (and possibly Facebook) to make it harder to organize protests.

The protests are also encouraged by the fact that food prices are at the highest level in recent history. Many protesters are motivated by economics.

The protests benefit from a large youth population who are willing to take risks, and who face high rates of unemployment.

Oman had a protest with 2000 people on January 17 about wages and other economic conditions which may have been tied to the recent upsurge as well.

Dubai just arrested 70 people for organizing a two week labor protest/strike of 3000 workers.

I think we could see a wave of social revolutions/democratization like that which swept Eastern Europe/the Soviet Union, or Latin America. It could be several times faster due to the Internet, Al Jazeera, and other technologies.

It is likely that this wave won't succeed, but would be amazing if it did. It might take running out of oil and gas (and thus money) to spark revolutions in some of the richer/stronger states. Typically it isn't the most oppressed people who revolt, so much as people who are getting better off but then the improvements stop.

Recommended news sources: Twitter (try a country's name or the name+"protest"), Al Jazeera (, (with a country's name), and

The Egyptian movement is

The Egyptian movement is looking great. My guess in the Mubarak resigns in a week or two and that we see democratic changes in several more countries (Algeria, Yemen, Jordan, possibly Syria). If we're lucky we'll see change in Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Morocco.

It is terrible how the US news does headlines like "Egypt unrest may spread", like that is a bad thing!

As of Friday, with ongoing

As of Friday, with ongoing protests in Egypt, possibly 1000 protesters wounded, the NDP ruling party's headquarters in flames (and probably totally gutted - as they weren't able to stop the fire), the military showing some signs of being sympathetic to the protesters... This movement is looking very promising. It could still end up in a total mess, but it's going to be a big mess.

Algeria's opposition is calling for protests on Saturday.

There is a rumor that Mubarak is on a plane to Switzerland (twitter is great for rumors, though not for identifying the truth).