Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sparks of revolt in Tunisia, but will it be fire?

Tunisian President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali at ...Image via Wikipedia//The president of Tunisia

Mohamed Bouazizi is a 26 years old Tunisian, and graduated Mahdia University and unemployed. After the local police from central-west side of the country police confiscated his fruits and vegetables because lacking a proper permit, he set himself on fire, December 17 2010. Now he is in intensive care and visited by officials looking extremely interested about his situation and, in general, about the fate of the youth in the country. UPDATE: Bouazizi died, January 5.
But he was and is not alone and shortly after, protests widespread over the country, but were isolated and repressed by the police and information about were not published in the state media. The most part of the news about the situation were transmitted by bloggers writing inside the country (Here are a couple of examples, in French, Arabic and English: Moor Next Door, A Tunisian Girl, Revolution Tunisieand on Twitter.  Al Jazeera dedicated a 23 minutes report on the situation, in its glamorous CNN-style adapted for the Middle East.
The youth, whose protests are not of recent date, but only the latest won certain intensity for being related in the international media, are asking for less corruption and more professional opportunities based on merit. Demonstrators brandished signs reading “Spread the Wealth” and “Balanced Development of Regions”. With the exception of the tourist zones contributing with a lot of cash to the economy, who made Tunisia famous among Westerners keen to taste some "Orient" without risking the terrorist danger, the unemployment is over 10 percent.
The president Zine al-Abidine ben Ali, ruler of the country for 23 years (who, among others, was involved in the national resistance against the French but studied later at the famous military French Academy Saint Cyr - his Romantic biography can be accessed here), condemned the foreign media for “manipulating images from the protest”.  He also ordered the prime minister to mobilize authorities nationwide for a 6.5 billion dinar ($4.5 billion) plan to create jobs for Tunisians with university diplomas — a substantial sum for a country of only 10 million people. But the opposition, unable to reach too much power, in a country qualified by the US administration according to the Wikileaks as a “police state,” says the government's response has been inadequate and that the protests are fueled not only by unemployment but by the lack of human rights. The president also reshuffled the Cabinet: the communications minister was replaced, while the Interior minister, guilty for the force interventions against protesters was kept. The minister for trade and the minister for religious affairs were also replaced.
Opposition politicians say dozens have been arrested and at least three persons were killed.
Some journalists from the Western media consider the revolt as a sign of change, but I would rather be cautious about declaring that the change – in what direction, and leaded by whom – already took place. Tunisia might be considered a kind of Egypt at a different scale, but it doesn't mean it is less exposed to the risks of instability and extreme temptations and dangers
And, in the middle of the turmoil, the Tunisian regime is ready to greet Abu Mazen, the  president of the Palestinian Authority.
Who will take the bad luck?

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