News / Africa

    Could A Tunisian-Style Revolt Happen Elsewhere?

    A police officer faces protesters during a demonstration against the Constitutional Democratic Rally - RCD, the party of deposed President Ben Ali, in the center of Tunis, 18 Jan 2011
    A police officer faces protesters during a demonstration against the Constitutional Democratic Rally - RCD, the party of deposed President Ben Ali, in the center of Tunis, 18 Jan 2011

    Multimedia

    Audio
    • Nabil Fahmy, Dean, American University in Cairo, School of Global Affairs & Public Policy

    Cecily Hilleary

    Years of anger and dissatisfaction in Tunisia over corruption, joblessness and other economic woes have erupted recently. What was unimaginable two months ago has taken place—Tunisia’s government shattered. Now, analysts are looking at other regimes in the region for signs of similar unrest. They do not have to look far. There have been self-immolations by protestors in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania. Jordanians have demonstrated against high food prices. At an economic summit in Egypt, Arab League Chief Amr Moussa warned Wednesday that “the Arab soul is broken by poverty, unemployment and the general recession.”

    Nabil Fahmy, former Egyptian ambassador to the U.S.
    Nabil Fahmy, former Egyptian ambassador to the U.S.

    Nabil Fahmy, Dean of the American University in Cairo’s School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and a former Egyptian Ambassador to the United States, speaks with VOA's Cecily Hilleary.

    Hilleary: Ambassador Fahmy, a third man has set himself on fire in Egypt.  Are we seeing the beginning of a Tunisian style revolt in your country?

    Fahmy: No, I don’t think so. I think what you’re seeing is a reflection of the region as a whole following what happened in Tunisia with tremendous interest. They were also quite surprised by how it unfolded in terms of the violence that occurred, the very large number of casualties and then by how quickly the Tunisian president left the country.

    VOA's Cecily Hilleary speaks with Amb. Nabil Fahmy of American University in Cairo:

    There’s also a bit of a “copycat” effect. In other words, people feel frustration—and obviously the people have emulated the process because of their frustrations and fears, concerns, feeling that this was the way to attract attention. I think it is a bit superficial to say what happens here can happen similarly in other countries.

    Having said all that, it is alarming, yes. It is alarming to see what happened in Tunisia in terms of the violence between the government and the people. It is alarming to see people anywhere, even in my own country, feel obliged to put themselves on fire.  That reflects that some people feel very frustrated.

    Now, again, whether this is simply a “copycat” situation or a reflection of a greater problem, I think it’s too early to say.  But I don’t really believe that this is something that will be repeated in a rapid fashion from one country to another.

    But I think frankly, if I may say, that the Arab countries generally have to seize this occasion to learn the lessons from what happened in Tunisia, to look at their problems and how quickly and how effectively they are responsive to the concerns of their people. They have to seize the occasion to have a better relationship, a more symbiotic relationship between the executive organs and public opinion. And I say this across the board in the Arab world. I’m not talking about any country in particular.

    Hilleary: Are we seeing that kind of examination of conscience in Egypt?

    Fahmy: Well, again, my first answer is that it’s too early to tell. You can’t make a judgment on what’s happened over a few days since the Tunisian situation, particularly when you have an Arab summit now in Sharm el Sheikh on economic issues. Everybody’s busy with that.

    But let me take you back a step before that. I actually think at the end of last year, we had one election and in the fall of this year we will have another, I think this whole year will be a year in which Egyptians look at themselves by way of the government looking at itself, by way of the people deciding what role they want to play because of the election process.

    Hilleary: So what makes Egypt different from Tunisia?

    Fahmy: One distinct difference between Egypt and Tunisia, for example, that serves the Egyptian situation is there’s no comparison whatsoever in terms of the freedom of the press in Egypt and what it was in Tunisia. There is an almost absolute free flow of information inside Egypt, and that was not accessible at all in Tunisia.

    On the other hand, Tunisia has a much larger middle class and, frankly, the percentage of educated people in Tunisia is statistically much higher than almost any other country in the Arab world. So I mention positives on both sides—and problems on both sides—simply to emphasize that we all need to look at our problems.

    But it is, I think, simplistic and superficial to assume that because it happened “here” it will happen “there.” Yes, you will see people saying, “If it happened here, maybe we’ll try doing the same thing in other parts of the Arab world.” And that’s why I don’t think that you’ll find this emulated quickly. I do believe it’s an occasion for all of the Arab world to learn the lessons and to develop a better relationship with the people.

    Hilleary: There’s a scheduled demonstration on January 25 in Cairo, I understand, to which Mohamed ElBaradei is invited. Is there a possibility that it could spark something larger than just a peaceful, quiet demonstration?

    Fahmy: Let me answer that in the following fashion: First of all, I’m not aware of the details of the demonstration. That being said, demonstrations have been allowed in Egypt over the last two or three years which you would never have seen in Tunisia; by the way, so there is a fundamental difference between the clamp down in Tunisia and the situation here. We’ve had demonstrations in front of Parliament for the last four years, on a regular basis.

    NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
    and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    You May Like

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    China Seeks On-Off Switch for Internet

    Public asks whose security is cybersecurity law aiming to protect

    UN Human Rights Chief: Burundi May Explode Into Ethnic Violence

    Burundian government accuses the UN of a campaign of distortion

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora