News / Middle East

Scholar: Tunisians Celebrating, but Keeping Eye on Egypt

Celebrations in the streets of Tunis, January 22, 2011
Celebrations in the streets of Tunis, January 22, 2011

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In Tunisia, the second government in as many weeks struggles to keep the country running, and stability seems a long way in the future. However, in the midst of chaos, say observers, there is joy, as a people long used to suppression of free speech and other basic freedoms are finding their voices and rights again. Larbi Sadiki teaches Middle East Politics at Britain’s University of Exeter and arrived in Tunis on Sunday. He told VOA’s Cecily Hilleary that as Tunisians are celebrating their new-found freedoms, they are also carefully monitoring the popular uprising in Egypt.

Listen to the full interview with Larbi Sadiki:

Asked about the mood on the streets of Tunis, Sadiki describes it as “unbelievable,” adding that new-found freedoms have given rise to a number of new groups in the country all representing different agendas.

“People on the margins of society and the economy are coming in from the hinterland to represent their own causes.”

Exeter University senior lecturer Larbi Sadiki sees pan-Arab solidarity emerging among cyber activists
Exeter University senior lecturer Larbi Sadiki sees pan-Arab solidarity emerging among cyber activists

“It’s like they have re-discovered sovereignty,” says Sadiki after he observed a group of Tunisians gathered in front of the Interior Ministry building protesting the appointment of the incumbent prime minister.

Sadiki does acknowledge that there is a lot chaos and uncertainty, but adds that the changes are almost “therapeutic” for Tunisians, and “amazing to see.”

The Exeter scholar says that Tunisians are also keenly aware of what is going in Egypt, realizing the scale of events there and the strategic importance of Egypt, with implications that add Israeli, US and EU dimensions.

Sadiki also says that there are contacts between Tunisian and Egyptian cyber activists, and that information is being exchanged between them on matters like how to deal with security forces and how to keep the momentum of the protests going. It seems like some kind of pan-Arab cyber solidarity is emerging between the Tunisians and the Egyptians, and it’s all over Twitter and Facebook, says he.

Overall, says Sadiki, the winds are changing and they are blowing from Tunisia further to the east. “No one ever expected this to happen and now it’s happening before our eyes,” adds he.

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