Ten Years After Arab Spring

Students are introduced to five countries that form North Africa as that region reflects on the ten years after the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution and the beginning of Arab Spring and evaluates its success. Western Sahara provides a case study as the Biden administration faces foreign policy challenges.
Additional Disciplines 

News of the people, wildlife, climate, sports and governments of Africa may be found in the pages of The Washington Post. You can read about Samuel Quarcoo, a “Maryland teacher beloved in Ghana, too.” “Arab stories of a plague year” are told by seven photographers who live in each country. And A1 and The World pages takes us to Africa and around the world with coverage by Post reporters and foreign correspondents.


This year the ten-year anniversary of Arab Spring is found in news and commentary, photographs and videos. Tunisia, where the protests began, has received special attention not only for its place in the civic uprising but also for being the only nation where a form of democracy has remained. Online view videos and read new articles in the Lost Decade series. As a Tunisian college graduate who has been unable to find a job stated in Post coverage, “Democracy is a great gain for us. But unfortunately, the economic situation is very grave.”


Articles and activities give teachers resources to introduce North Africa and to respond to its relations with world organizations and neighboring countries. Crossword puzzle, Country Profile and Word Study: A Country’s Name can engage younger students as well as reading the maps of North Africa and the regions of Africa. Be the U.N. Ambassador and creating an IN-DEPTH study of a country will require more reading and research. The case study of Western Sahara illustrates self-determination confronting remnants of colonialism and global attempts to resolve sovereignty of a disputed territory.


Western Sahara bears the question of what the Biden administration will do with the actions taken by the previous administration in its last months. As the new Biden administration forms its foreign policy, domestic issues force it — and your students — to seriously consider what democracy means ten years after the Arab Spring.



February 2021

North Africa
Resource Graphic 

Do a Crossword Puzzle
Current Events, English, Geography, Social Studies

Give students Africa on the Mediterranean to complete. Most of the words in this crossword puzzle are associated with North Africa. The key to the crossword is found in resource guide “North Africa.”


Map It
Geography, Journalism, Visual Arts

Teachers might put the names of the five countries that are considered North Africa in alphabetical order on the board or where students can see them. Some questions to ask while reading the map and before turning to one of the articles reprinted in the resource guide are:

• Who can pronounce the names of these countries?

• Where are these countries located?

• What do you know about these countries? If your students study ancient civilizations, they will recognize Egypt.


Map It | North Africa. Students should know where the region of North Africa is located in relation to Europe and to the rest of Africa. Give students Map It | North Africa to locate the countries. Perhaps they can devise some ways to remember where they are in relation to each other.


Map It | Africa. This map provides the larger picture of Africa, its many countries and their relation to each other. Questions might include:

• Do any of your students have family living in Africa? Have they visited Africa?

• Teachers might bring in the song and dance of Africa. Do they know any contemporary performers from Africa? 

How were the struggles and protests of apartheid reflected in music?

Have any students studied dance?


Map It | Regions of Africa. Our focus in this month’s curriculum guide is North Africa. Students may gain perspective by giving them the Map It | Regions of Africa handout.

• Into how many regions is Africa divided?

• Are students familiar with the geography, flora and fauna, the people and history of countries in a particular region?

• Students might be asked to do a newspaper search using the e-Replica edition of The Washington Post or another news source to find current stories about countries in Africa. In what regions are these countries? Categorize the news; for example, is the news health-, economic-, or climate-related? Does it relate to social and human rights issues? Are the concerns of each country in the news? 


What’s In a Name?
English, Geography, Social Studies, World History

Students are asked to think about the names of the states, countries and their capital cities. What history, culture, individuals or concepts are found in these names? Give students Word Study: A Country’s Name. The names of the five countries that form North Africa are reviewed.


This may be used with the map of North Africa. If there is time, students are encouraged to select another country to do an etymological search.


Profile a Country
Economics, Geography, World History

Get acquainted with the five countries considered to be North Africa.

Give students Country Profile. This activity could be paired with the maps in this month’s resource guides and with these activities: Be the Ambassador to the United Nations and the IN-DEPTH STUDY: One Country in Focus.


Students in World History or Economics classes might be asked to prepare another type of map as part of their country profile. This could be a choropleth map, economic/resources map, physical map or population distribution map. See Putting Yourself on the Map for examples.


