write2kill.in | Select writings of Subir Ghosh
 
 
 
  • Sharebar

The lessons from Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution

The lessons from Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution
Popular uprising: Tunisian expatriates shout slogans while holding Tunisian flags as they demonstrate on January 15, 2011 in Paris, France.

Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution is the first of its kind: the toppling of an autocrat in the Arab world who was till the end backed by Western powers. What now remains to be seen is if unrest in this Maghreb country will spread across the Middle East.

Early signs, if there can be any, are already there. As in Tunisia, Algeria too has been ravaged by riots in protest against food prices. Shortly after Tunisian President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali fled his country, the Algerian government of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who had stormed to power in in 2009 with 90 per cent of the votes, beat a retreat. It tried to nip the protests by hastily cutting down the cost of staple foods such as sugar, cooking oil and flour. Import duties on sugar, cooking oil and other foodstuffs too were slashed.

Similar protests have hit Jordan. Over 8,000 people staged protests against escalating food prices and unemployment. The protests there have not escalated yet, but the Tunisian uprising might just provide fuel to the public anger here. In Egypt, which is ruled by another West-backed tyrant (Hosni Mubarak), there have been protests too. But the most recent ones were in solidarity with the Tunisian uprising. This should be making Mubarak squirm.

The Tunisian experience should serve as a wake-up call, not only for other autocrats in the Middle East, but also for the West which has backed these tyrants while turning a blind eye to the way they have been quelling popular movements and stifling the media.

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who assumed the Presidency in November 1987 in a bloodless coup d'état from then President Habib Bourguiba who was declared incompetent, remained a tyrant till the end. Political opponents were either jailed or exiled, the media was throttled, corruption was institutionalised, and the dividends of any economic progress remained in the hands of a chosen few. All this while the West remained silent.

Even as the protests that were triggered off by the self-immolation of a man in the town of Sidi Bouzid spread across the country, the West could not see it coming. It certainly refused to acknowledge the popular protests. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton told an Arab satellite television audience that the United States was "not taking sides" in the Tunisian crisis. It was only later that the US administration decided to swim with the tide. Clinton went on to say later, "While some countries have made great strides in governance, in many others people have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order. They are demanding reforms to make their governments more effective, more responsive and more open."

Rumour has it that the West wanted Ben Ali to step down because it did not want the unrest to spread to other Arab countries. Everywhere in the Arab world, if anyone has benefited from public resentment against the dictators have been Islamists. Even though the Tunisian protests were not coordinated by any Islamist bloc, the West did not want to take chances. It is the manner in which Ben Ali relinquished power after 23 years that gives credence to such speculation. He first announced that media controls would be eased and that the police would no more fire at protestors. Then he declared emergency and fled.

Ben Ali is gone. It remains to be seen who in the Arab world will be next. Protesters in Egypt chanted outside the Tunisian embassy, "Ben Ali, tell Mubarak a plane is waiting for him, too!"

 
 
 
Daily Newsletter
Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner
Random Pick: Northeast
Future shock for Kaziranga wildlife: 70 dams in Arunachal
October 25, 2011 | Future shock for Kaziranga wildlife: 70 dams in Arunachal: The main threat to Kaziranga National Park in the next 25 years will come not from poachers or encroachers, but the 70 dams that are being built in the Eastern Himalayas of India’s Northeast.... Continue reading Future shock for Kaziranga wildlife: 70 dams in Arunachal
Random Pick: Women
Derisive jokes about Mamata Banerjee's 'simple man' gaffe are not funny
May 16, 2011 | Derisive jokes about Mamata Banerjee's 'simple man' gaffe are not funny: No sooner had Mamata Banerjee made her “I am a simple man” gaffe on CNN-IBN, than Twitter went ablaze. Digs and jokes ranged from the derisive to the racist. And sexist, of course. They went... Continue reading Derisive jokes about Mamata Banerjee's 'simple man' gaffe are not funny
Random Pick: Society
Spoonbills become victims of night hunting in Malta
September 24, 2010 | Spoonbills become victims of night hunting in Malta : Protected birds were illegally targeted during the night after hundreds of raptors and a flock of 22 spoonbills, among other protected birds, flew into Malta to roost on Tuesday, BirdLife Malta has... Continue reading Spoonbills become victims of night hunting in Malta
Random Pick: Politics
No bread, eat cake
January 24, 2014 | No bread, eat cake: We Bangloreans need to rejoice. The pre-event hype and the subsequent glee, bordering almost on the hysterical, over the launch of WiFi hubs in the city give one the impression that all our problems... Continue reading No bread, eat cake
Random Pick: Environment
On inadequate news coverage of environmental/wildlife issues
October 1, 2006 | On inadequate news coverage of environmental/wildlife issues: This is a subject so oft-debated in our circles that it is beginning to lose its significance. The basic factors responsible for the virtual non-existence of environmental/wildlife issues in the news... Continue reading On inadequate news coverage of environmental/wildlife issues
Random Pick: Development
Talabs of empowerment
September 27, 2011 | Talabs of empowerment: When Kanupriya Harish took a team from Wells for India around Janadesar village in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur district, it was the routine monitoring visit of a donor agency that had supported a... Continue reading Talabs of empowerment
Random Pick: Wildlife
Tiger numbers could triple if largescale landscapes are protected
January 26, 2011 | Tiger numbers could triple if largescale landscapes are protected: The tiger reserves of Asia could support more than 10,000 wild tigers – three times the current number – if they are managed as largescale landscapes that allow for connectivity between core... Continue reading Tiger numbers could triple if largescale landscapes are protected
Random Pick: Conflict
Islamist militants seize two radio stations in Somalia
September 19, 2010 | Islamist militants seize two radio stations in Somalia: Two radio stations in Mogadishu were taken off air on Sunday and their equipment confiscated by rebels. HornAfrik Radio and Global Broadcasting Corporation were separately raided by fighters from the... Continue reading Islamist militants seize two radio stations in Somalia