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People’s Uprising Creates Hope in Tunisia

People’s Uprising Creates Hope in Tunisia

The speaker of the Tunisian parliament was sworn in today, becoming the country’s third leader in 24 hours after the prime minister asked him to form a new government. After 23 years in power, former president Ben Ali fled the country this week as widespread unrest and frustration reached a boiling point; he is now in Saudi Arabia. Rising food costs, unemployment, and corruption led to the successful uprising, aided in some part by communications through social media and by publicity around the government’s corruption as spread by Wikileaks.

New president Fouad Mebazaa is in talks with the opposition to form a “national unity government.” He stated, “All Tunisians without exception and exclusion must be associated in the political process.”

Unrest continues, and reports show that the cities are in lockdown amid looting, with military checkpoints and curfews. The Guardian reports that the main train station in the capital of Tunis was burned to the ground today, and dozens have died in two separate prison incidents: a breakout and a fire.

Revolution Years in the Making

A Wikileaks memo from 2008 neatly summarizes the issues that culminated in this week’s events:
“Beyond the stories of the First Family’s shady dealings, Tunisians report encountering low-level corruption as well in interactions with the police, customs, and a variety of government ministries. The economic impact is clear, with Tunisian investors — fearing the long-arm of “the Family” — forgoing new investments, keeping domestic investment rates low and unemployment high. These persistent rumors of corruption, coupled with rising inflation and continued unemployment, have helped to fuel frustration with the GOT (Government of Tunisia) and have contributed to recent protests in southwestern Tunisia. With those at the top believed to be the worst offenders, and likely to remain in power, there are no checks in the system.”

Social Media’s Role
Reports claim that the anti-government demonstrators were helped by use of social media, especially Twitter and YouTube; other reporters are pointing out that this has been a long time coming and that Twitter had little to do with it. Consensus seems to be that Twitter did play a role in coordinating the demonstrators’ actions, making them more effective.

Bad PR?
One American company has lost some business over the situation. The Washington Post reports that communications strategy company Washington Media Group dropped Tunisia from its client roster on January 6, citing civil rights abuses. Interesting that it takes attention from world media and violent street protests by thousands to pressure a communications firm that specializes in “unique insights to solving public affairs challenges” to finally admit it is representing a corrupt dictatorship. Sleep well, Washington Media Group.

Education Rise Did Not Lead to Jobs
While the government undoubtedly was anti-democratic and corrupt, ironically it may be advances in education that contributed to its downfall. According to the U.S. Department of State, “the number of students enrolled at university has soared from 41,000 in 1986 to over 357,472 in 2009″ in Tunisia. While the official unemployment rate is around 13%, many of the newly college educated class are under or unemployed, which fueled the unrest.

This video compiles dozens of images from the recent events. The photos of engaged, courageous people are truly moving:

Let’s hope that all Tunisians will enjoy more freedom in the months and years to come.

Read more: , , , , , , ,

Photo: Still from YouTube video by ramsey1200

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31 comments

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9:17AM PST on Jan 26, 2011

Understandable that the Tunesians wanted change, but I fear the country now is uncontrollable, and lots of nasty things will happen. Meanwhile, another dictator will rise...

9:34PM PST on Jan 19, 2011

Tunisia, Mmmm, N.Africa, pretty much a muslim nation already. I predict this so called "student uprising" is an islamic uprising with these youngsters already indoctrinated so they see islam as freedom instead of the despotic system it is. All one has to do is see the first few seconds of the video where a young woman is crying freedom while wearing the oppressive "Hajib" or whatever.... So I'm not sure they really know what this revolution could mean

4:15AM PST on Jan 17, 2011

This uprising is going nowhere. As usual in the Arab world, any change eventually leads to the emergence of a vicious dictator who will crush any opposition and inhabit the throne for 40 years.
What can the uprising do about rising food prices? Unemployment? These are not Tunisian problems. These are global problems. Too late!

1:16AM PST on Jan 17, 2011

I would be cautious about banging the popular revolution and democracy drum too loudly at this stage. Some years ago, in another Islamic, Middle Eastern country, a popular left-wing revolution was hi-jacked by radical religionists and today that same country is in the news on a weekly basis concerning human-rights abuses.

11:51PM PST on Jan 16, 2011

Tunisia is an example that people can win their freedom without American troops invading their soil. Tunisia, be brave!

9:34PM PST on Jan 16, 2011

Yes, Craig, not for the country itself, but because of what has happened in the country. There is a lot of the same kinds of feelings in many countries and they are not all Muslim, though I fail to see what that would have to do with anything to begin with. Religion was certainly not the driving force governing Tunisia.

8:09PM PST on Jan 16, 2011

Tunisia - trash of north Africa! Is there some compelling reason why anyone should care about this Muslim nation?

8:00PM PST on Jan 16, 2011

When there is no ballot box or it is rigged - guns work better.

5:46PM PST on Jan 16, 2011

Tunisia your a facinating country with beautiful people. Stand up for for you believe in. uk resident.

5:44PM PST on Jan 16, 2011

You are a facinating country, with beautiful people, do what is necessary :) Peace be upon you .

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