Latin America’s New Leftists” is an excellent example of providing information about countries in a brief and readable manner. See the questions that may be used with it (Map Study: Latin America’s New Presidents). Students could work in groups to prepare something similar for each of the five countries of North Africa.


What Is a Photo Essay?
Art, English, Journalism, Visual Arts

Before giving students “A Morocco empty of tourists,” teachers might ask students to locate Morocco on one of the maps in the curriculum guide.

• From its geographic location, what might they guess about its occupations? Nature’s influences on way of life?

• What do they know about Morocco? Do students know it from any movie?


Give students the photo essay to read.

• The headline indicates that tourists have come to Morocco? Where might these tourists come from?

• What story do the photographs tell — before reading the captions?

• Read the captions. The photographs now have a context. What kinds of information do captions provide?

• Read the short narrative. Discuss what new information is provided in each paragraph.

• Summarize the theme of the photo essay.


Additional photo essays in the series are found at “Arab stories of a plague year: Seven photographers weave their own histories of home during the coronavirus pandemic.” 


Create a Photo Essay

Art, English, Journalism, Photography, Photojournalism, Visual Arts

For background on creating a photo essay from a photographer’s point of view, give students “Write a Photo Essay” found in Visual Impact. Teachers may also want to review “Picture the Story” and “The Photo Essay” in the same Post curriculum guide.


After completing the reading and questions for closer reading in Photo Essay | My Place, encourage students to create their own photo essay. Students may be paired to do this activity, especially if there students without smart phones or cameras. Another option would be for students to create a Sketch Essay, combining a drawing with an essay.

After 10 Years
Resource Graphic 

Repeal the Ban on Travel
Ethics, Government, Journalism, Religion, Social Studies

When an administration changes, the president has the option of using executive orders to revoke policies of the previous administration. One of the first signed by President Joe Biden on January 20, 2021, was “Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States.”


Read “‘Muslim ban’ repeal brings thousands hope” for reaction to this proclamation. Discussion might include:

• Who are some of the people who might be impacted by this order?

• Who would be against the revocation of the previous executive orders and proclamations?

• What do you learn of the visa process?

• Why would someone want to leave their homeland?

• Read the “Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States.” Why would the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director National Intelligence work together on this issue?


For an opinion piece about this issue, read Ishaan Tharoor’s Today's WorldView | Analysis article “Trump’s travel bans caused heartache and suffering. For what?


What is the Biden Policy on Foreign Relations?
Geography, U.S. Government, World History

The Post has organized special coverage on Biden’s Agenda and First 100 Days. Select the foreign policy tab: Biden’s challenges on foreign policy. For an overview, students could read and discuss the issues and countries highlighted in Karen DeYoung’s “Biden faces no end of foreign policy challenges.”

• Search for Post articles on Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other foreign policy-related officials. Return to The World pages for coverage of events around the globe.

• Visit the Department of State (www.state.gov) website for press releases and policy issues — focus and updates.

• Read Today’s WorldView analysis by Ishaan Tharoor, “The Biden doctrine is still taking shape.”


A student activity, Biden's Foreign Policy, may be used with The Post's Biden's Agenda and First 100 Days section or as a separate guide to Department of State actions and statements.


Be an Ambassador
Geography, Government,

Countries send ambassadors to other countries to represent their country’s interests and develop relationships with potential business partners


In this guide, we focus on the United Nations. Give students “Be the Ambassador to the United Nations” to work through being the representative from other countries to the UN.


Beyond the Map
Geography, Government, Journalism, Social Studies

Review countries and regions using Map It: Regions of Africa.


Give students IN-DEPTH STUDY: One Country in Focus to research either a North African country or another African country of their choice. The Country Profile may be done before this activity to gather information about the selected country. In their research they may include the geo-political impact of China, Russia and other countries on today’s Africa.



What About Western Sahara?

Economics, Geography, Government, World History

The disputed territory of Western Sahara is presented as a case study of different approaches to U.S. diplomacy, the role of the United Nations, the interrelation of adjoining countries and the remnants of colonization.


Find Western Sahara on Map It | North Africa. What might students guess about its economy and culture from its geographic location?


A quick overview of Western Sahara’s political history may be shared: The current State Department website has this statement about Morocco and Western Sahara:

Morocco is a party to the dispute over the Western Sahara. After Spain withdrew from its former colony there in 1975, Morocco claimed sovereignty over the region. A ceasefire between Morocco and the independence-seeking Polisario Front has been monitored since 1991 by a UN peacekeeping operation, the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. Since 1997, the UN Secretary-General has had a Personal Envoy of the Secretary General for the Western Sahara.


