Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Timothy Kaldas

Arab Spring Showed Autocracy is Anything But Stable

Ten years later, authoritarian rulers in the region remain vulnerable to people power.

Every autocrat’s worst nightmare.

Every autocrat’s worst nightmare.

Photographer: STR/AFP/Getty Images

It has been 10 years since Egyptians first filled Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square for a series of protests that would, in less than a month, end the 30-year dictatorship of President Hosni Mubarak. Their success turbo-charged an Arab people-power movement that had already toppled an autocrat in Tunisia, inspiring millions throughout the Middle East and North Africa to rise against authoritarian regimes. Two more tyrants would fall, in Yemen and Libya, and other regimes would be shaken to their core.

A decade on, the promise of the Arab Spring persists in Tunisia, and in more recent developments Sudan. But in much of the region there has been a retrenchment of authoritarian rule, or state failure and civil war. Economies have collapsed, tens of millions have been displaced, and in many corners, violent conflict rages on, fueled by the interventions of competing authoritarian regimes.