From Egypt to Wall Street, millions of people have taken to the streets to condemn the status quo this year. It is because of the deep, sometimes revolutionary, impact these people have made that Time magazine has named “The Protester” its person of the year for 2011.
In his accompanying article, journalist Kurt Anderson recalls how the recent spark of worldwide protests literally originated with a man lighting himself on fire. After reportedly being unfairly abused by police for years, a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi drenched himself in paint thinner and lit a match at the gate in front of his town’s provincial-capital building on December 17th, 2010. "My son set himself on fire for dignity," said Bouazizi’s mother, Mannoubia. Within days, Buazizi’s story ignited the fires of protest across Tunisia that would later spread to the likes of Libya, Syria, and Jordan, as well as impact Europe and the United States. The specific objectives of the individual activists varied, but their determination and passion were comparable. Because of the efforts of protesters like Buazizi, the world is a very different place nearly a year after his death.
How will the protests of 2011 be remembered in the context of history? How significant is the Arab Spring to the international community? Do you think the Occupy movement is the biggest social-justice movement to emerge in the U.S. since the civil rights era?
Rana Foroohar, assistant managing editor, TIME's Business and Economic Coverage
Christine Kelly, political science professor, William Paterson University
Maytha Alhassen, doctoral student, American Studies and Ethnicity USC, co-editor of a forthcoming book on the Arab revolution; documented protests and social movement in Tunisia, Morocco, Spain and Egypt