When the first rumblings in Tunisia started appearing on the news in December, 2010, most thought it was another short-lived attempt at protest that would be put down quickly by the gun. As time went by, it became apparent that instead something was coalescing. The protesters were not leaving the streets, regardless of threats or other means to move them. Since then, the government in Tunisia has been overthrown, and elections were held recently to form a new government.
We did not realize that we were seeing the start of the Arab Spring; a social movement taking place in the middle east that aims to replace the old order with new. So far there have been spectacular moments, such as when Egypt’s Mubarak fell from power. There have been bloodbaths, such as in Syria. Libya has fallen as well. Some uprisings came and went quietly (Mauritania, anyone?). Within the general social movement, we see a push for more democratic governments, more of a voice for the people, not just the elite. There are also stirrings of religious groups straining to take power denied them for many years.
Each country has it’s own social movement organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but they all fall under the broad umbrella of ‘social movement’.