The "Shoe-Thrower's Index" of Arab unrest, published by The Economist in February, suggests that the spread of such upheavals may have been inevitable. It weighted several factors such as prevalence of youth, years of unchanged government, and corruption and lack of democracy indices. Top of the list for "potential for unrest" was Yemen – which scored almost 90 out of 100. Libya was next with 70, Egypt slightly lower in a tie with Syria and Iraq.
People have taken to the streets to demand a say in government, for an end to state repression, and for jobs and improved living conditions that have left jobless up to one-quarter of the region's youth – a bubble of 15-to-29-year-olds that, by one count, at 100 million strong, makes up a third of the Arab population.
Those youths have been at the forefront of the fight for change, battling Egyptian police, forcing the fall of Libya's second city, Benghazi – even providing the spark for all these protests when a Tunisian college graduate set himself ablaze in mid-December after being harassed by the police over his vegetable cart.
But faced now with the most significant and abrupt transformation since Arab borders were drawn by victorious European powers after World War I, the new revolutionaries of the Middle East are pushing through the barrier of fear only to find a diverse constellation of needs, demands, and problems on the other side.