News / Middle East

Tunisia Offers Lessons to Repressive Arab Leaders and Citizens

A woman holds a picture of Tunisia's deposed leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, reading 'Wanted', during a demonstration showing solidarity with Tunisians, in Marseilles,  France , Jan. 15, 2011
A woman holds a picture of Tunisia's deposed leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, reading 'Wanted', during a demonstration showing solidarity with Tunisians, in Marseilles, France , Jan. 15, 2011

Multimedia

Audio

The Arab world, in particular North Africa, has been riveted by the events in Tunisia, and many in the region see parallels to the stifling conditions they endure.  But conditions vary greatly among the countries and could play a major role in how disgruntled citizens react. 

Among those closely following events in Tunisia is Nadia, who works in tourism in Cairo and is well aware of the riches the region has to offer.  But she adds Arab countries also have many other, unfortunate things in common.

"For instance, political tension," Nadia said. "There is a high rate of unemployment, absence of freedom of expression as people live under dictatorship for long years.  We have in Egypt, for example, a large number of people [who] live below [the] poverty guideline, and for the first time we hear about this young man burning himself in front of the parliament."  

That act of self-immolation in Cairo, an echo of  Mohamed Bouazizi’s protest-suicide that began the revolution in Tunisia, has also been repeated in Mauretania and Algeria.  

The translation of despair to action and the resulting fall of the Tunisian president, has provoked other public protests, so far relatively small, across the region.  

American University in Cairo Professor Said Sadek says the events can only embolden the opposition in all Arab countries.

"The importance of giving hope, that they can lead the change and cause the change, is very important," Sadek said. "But it would not have to be in the same scenario, in the same details.  History does not repeat itself with the same details."  

Tunisia is in many ways an exception in the Arab world, with a solid middle class fueled by an economy not tied to oil-production, a high level of education, and more equal rights between men and women.  
Amr Hamzawi, of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, says even the corruption of Tunisia’s former president differed in scale and in nature from other leaders in the region, with it mainly confined to the president’s family.

"In Egypt, of course there is corruption, but this corruption benefits a wide segment of the population, it is not only six or seven people, it is maybe six, seven or maybe 10 percent of the population.  And the same goes for Morocco and Algeria," Hamawi said.

Among those who enjoy the spoils of the regimes are often the security forces.  Hamzawi says that was not the case in Tunisia, where the army was largely outside the political sphere and balked at putting down the popular uprising.  

Even so, the  military-backed regimes appear to be taking notice.  
AUC’s Sadek points out Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who he calls the “doyen of the Arab tyrants” was the first to reject what happened there. 

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak took a different tack Wednesday at an economic summit of Arab leaders, calling for investment in the region’s youth, who he pointedly called the “most precious of all our resources.”

He said that employment is a major priority, as is education, economic growth and social and human development.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa addressed the issue head on, warning those gathered in Sharm el Sheikh that “the Arab soul is broken” adding, “the Tunisian revolution is not far from us.”
Said Sadek.

"The regimes in the Middle East are trying to learn the mistakes and trying to cool the tense situation by avoiding any more provocations like human-rights violations, like rising prices, you know things like that. And so that might be a way to postpone the upcoming or the inevitable social, economic or political revolution, but cannot abort it," Sadek said.

Sadek says the only way to truly avoid upheaval is to start political reform, something lacking in virtually every country in the region where rulers have stayed in power long after any vision they might once have had for their countries died out.

The Carnegie Center’s Amr Hamzawi says, in the broadest sense, the events in Tunisia unfolded much as they did in other parts of the world, from Eastern Europe, to Latin America and several Asian nations.   The Arab world, he says, is not immune to democracy.   

"It is a confirmation that we are not an exception to humanity," Hamzawi said. "Arabs wish to see accountable governments, wish to see better power distribution, wish to see checks and balances.  They do not like authoritarianism, and they acted in that spirit in Tunisia."

Hamzawi says each country has a tipping point, but when it would be, and how it would play out, is anyone’s guess.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid