The 2010’s began by seeing the outbreak of anti-government protests across the Islamic world which soon become dubbed as the Arab Spring. What started as protests against poverty and an oppressive regime in Tunisia quickly spread across other Islamic countries in Western Asia including Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain. Following this was the rise of street demonstrations, riots and popular uprisings in the region. A major crackdown on the internet was placed by authorities who were convinced that social media was the prime contributing factor for the quick proliferation. Across the Arab world, the slogan ash-sha‘b yurīd isqāṭ an-niẓām (the people want to bring down the regime) became a catch phrase. The end result was mixed; in some countries, the regimes were successfully toppled while in others authorities were able to shut down protests by the use of violence and force. This movement did not act as a catalyst for wide-scale reforms in the region. Today, the Arab world still sees major violence and unrest.
The Greta Thunberg Movement
In August 2018, 15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Great Thunberg stood outside Sweden’s Parliament with a placard that read “School strike the climate”. Following this, Thunberg’s protest would become the impetus for millions of young activists across the globe to protest and raise their voices for one of the largest catastrophes of our era: climate change. Climate strikes erupted across the globe with people of all ages taking to the streets to demand action against this natural disaster. In an intense, viral speech during a UN Climate Action Summit, Thunberg said “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”. This year, Thunberg was named Time’s Person of the Year in 2019- setting the record for the youngest individual to ever receive this title.
In 2019, the uber stylish and wealthy city-state of Hong Kong erupted in anti-government protests that are still plaguing the city today. The protests began when the Hong Kong government introduced a bill that would have allowed for the extradition of criminal fugitives wanted in territories with which Hong Kong does not have extradition agreements, including Taiwan and mainland China. Fearing the bill would allow authorities to deport dissenters and put islanders under mainland Chinese law, students and citizens launched massive marches, blocking streets and facing off with the police. The clashes have slowly become violent, with police firing live bullets and protesters attacking officers and throwing petrol bombs. The bill was withdrawn but protesters want other conditions met before backing off, including for the protests to not be labelled as riots and amnesty for arrested protesters.
This year saw the rise of the Kashmir movement. On August 5th 2019, the Indian government revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution which granted the disputed territory of Kashmir partial autonomy. It also simultaneously bifurcated the State into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. This move was accompanied with a massive lockdown with military forces deployed across the region, a curfew imposed on the residents and a crackdown on internet and connection services effectively creating a blackout for Kashmiris. This is an ongoing crisis today, with major countries across the globe having spoken out against this atrocity and multiple UN Security Council meetings being held on this issue.
Indian Citizenship Amendment Act
The ongoing nationwide protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) are unprecedented. A spontaneous popular uprising of this kind has perhaps been seldom seen since Independence. The exclusion of Muslims from the Act, coupled with the prospective all-India National Register of Citizens — a sequence of events the Home Minister has reiterated several times — feeds into the Hindu Rashtra dream of the BJP. Exclusions based on religion go against the tenets of inclusion and secularism of the Constitution, and are against the very idea of India. Citizens, led by students, are protesting in every town and city. In UP and Mangalore, the police responded with shocking violence. So far, thousands have been arrested and 25 killed.