Tunisia was the first country to revolt and demand democratic elections, followed by several other North African and Arab nations. Developments and challenges facing the so-called "Arab Spring" show that democracy is an ongoing process and can't be taken for granted. We look back at some of parliament's reaction to events.
MEPs were in Tunisia for the elections and visited refugee camps housing those fleeing from violence in Libya. The EP paid tribute to those who fought for democracy and free elections by awarding this year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to five Arab Spring activists who personified the struggle.
Social media: spreading the word around the world
Facebook, Twitter and Youtube played an unprecedented role in these movements, in many cases they were the only channels available to spread the word arouond the world. "Social media was the alternative media for us. This is how we managed to convey to people what we were going through and reveal to them the reality of Mubarak's regime. We announced our demonstrations and got people to participate in them. Social media was key to reaching critical mass," Egyptian Asmaa Mahfouz, one of this year's Sakharov laureates, told us when she came to Strasbourg to pick up the aware. Her videos, tweets and Facebook posts helped topple the Mubarak regime.
"Looking back at this year's events, following the Jasmine revolution in Tunisia we witnessed the removal of a dictator and recently free elections," EP president Jerzy Buzek said during the awards ceremony. "In Syria protestors' demands are met with bullets, tear gas, tanks, arbitrary detention and torture." while the death toll is over 5000, including 300 children. he said. "The historical events also remind us of our responsibilities, including the need to support an emerging, young and vibrant civil society."