In early 2011, a wave of political unrest swept through North Africa and the Middle East. Beginning late in December of 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a twenty-six-year-old Tunisian college-educated fruit vendor, set himself on ﬁ re in protest to corruption, bureaucracy, and pronounced income inequalities. Bouazizi had been publicly humiliated by a municipal ofﬁ cer who conﬁ scated his apples and weighing equipment, while her aids subsequently beat him up. It has been reported that Bouazizi had repeatedly refused to bribe municipal ofﬁ cers and the police and that the governor’s ofﬁ ce had turned a deaf ear to Bouazizi’s attempts to ﬁ le a complaint. On January 4, 2011, Bouazizi died from burns covering 90 percent of his body, but by then, his act had triggered mass protests throughout the country, leading to Tunisian President Ben Ali’s resignation ten days later. Inspired by the fall of Tunisia’s prime minister, Egyptian protestors took to the streets on January 25 to protest the thirty-year rule of then President Hosni Mubarak, who was forced to resign after eighteen days of antigovernment demonstrations. Heartened by these results, thousands of Algerians rallied on February 12, demanding democratic reforms. On February 14-the anniversary of Bahrain’s 2002 Constitution, which ushered in an elected parliament and other democratic reforms-demonstrators engaged in protests that escalated to violence and would continue for the next few months with as of yet uncertain outcomes. On February 16, small demonstrations in Benghazi, Libya, quickly escalated to mass protests throughout the country over the next few days. As these protests turned violent, government forces began to ﬁ ght with rebels for control of the country, leading to United Nations involvement to protect civilians. The outcomes of the Libyan uprising are uncertain as I write this, as are the outcomes of other protests that erupted, and some of which continue in Jordan (January 28), Syria (February 4),
Kuwait (February 6), Yemen (February 11), Iran (February 14), Iraq (February 16), Morocco (February 20), Oman (February 27), and Lebanon (February 28).