Three different sources to read about the 2020-2021 diplomatic activity involving Western Sahara are provided to compare and contrast and to view with one of the case study lenses.

Extended Caption: “Foundation for a Consulate in a Disputed Territory”

Guest Commentary: “Trump’s Western Sahara action is a serious diplomatic blow”

Letter to the Editor: “The U.S. cannot answer the question of Western Sahara”


Supplemental reading could include “A Western Sahara Human Rights Agenda for the Biden Administration.”


Discussion might include:

• Who has sovereignty of Western Sahara after Spain left in 1975? Now?

• United Nations unsuccessful attempts to resolve the dispute.

• What economic and political relationship do neighboring countries have with it?

• Trump administration acknowledging/green light to Morocco to add Western Sahara to its map in exchange for good relations with Israel.

• What might this reveal about Biden administration foreign policy in North Africa?

Read About Arab Spring

What was the Arab Spring?
Civics, Geography, World History

In 2021North Africa marks the tenth anniversary of what came to be known as Arab Spring. Review with students the reasons for protests in Tunisia that spread from there to other countries of North Africa and the Middle East. What did protesters want? What was their understanding of democracy?


Tunisia Today — Still a Democracy?
Government, Journalism, Political Science, U.S. History

Read and discuss “In Tunisia, a ‘new generation’ turns to protest” by Sudarsan Baghavan.


For additional reading:

• Today’s WorldView analysis by Ishaan Tharoor, “In a world of crisis, Tunisia’s democracy marches on

• “Protests mount in Tunisia over economic woes; hundreds arrested,” Sudarsan Baghavan


Develop Vocabulary
English, Goernment, Journalism, World History

In the Know online section lists vocabulary used by Liz Sly in “Unfinished business of the Arab Spring.” Teachers may wish to give these as vocabulary to define before reading the article or to review in class.


A Lost Decade?
Geography, Government, Journalism, World History

Read and discuss “Unfinished business of the Arab Spring.”


Closer reading questions for both “Unfinished business of the Arab Spring” and “In Tunisia, a ‘new generation’ turns to protest” are provided in Ten Years of Disappointment. Videos accompany the Lost Decade article online.


For additional perspectives read:

• Today’s WorldView analysis, “The tragic legacy of the Arab Spring,” Ishaan Tharoor

• “Braving its own course,” Claire Parker and Kareem Fahim

• Additional articles in the Lost Decade: Exploring the lessons and legacy of the Arab Spring series


Political Cartoons — Then and Now?
Art, Journalism, Visual Arts

Political cartoonist Khalid Albaih revisits some of his viral Arab Spring cartoons in Aljazeera.


Additional Arab Spring political cartoons may be found at the Daryl Cagle political cartoon gallery. Many more are arranged by topic. Many points of view from around the world are found here.


Does Tourism Matter?

Business, Economics, Geography, Health, Photojournalism

How much of the economy of a country or regions depend on tourism?

What effect does turmoil, health issues and poor or damaged infrastructure influence whether tourists visit particular areas?


Two pictures of Morocco are presented. “In Morocco, 44 hours of lingering in village leaves a big impression” shares the experiences of a tourist during the time of abundant tourism, and in contrast, “A Morocco empty of tourists” shares a country closed because of the pandemic. After students read both discuss the impact of tourism on daily life, on businesses and families. Parallel with similar personal experiences. What difference does the type of government and its social services make?



Who Is a Foreign Correspondent?
Career Education, Journalism, Media Arts

Many of the articles in The World pages of The Post are written by The Post’s foreign correspondents.

Review the bios of bureau chiefs and correspondents listed online. Read two to four articles written by one of them or from a particular bureau.

• What topics are they covering?

• How might their personal and professional background have informed their coverage?



Post NIE Guide Editor | Carol Lange
Post NIE Guide Art Editor | Donna McCullough

Resource Graphic 
In The Know 




























Vocabulary used by Liz Sly in “Unfinished business of the Arab Spring”


ANSWERS. Ten Years of Disappointment

1. Bouazizi’s life is an example of the poor trying to make a living without government support, suffering abuse from police and having the little means he has to survive taken away from him. Protester could see themselves in his struggle. He had become a martyr who inspired them not to take it anymore.

