Uprising in Tunisia: People Power topples Ben Ali regime16 Jan 2011 14:37 GMT
Like in the Iran elections, Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube have played a prominent role in mobilising protests. (The revolution was televised, you were just watching the wrong channel.)
One of the sparks to this revolution was the death of a young Tunisian protester, Mohamed Bouazizi, who set fire to himself after police stopped him selling fruit and vegetables without a licence and confiscated his produce. His death triggered a wave of demonstrations across the country. (Antwerpen IMC: A young man's desperation challenges Tunisia's repression | story from Athens IMC.
Egyptian born journalist and columnist Mona Eltahawy, who writes on islamic and arab affairs for several major newspapers, said in an opinion piece, More Tunisias, Please: "Not once in my 43 years have I thought that I’d see an Arab leader toppled by his people. It is nothing short of poetic justice that it was neither Islamists nor invasion-in-the-name-of-democracy that sent the waters rushing onto Ben Ali’s ship but, rather, the youth of his country."
The Tunisian regime has been at the forefront of Censorship of the internet and public free speech by it's citizens. Government websites have been subject to cyber attack by people associated with online cyber activist and internet freedom group Anonymous. (see image on hacked website: Open Letter to the Government of Tunisia from Anonymous) In December and early January Tunisian police arrested and detained bloggers and social justice activists.
Reporters Without Borders on January 7 urged the authorities to release them as soon as possible. “These arrests, intended to intimidate Tunisian Internet-users and their international backers, are likely to prove counter-productive, by stoking up tension. Arresting several bloggers is not the way to get images of demonstrations deleted from the web or for cyber-attacks to be halted”, Reporters Without Borders said. “Stepping up the repression is absolutely not a solution to the crisis engulfing Tunisia today”.
Popular Tunisian music rapper El Général – real name Hamada Ben Aoun – was also reportedly arrested in Sfax, about 270kms southeast of Tunis. In his song, “President, your people are dead”, he challenged President Ben Ali over corruption and unemployment. His video is hugely popular among young Tunisians and widely circulated online. (Vidster: El Général » President, your people are dead - English subtitles)
By January 10 there were up to 24 dead in Tunisian uprising, followed by huge numbers of people out on the streets all over the North African country. Tweets report protesters being shot - with real bullets - in a growing number of towns as dissent turns into potential revolution. Some reports state up to 60 people have been killed so far.
One comment via twitter said: "Remember that nobody is mobilising the masses in Tunisia. This is a spontaneous movement by people who are so FED UP with it all."
There appears to be a degree of community self organisation occurring to make the streets safe. Dyab Abou Jahjah writes on his blog on January 16:"After attempts by regime leftovers to spread chaos by several techniques (cars driving through the streets shooting at people and houses Randomly, destroying infrastructure, etc.....) the Tunisian people organized itself in committees that spread all across the country in every neighborhood and in every city and starting patrolling the streets and protecting the people. Popular committees even chased the militias of the old regime and in one case in a shoot out one martyr fell and two militiamen were executed by the people. there are reports of Israeli activity in Tunisia in support of the counter revolutionary, also of infiltrators sent in from Libya to sabotage. It is not clear yet if this is a pattern or independent isolated cases."
The uprising in Tunisia is already giving hope to dissidents and popular movements across the arab world of overthrowing their own corrupt regimes. The Tunisian revolution has inspired many Egyptians especially political opposition leaders and activists to take to the streets in celebration of a free Tunisia while hoping and determined to bring a revolution to their own country, Egypt. (youtube video: a protest in Cairo by political opposition activists and citizens at the Press Syndicate in down town, Cairo.). The Egyptian regime of Hosni Mubarak fears mass protests.
There are reports from Libya that YouTube has been blocked, largely because the videos of protests are being uploaded there. One twitter comment has said "Citizens of Bani Walid in #Libya said they will continue to take the streets until their demands are met". (Videos: Three clips of protest in Libya in Beida, the third-largest city in Libya. Reports of unrest in Zuwara, Zawiya, Tajoorah, Bayda, and Benghazi.
According to Dyab Abou Jahjah, founder and former president of the Arab European League said in an article on January 13: "The effect of this is even being felt on the streets of Algeria where thousands of youth, who were copying the demands of "the Tunisian Intifada" as people are calling it now, clashed with police. Across the Arab world, peoples are experiencing hope, and the regimes are afraid: all the Arab people and all the Arab regimes."
For frequent just-in news on twitter use these searches: #Libya #SidiBouzid #Tunisia #jasminrevolt #optunisia #oplibya