“Unrest in the Arab world.” “Middle East uprising.” “Revolts in North Africa.”
Clearly, journalists and commentators haven’t yet agreed on an all-encompassing term for the events that have dominated world headlines for the past month. And it’s about time someone coined a term.
Wikipedia claims the events are known as the “2010-2011 Arab World Protests” or the “Arabian Revolution.”
Hmm. We think those monikers leave something to be desired as they fail to capture the excitement of watching people take to the streets to demand change in their nations.
Movement in the Maghreb? The Mediterranean Revolution?
As the activism spreads from a geographical hub in North Africa to affect rulers from Syria to Yemen, the name must cover more territory. And as the remarkable events in Egypt come closer to an actual revolution in the country’s government, they need their own name. The Tahrir Tumble?
(Read: Media crackdown as violent clashes continue in Cairo.)
In the past decade, the media has not shied away from coining terms, sometimes cutesy, for uprisings:
Rose Revolution: In November 2003, Georgians filled the center of their capital, Tbilisi, disputing the results of parliamentary elections. It ended in the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze and new elections. During the protests, student demonstrators handed roses to soldiers, many of whom laid down their guns. After that, many demonstrators and the eventual president, Mikhail Saakashvili, carried red roses.
Orange Revolution: The following year, Ukrainians occupied Kiev’s central square after an election they believed to have been fraudulent. The demonstrators eventually won a redo of the election, which was won by their leader, Viktor Yushchenko. His political campaign had used orange as its signature color.
Cedar Revolution: After the 2005 assassination of Lebanese opposition leader Rafik Hariri, peaceful demonstrators demanded that Syrian troops end their decades-long presence in the country. The cedar tree is the symbol of Lebanon, thus this poetic title is less creative than it might seem.
Tulip Revolution: In 2004, a more violent movement in Kyrgyzstan demanded the resignation of President Askar Akayev, who — along with members of his family involved in his government — was viewed as corrupt and authoritarian. The name of the movement was coined by Akayev himself, according to a BBC report of his speech on the revolutions in Ukaine and Georgia aired on Kyrgyz television : "You know, they are planning a tulip revolution for us, because in our country tulips blossom right on the day the elections finish, in the middle of March."
Jeans Revolution: Western activists have tried to draw attention to the opposition in Belarus by using this term, which refers to the denim shirt held aloft by an activist after police seized demonstrators' signature red and white flags.
Green Revolution: Protests against Iran’s rulers in the wake of an election in June 2009 ended in a crackdown by the regime. Many demonstrators wore green, which had been the color used by the campaign of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi.
Perhaps the current demonstrators in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen should be glad there has been no easy term to encapsulate their movement. Recent revolutions do not have a good track record.
Mikhail Saakashvili is still president of Georgia, more than seven years after the revolution. Viktor Yuschenko’s original opponent, Viktor Yanukovych, is now president and accused of suppressing democracy in Ukraine. Demonstrators have taken to the streets in Lebanon again, demanding that the country not have a Hezbollah-backed (and therefore Syria-backed) prime minister. Last year, a coup in Kyrgyzstan unseated the president who took over from Akayev, Kurmanbek Bakiyev — so six years after their “revolution,” the Kyrgyz have some hope for real change. As for Belarus, opposition candidates in the recent presidential election are still in jail. Meanwhile, the events in Iran are now called, more accurately, the Green Movement.
None of them, in fact, live up to the original pop revolution name: the Czech 1989 Velvet Revolution, a moniker referring to the peaceful (soft as velvet) movement that manages to evoke an era of punk rock, guys wearing tight jeans and long hair, when change was in the air.
Have an idea for a name that can as successfully capture the heady mood of today’s demonstrators? Leave it in a comment, below.
More about the unrest in the Middle East: