The protests that overthrew half a century of autocratic rule in Tunisia are spreading. The governments of Egypt, Algeria and Yemen are feeling the wrath of decades of repression as people take to the streets and demand freedom - freedom of expression, freedom from forced choices.
The spread of democratic voices in the region is unprecedented, drawing comparisons with Eastern Europe in the 1980s, but is it a false dawn?
Will the despots and strongmen of the region be able to restore their authority through bribes and belated concessions, or is the genie out of the bottle? And who will be next?
Our guests today are: Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University; Clovis Maksoud, the director of the Center for the Global South; and Samer Shehata, a professor of Arab Studies at Georgetown University.
Our interviewees are: Mehran Kamrava, the interim dean of Georgetown University, Qatar; and Bernard Haykel, a professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University.
This special episode of Empire aired from Sunday, February 6, 2011.