If you have been paying even the slightest attention to the news over the last few weeks, you have probably noticed the large demonstrations and unrest in North Africa. While it may all look scary and overwhelming, what you are witnessing is a public cry for democracy and freedom - similar to what our ancestors fought for, many years ago.
The chain of events began with the tiny North African country of Tunisia. In December 2010, a few people took to the streets to protest against the rampant unemployment, food inflation, corruption and poor living conditions. Their discontent was aimed at country's authoritarian leader, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who in his 24-year reign, had allegedly pillaged Tunisia of its wealth, at the expense of its citizens.
The world watched in awe as the relatively benign street protests escalated into the full scale Jasmine Revolution and became so serious, that by January 17th, the President was not only forced to resign, but also, leave the country and seek refuge elsewhere.
Encouraged by the success of this small country, Egyptians too, took to the streets on January 25th, to protest similar conditions - poverty, rampant unemployment and government corruption that they have suffered for three decades under the iron fist of President Hosni Mubarak. The final straw came when they discovered Mr. Mubarak's plan to pass on the Presidency to his 48-year old son, Gamal Mubarak. The people of Egypt could just not take it anymore!
Faced with the largest riot they had encountered since 1970, the government reacted by shutting down popular social networking sites Twitter and Facebook, which the protestors had been using to communicate. Instead of calming things down, this added fuel to the fire. The more they tried to control the people, the more they rebelled. The protests soon spread from Egypt's capital, Cairo, to its two biggest cities - Alexandria and Suez.
Unwittingly, the government had turned some relatively benign local protests into the full-fledged Lotus Revolution. As days go by, the number of protestors has continued to escalate - Estimates are that on January 31st, over a quarter million people gathered just in Cairo, to ask President Mubarak to step down.
On February 1st, the President finally relented somewhat, by announcing that he would not stand for re-election in September and that he would amend the constitution to limit the Presidential term. While this is a start, it may not be enough to appease the angry crowds, who want him to resign immediately.
Whether Egypt will succeed in its quest for democracy will be revealed in the next few days - However, its ripple effect has already spread to other countries with similar government setups.
Jordan's King Abdullah II reacted rapidly to similar rumblings from his people, by dissolving the government and appointing a new Prime Minister to oversee political reform.
On February 2nd, Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh announced that he would not seek re-election in 2013 nor, would he appoint his son as president - This is a 360° shift from a ruler who has been in power since 1978 and, was recently considering announcing himself as President for life!
We have a feeling that now that the waves have risen, we will see a full-blown tsunami, as people in countries like Algeria, Sudan and Libya also reject authoritarian leaders and seek out democracy. While it may be a little scary and unsettling, what you are witnessing is history in the making - Events that will forever change the lives of many people and most definitely, the world we all live in - So, stay tuned!
Sources: Wikipedia, washingtonmonthly,com,talkradionews.com,news.yahoo.com