These are incredible times. The new tomorrows are not over. Other countries, e.g. Libya, Algeria, Yemen, plus more Arab lands and even Italy and Serbia, are feeling the cries from the people calling for freedom.
We have been this way before, of course. While others have noted detailed examinations of the timing, let us observe other specifics beyond the significance of Tahrir Square.
The important role of self-immolations in sparking the wave of protests and changes we are seeing in governments cannot be underplayed. It began in Tunisia in December, and quickly spread throughout the Arab world, with immolations in several countries of the region.
Egypt fell on February 11, 2011, after Tunisia saw change in January. Immolations were a key. The fall of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali -- the first time in generations that an Arab leader has been toppled by public protests -- sent a sharp signal to the rest of the region, dominated by autocratic regimes. The protests that brought down Ben Ali erupted after the self-immolation of 26-year-old vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire on December 17, 2010. The same type of incidents swept the region. More protesters set themselves afire in Egypt, Mauritania and Algeria on Monday, January 17, 2011, in fiery suicide copycats. This was followed by more in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and France. (As noted in The Copycat Effect, fire suicides are a powerful, political form of behavior contagion.)
The self-immolations of Buddhist monks in South Vietnam, beginning in 1963, eventually pushed that government to change leadership, and foreshadowed the political overturns in Southeast Asia.
These are often called "grassroots movements," although today's massive waves of political realignments are rightfully being termed the "Facebook Revolution."
Revolutions of 1848
The most comparable historical events to the current protests and changes seen throughout the Arab World are the Revolutions of 1848, which impacted Europe for decades.
The Kingdom of Kush
While the newest governmental change in the world today is the new Egypt, the newest full nation also was announced a few days ago, on February 7, 2011.
Due to the vote for independence, the citizens of southern Sudan voted in overwhelming numbers to break away from the northern portion of their country and form a new entity. While it may not formally have a new name yet, other than press reports calling it South Sudan, Sudan's President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir accepted the final results of the referendum where southerners almost unanimously voted (by nearly 99%) for the secession of their region. South Sudan will be declared an independent state on July 9, 2011. This new land is very reflective of the ancient country known as the Kingdom of Kush.
We should not take the news lightly that old Kush/Cush has returned. The Kingdom of Kush, like Egypt, is ancient and dominated by smaller pyramids and familiar artifacts.
The Kingdom of Kush or Cush was an ancient African state centered on the confluences of the Blue Nile, White Nile and River Atbara in what is now the Republic of Sudan. It was one of the earliest civilizations to develop in the Nile River Valley. Having also been referred to as Nubia, and as "Ethiopia" in ancient Greek and Greco-Roman records, the Kushites left their mark on various aspects of the ancient world and their legacy is still readily discernible from the various archaeological field sites scattered throughout modern Sudan.
Biblical Prophecies of Cush
The name given this ancient civilization issues from the Bible's Old Testament, where Cush (Hebrew: כוש) was one of the sons of Ham (Genesis 10:6) who settled in northeast Africa. As noted in the Bible and at different times in the ancient world, a large region covering northern Sudan, modern day southern Egypt, and parts of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia was known as "Cush."
The Hebrew Bible refers to "Cush" on a number of occasions, though various English translations translate this as "Nubian", "Ethiopia", "Sudan", and "Cushite" (Unseth 1999). Moses' wife, Tzipporah, is described as a Kushite in the book of Numbers 12:1. Some contend that this Cush was in southern Arabia. All of this is complicated by the fact that the Septuagint translated "Cush" as "Aethiopia," leading to the misleading conclusion that "Cush" should be equated with the borders of present day "Ethiopia."