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Democracy In The Arab World: Still a Mirage

By Seth G. Jones, Foreign Affairs, 17 March 2016

More than five years after the Arab Springbegan, the euphoria that accompanied the region’s early uprisings has been replaced by a dogged realism. From the indignant graffiti scrawled on walls across Tunis to the war-torn neighborhoods of Damascus and Tripoli, the region and the world’s hopes of establishing peace and democracy have largely faded. Take Tunisia, where the street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in January 2011 and inspired millions across the Arab world to rise up against oppression. Today, the country, the only functioning democracy to have emerged out of the turmoil of 2011 and 2012, is in danger of sliding into violence thanks in part to the chaos engulfing neighboring Libya. This month, dozens of militants allied with the Islamic State, or ISIS, stormed the Tunisian town of Ben Gardane, near the Libyan border, assaulting police and military posts in what Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi called an “unprecedented” strike that left at least 54 people dead. In fact, it followed several high-profile attacks in the past year: in June 2015, militants targeted Western tourists at the beach resort of Sousse and in March 2015, they did the same at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis.