Join 3,557 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Revolution
January 14, 2011 1:20 PM   Subscribe

'The fall of Mr. Ben Ali marks the first time that widespread street demonstrations have overthrown an Arab leader.' Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the president of Tunisia for 23 years, has fled the country amid protests that have been ongoing for weeks.

- Al-Jazeera's timeline of unrest in Tunisia
- The Guardian: How a man setting fire to himself sparked an uprising in Tunisia
- Mother Jones: What's Happening in Tunisia Explained
- The Atlantic: Tunisia Makes History Even if Tunisia's would-be revolution succeeds, what next?
- Foreign Policy slideshow: The Tunisian Moment
posted by lullaby (66 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
The wikileak that sparked it.
posted by condour75 at 1:23 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


PSHAW everybody knows there was nothing important in the wikileaks dump.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 1:24 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


yey?
posted by leotrotsky at 1:28 PM on January 14, 2011


The wikileak that sparked it.
I don't know much about Tunisia, but just from that link, that claim seems pretty unlikely to me. It essentially seems to be saying that perhaps revealing to Tunisians that Tunisians think that the president's family is corrupt made Tunisians realize that Tunisians think that the president's family is corrupt.
posted by Flunkie at 1:34 PM on January 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


yeah... I think the big question IS what happens next. As we saw in Iran so long ago a revolution to overthrow a bad government can sometimes lead to a worse government. Which is not saying revolution should never happen... but rather it is unpredictable.

Hopes for the best

posted by edgeways at 1:34 PM on January 14, 2011


Average Tunisian reads wikileaks. Not.
posted by Xurando at 1:37 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


In this case, there really was nothing important in the Wikileaks dump: everybody in Tunisia knew perfectly well that the Ben Ali family was corrupt and had a lavish lifestyle - it's not like they made any meaningful attempt to hide it.

The more significant connection here is with the wave of food riots that have been spreading across the Maghreb and South Asia, which I predict will take down at least one more government before all is said and done.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 1:38 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


*after reading*

Unqualified YEY. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. It's a shame that it wikileaks' victories had to come at the cost of the ongoing psychological torture that is 23 hours in solitary confinement for Bradley Manning

I wonder how likely subsequent meaningful leaks are, given the horrific costs to the leaker. That's not even considering what future draconian legislation governments are likely to put into effect.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:38 PM on January 14, 2011


In this case, there really was nothing important in the Wikileaks dump: everybody in Tunisia knew perfectly well that the Ben Ali family was corrupt and had a lavish lifestyle - it's not like they made any meaningful attempt to hide it.

The more significant connection here is with the wave of food riots that have been spreading across the Maghreb and South Asia, which I predict will take down at least one more government before all is said and done.


Yeah, I've just been aching to make that wikileaks joke for a few weeks now.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 1:39 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I just watched a government fall on Twitter while #CNN interviewed the Jeopardy host about a robot contestant." - @Galrahn
posted by mhoye at 1:42 PM on January 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


There is nothing here that tells me Wikileaks has anything to do with it, much less "sparking" anything.

I wish the Tunisians the best in this.
posted by Legomancer at 1:43 PM on January 14, 2011


Man, the rush to dismiss the Wikileaks connection is fast. Let me offer a counter:

Of course, Tunisians didn't need anyone to tell them this. But the details noted in the cables -- for example, the fact that the first lady may have made massive profits off a private school -- stirred things up. Matters got worse, not better (as surely the government hoped), when WikiLeaks was blocked by the authorities and started seeking out dissidents and activists on social networking sites.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:49 PM on January 14, 2011


A simple theory of WikiLeaks - "many people follow the herd rather than revealing their true views, and this is most common in autocracies. In those cases, public opinion may suddenly flip. WikiLeaks, by making some truths common knowledge, has its biggest effects on autocracies"
posted by kliuless at 1:56 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


And from the Mother Jones link:

Shortly before the December protests began, WikiLeaks released internal US State Department communications in which the American ambassador described Ben Ali as aging, out of touch, and surrounded by corruption. Given Ben Ali's reputation as a stalwart US ally, it mattered greatly to many Tunisians—particularly to politically engaged Tunisians who are plugged into social media—that American officials are saying the same things about Ben Ali that they themselves say about him. These revelations contributed to an environment that was ripe for a wave of protest that gathered broad support.
posted by dhalgren at 1:57 PM on January 14, 2011


Oh man, I'm s'posed to collect some money deposited in a secret bank account by a distant, now-deceased relation of Bin Ali, who has unfortunately perished in a car crash. Now what??
posted by Mister_A at 2:01 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Frankly, I think it's a tribute to the boundless narcissism and self-absorption of the First-World left that the first response to this story is to turn it into another chapter of the Julian Assange soap opera rather than allowing the brown people starving to death and setting themselves on fire (over having a produce cart confiscated, not over the cables) in the street some agency of their own.

And sure enough, wherever the politics of the empty-gesture protest are, Anonymous (or rather its politicized faction) is not far behind, DDOSing some government websites in what I'm sure was the decisive moment of the revolution. It sure is a good thing those Tunisians had some Westerners to save them!
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:03 PM on January 14, 2011 [15 favorites]


From an actual Tunisian.

The rush to dismiss the impact of wikileaks is pathetic really. Of course its revolutionary. That was the intention.

There will be more.
posted by empath at 2:18 PM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


You can view Live tweets from Tunis. The Translate link on the page as well as Chrome's built in translate feature both work intermittently; it may get confused by multiple languages. But for awhile I was reading, in my language, in real time, what was happening in Tunis. Which was fascinating.

Of course WikiLeaks is not the prime mover here; the situation in Tunisia has been building for years. But things have a way of adding up.
posted by Nelson at 2:18 PM on January 14, 2011


In this case, there really was nothing important in the Wikileaks dump: everybody in Tunisia knew perfectly well that the Ben Ali family was corrupt and had a lavish lifestyle - it's not like they made any meaningful attempt to hide it.

Why do people not recognize the difference between seeing something in black and white and rumors and innuendo?

Once its out there, people have to talk about it. And when everybody is talking about the same thing, you have the seed of a revolution.
posted by empath at 2:21 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Rumors and innuendo in black and white are still rumors and innuendo.
posted by Ardiril at 2:24 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apparently the Tunisians disagree.

I'm sure the next revolution will also have nothing to do with wikileaks.
posted by empath at 2:25 PM on January 14, 2011


And MeFi turns what the BBC World Service and others describe as a historic, momentous day in the country and the region into a(nother) WikiLeaks debate. Give it a fuckin' rest.
posted by ambient2 at 2:31 PM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Frankly, I think it's a tribute to the boundless narcissism and self-absorption of the First-World left that the first response to this story is to turn it into another chapter of the Julian Assange soap opera...sure is a good thing those Tunisians had some Westerners to save them!

I think most people are saying Wikileaks may have been a factor, they're not giving Assange all the credit for this. But feel free to take your shots, I guess.
posted by Hoopo at 2:35 PM on January 14, 2011


I'm sure the next revolution will also have nothing to do with wikileaks.

The probability is high.

a(nother) WikiLeaks debate

A(nother) fpp derailed by the first comment.
posted by Ardiril at 2:37 PM on January 14, 2011


A(nother) fpp derailed by the first comment.

It's not a derail.
posted by empath at 2:38 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


heheh
posted by Ardiril at 2:39 PM on January 14, 2011


I just found this and my mind is completly blown!

Anonymus Toppled Ben Ali
posted by CitoyenK at 2:49 PM on January 14, 2011


I think most people are saying Wikileaks may have been a factor, they're not giving Assange all the credit for this. But feel free to take your shots, I guess.

The very first comment says that a particular WikiLeak sparked it, so that would be a pretty clear example of someone giving WikiLeaks the credit, rather than, you know, the Tunisians that are actually dying over there. It seems in bad taste to whine about poor Bradley Manning sitting in solitary when a fruit seller actually set himself on fire in protest (and not just because of the "spark" pun).

So sure, WikiLeaks was a factor. So was La regente de Carthage. So were a lot of things. But WikiLeaks wasn't instrumental, and it's kind of shitting on the people who are to make the conversation about that.

To repurpose a phrase from many of our feminism threads: "Western World, some shit just ain't about you."

Next up: a thread about Iran where we talk about how great Twitter is.
posted by Amanojaku at 3:09 PM on January 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've been following the Tunisia story through The Front Section which has been covering it for days. The moment where I was pretty sure Ben Ali was done for was the cell phone incident, when, during the middle of his "let's all calm down for a minute" speech, a phone started ringing. It's hard to remain a person of authority when appearing this ridiculous.

It's interesting, if eminently predictable, that the larger Anglophone media organizations have mostly ignored this (with the notable exceptions of The Guardian, The Economist and the LA Times).

WikiLeaks is at most a minor factor in all this and it's essentially unknowable how important it was one way or the other... arguing about it is pointless
posted by Kattullus at 3:12 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


So sure, WikiLeaks was a factor. So was La regente de Carthage. So were a lot of things. But WikiLeaks wasn't instrumental, and it's kind of shitting on the people who are to make the conversation about that.

Every time you all say that it had nothing to do with wikileaks, you're extending the conversation that you say you don't want to have. The Tunisians themselves are saying it had an impact. Let's leave it at that.
posted by empath at 3:12 PM on January 14, 2011


The very first comment says that a particular WikiLeak sparked it, so that would be a pretty clear example of someone giving WikiLeaks the credit

...which is from a website called "Business Insider" run by a former Wall Street type who was convicted of securities fraud, and therefore hardly an indictment of the "First World Left," whatever the hell that means. That was some axe-grinding bullshit.
posted by Hoopo at 3:16 PM on January 14, 2011


'So sure, WikiLeaks was a factor. [...] But WikiLeaks wasn't instrumental [etc.]'
Every time you all say that it had nothing to do with wikileaks, you're [...]


'was a factor, [but]' ≠ 'has nothing to do with it.' Why are you making such ridiculous statements?
posted by anigbrowl at 3:25 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Another perspective on Muhammad Bouazizi's painful protest (disturbing image warning)

For those looking for treatment of other factors in addition to Wikileaks, here's a variety of pre-wikileaks articles from the Economist referencing Tunisia in some significant way (and from which you could make some educated guesses about other countries in the region).

The democratic deficit in Arabic countries
Aquifer depletion in North Africa
Fire & drought in Russia lead to a spike in what prices; Tunisia forced to buy wheat on spot market
Human rights have long been a problem, which has accelerated since October 2009's 90% re-election result

I hope a transition of power occurs smoothly and peacefully. I visited Tunisia once about 20 years ago and was struck by the kindness and dignity of its people.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:44 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anonymus Toppled Ben Ali

Unfortunately, I think Anonymus were too busy drinking with their uncle to topple anything sturdier than a bar table.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 3:47 PM on January 14, 2011


What was really instrumental was the refusal of the Tunisian army, and particularly of General Rachid Ammar (who was fired a few days ago), to side with Ben Ali. That's what made the revolution successful (for the moment, time will tell) and that's the reason why it didn't end Tienanmen-style.
posted by elgilito at 3:53 PM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I realized after posting that maybe I should've linked directly to the cable. I certainly didn't have an anti-first-world-left agenda when I posted. I'm very pro-first-world-left. In fact, some day I hope to own a Prius.
posted by condour75 at 3:53 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


The rush to dismiss the impact of wikileaks is pathetic really.
Being the first person in this thread to have said something skeptical about the alleged role of Wikileaks in this matter, I'm not quite sure what to make of this.

I opened up the comments, and the first (and basically only) thing in here was a link saying "the wikileak that sparked it".

That seemed interesting, so I clicked on the link and read the article. The article seemed to me to basically be indicating that the leaked cable was a report of the way that the Tunisian president and his family were commonly viewed in Tunisia, along with a report about some specific corruption that had already been publicly reported before the cable was made, let alone before the cable had been leaked.

The idea that the leaking of a report about the way that Tunisians apparently commonly feel would have "sparked" this seemed somewhat dubious to me. And even the article itself essentially said at its end something like "Well, yeah, there's unemployment and inflation and lack of food, but... WIKILEAKS! Maybe."

So I came back here and commented on the allegation that Wikileaks "sparked" this, attempting to make clear that I didn't know anything about Tunisia and that I was merely basing my thoughts on the matter on the article making the allegation itself.

