The 'Arab Spring' and the Spiral Model: Tunisia and Morocco
Vera van Hüllen – 2013
The political uprisings during the “Arab Spring” of 2011 have significantly changed the political landscape in the Middle East and North Africa. Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, civil war in Libya, revolts in Syria and Yemen and protest movements in most other countries of the region have overthrown authoritarian rulers that had been in power for decades and put increasing pressure on the remaining authoritarian regimes. The Arab Spring has opened a window of opportunity for democratic change and thus increased the chances for a renewed commitment to and ultimate compliance with international human rights standards. The Arab Spring challenges the “persistence of authoritarianism” that started to intrigue scholars when it became clear in the mid 1990s that the “third wave of democratization” had spared countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Human rights activists became increasingly frustrated as the human rights record in the region remained disastrous despite the formal commitment to international human rights norms. Often, human rights did not even gain prescriptive status as national constitutions and legislation did not conform to international standards, e.g. with regard to the prohibition of torture, the abolition of the death penalty, or gender equality. Where human rights were guaranteed by law, rule-conforming behavior often seemed the exception rather than the rule, defying the hope for a linear or “natural” development from commitment to compliance triggered by the mobilization of transnational human rights networks.