Friday, January 14, 2011


What's happening in Tunisia is amazing. One despondent unemployed man was able to accomplish more by immolating himself than the years of wrangling by Lebanese politicians, the millions in aid given to Egypt, or the invasion of Iraq. The NYTimes reports:
[T]he most dramatic change in the old Arab order in years was inspired by Mohammad Bouazizi, the 26-year-old university graduate who could find work only as a fruit and vegetable vendor. He set himself on fire in a city square in December when the police seized his cart and mistreated him...

Tunisia’s protests were portrayed as a popular uprising, crossing lines of religion and ideology, offering a new model of dissent in a region where Islamic activists have long been seen as monopolizing opposition... Tunisians’ grievances were as specific as universal: rising food prices, corruption, unemployment and the repression of a state that viewed almost all dissent as subversion...

Tunisia’s uprising electrified the region.
Today, instead of continuing to fight the uprising with his goods, dictator-for-life Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country for Saudi Arabia, leaving his prime minister in control. Al-Jazeera reports:
Tensions remain high despite Ben Ali's exit, with protesters reported to be ransacking government buildings in the capital, Tunis, and other cities... Protesters are reportedly demanding that the new interim president, a close Ben Ali ally, stand down.
This revolution was one for its time. The tinderbox that Bouazizi lit was stoked by revelations in Wikileaks, which mostly reported that the president was vastly unpopular, and led a weak - "sclerotic" - regime. Knowing that their emperor had no clothes, Tunisians were bold to stand against the "mukhabaraat", or security forces emblematic of these Arab kleptocrats. Once the fire was lit (figuratively as well as literally), it spread (just figuratively) via Facebook and other social media. In another era, this never would have spread beyond one district; one month of 2010 and '11 was enough to engulf the country.

1 comment:

Carol L. Douglas said...

I love the term "sclerotic" to describe a geriatric regime.