2a. Egypt — Hosni Mubarak, rule (Oct. 1981 to Feb. 2011) ended with Arab Spring uprising; even though he had improved relations, his promise to institute economic and social reform came too late. He resigned, left Cairo and retired to a resort town on the Sinai Peninsula; was tried but later an Egyptian court dismissed charges. He died

    Feb. 25, 2020.

b. Libya — Muammar Gaddafi, son of Bedouin farmer, talented student and military leader who overthrew Libyan monarch King Idris I. Military named him leader in 1969. Assassinated on Oct. 20, 2011.

c. Syria — Bashar al-Assad, survived the protests; with Russian and Iranian support; he bombarded his own country’s towns and cities. Resulted in more than 3 million Syrian refugees

3a. Five to ten years old; b. Jobs, better government services, improved living standards, an end to police violence; c. Growing up they heard about the protests for change, the desire for democracy and better conditions for daily life | “There is a big gap between what this young generation is expecting and the overall ruling leadership within the government.”

4. Tunisia — pandemic shattered the economy highly dependent on tourism

5. Social media showed people in other countries what was happening, communicated eyewitness accounts within each country; Today’s use has gotten more sophisticated

6a. Egypt — the personal loss for some participants has been immeasurable: incarceration, wounds, death

     b. Libya — “a lost decade” with the return of fear and intimidation

     c. Tunisia — only country that has some success in establishing a democracy; political reforms brought new freedoms but unemployment undermines positives 

7. Responses will vary.

8. Responses will vary. Be sure examples are given to support the position taken.  

9. Responses will vary.

10. Responses will vary. Be sure student has responded in 2-4 paragraphs and included the reporter’s name or article’s headline.

District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

The District of Columbia has adopted the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics. In addition, DCPS has adopted new learning standards in arts, health and physical education, science, social studies, technology and world languages.

Social Studies: Geography, Human Systems: Students understand how economic, political and
social processes interact to shape patterns of human population, interdependence, cooperation, competition, compromise and conflicts in controlling the Earth’s surface.

Social Studies, Geography: Students use map and globe skills to determine the absolute locations
of places and interpret information available through a map or globe’s legend, scale, and symbolic representations. (2.1)


Academic Content Standards may be found at http://osse.dc.gov/service/dc-educational-standards.

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Visual Arts. Reason effectively to interpret and communicate the meaning of the impact of visual art.  1:6-8: 2

Visual Arts. Create works of art or design that demonstrates how visual and material culture defines, shapes, enhances, inhabits, and/or empowers people’s lives. E-9-12:2

Social Studies: Students will analyze the major sources of tension, cooperation and conflict in the world and the efforts that have been made to address them. (History)

Social Studies: Analyze interrelationships among physical and human characteristics that shape the identity of places and regions around the world. (Grade 7, Geography, Topic: Geographic Characteristics of Places and Regions.


The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards can be found online at http://mdk12.org/assessments/standards/9-12.html 

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

World Geography.  The student will apply the concept of a region by

a) explaining how characteristics of regions have led to regional labels;

b) describing how regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants;

c) analyzing how cultural characteristics, including the world’s major languages, ethnicities, and religions, link or divide regions;

d) explaining how different cultures use maps and place names to reflect their regional perspectives (WG.3)


World Geography. The student will analyze the characteristics of the North African and Southwest Asian regions by

a)  identifying and analyzing the location of major geographic regions and major cities on maps and globes;

b) describing major physical and environmental features;

c)  explaining important economic characteristics; and

d) recognizing cultural influences and landscapes. (WG.10)


World Geography. The student will apply social science skills to analyze how forces of conflict and cooperation affect the division and control of Earth’s surface by

a)  explaining and evaluating reasons for the creation of different political divisions; and

b) describing ways cooperation among political jurisdictions is used to solve problems and settle disputes. (WG.18)


World History and Geography. The student will apply social science skills to understand the global changes during the early twenty-first century by

a)  identifying contemporary political issues, with emphasis on migrations of refugees and others, ethnic/religious conflicts, and the impact of technology, including the role of social media and chemical and biological technologies;

b) assessing the link between economic and political freedom (WHII.14)



Academic Content Standards may be found at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/index.shtml.

Common Core Standards 

Language. L.9-10.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.


Reading: Informational Text. RI.9-10.8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.


Common Core standards may be found at www.corestandards.org.