And then you and others characterized this as a "rush to dismiss the impact of wikileaks", as if I had been sitting around waiting for a Wikileaks comment so that I could pooh-pooh it. And as if Wikileaks had been brought up in the thread preemptively by a naysayer. You going so far as to characterize this as "pathetic".

I have no axe to grind against Wikileaks, and for all I know maybe there's something to the idea that it was influential in this. But if so, it sure didn't seem to be backed up by the article making the allegation.
posted by Flunkie at 4:13 PM on January 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Juan Cole: The First Middle Eastern Revolution since 1979
posted by homunculus at 5:00 PM on January 14, 2011


What was really instrumental was the refusal of the Tunisian army, and particularly of General Rachid Ammar (who was fired a few days ago), to side with Ben Ali.

Thhere's a fantastic documentary about the fall of Slobo Milosevic in Yugoslavia, Bringing Down A Dictator, that makes the same point, which I'm guessing is true generally for most popular uprisings: momentum had been building for months (watch the doc or read the summary here for an uplifting look at how sarcasm, humor and very smart planning were amazingly effective at destabilizing Slobo's government), but the key moment came when the police turned:

When a desperate Milosevic demanded a runoff vote, a transparent ploy to buy the time needed to manipulate the official count, Kostunica called for a general strike. As more and more workers joined, and as Otpor mobilized to build road blockades, the country ceased to function. Ten days after the election, hundreds of thousands of Serbs - miners, farmers, men and women from all walks of life -- converged angrily on the capital, in convoys that clogged the highways in every direction. Police, with whom Otpor and the opposition had quietly worked for months, acknowledged their orders but refused to carry them out.

Also, Aaron Brady at the great zunguzungu posted a sharp critique of the official US position on the Tunisian protests yesterday, before the president skittered off. Worth reading, as is the rest of his blog.
posted by mediareport at 5:14 PM on January 14, 2011


I'm not a fan of Wikileaks, even less of Assange, and I'm pretty certain that Wikileaks didn't "spark" this revolution. I do admit, however, that it probably has facilitated its success in a more subtle manner.

A lone dictator cannot maintain himself in power. He needs for that an army of obedient henchmen. It's a sad but solid truth that revolutions rarely succeed until at least part of the incumbent elite turns against its master. Now, those leaked US embassy cables certainly didn't tell Tunisians anything about their country which they didn't know already, but Wikileaks told them something quite important about how Ben Ali was really seen by foreign governments. While knowing perfectly well that he was despised at home, it probably was unsettling for the elites to discover that, behind all diplomatic niceties, foreign diplomats thought just as badly of Ben Ali as the Tunisians themselves.

Suddenly realizing that *they* were Ben Ali's last line of defence, and not any foreign power, some among the higher ranks of the hierarchy must have immediately started hedging their bets, so as to get a chance of benefitting from the sacrifice of the many, rather than being swept aside by it.
posted by Skeptic at 5:36 PM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


By the way, Kattallus, thanks so much for that link to The Front Section; what a neat little site, like aldaily but with lefty cynicism replacing aldaily's unpleasantly reactionary undercurrent. Love the about page.
posted by mediareport at 7:58 PM on January 14, 2011


Why the hell does a thread about Tunisian politics have to turn into a goddamn debate about Wikileaks?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:31 PM on January 14, 2011


If you're in London there's a meeting of the Tunisia Solidarity Campaign today (Saturday).
posted by Abiezer at 9:03 PM on January 14, 2011


The idea that the leaking of a report about the way that Tunisians apparently commonly feel would have "sparked" this seemed somewhat dubious to me.

What they felt was suspicion and idle cynicism. What Wikileaks provided was hard proof that their darkest speculations were cold, hard fact, and that was too much for them to bear, especially in the light of unemployment and rampant food price inflation.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:15 PM on January 14, 2011


I don't know much about Tunisia, but just from that link, that claim seems pretty unlikely to me. It essentially seems to be saying that perhaps revealing to Tunisians that Tunisians think that the president's family is corrupt made Tunisians realize that Tunisians think that the president's family is corrupt.
Well, the cable didn't say that the average Tunisian thought that the administration was corrupt but rather that Senior U.S. diplomats thought the Ben Ali government was corrupt (as well as Transparency International). And here's the thing, even if you can say, "everyone knew" that doesn't necessarily mean that you could act on your suspicions. This isn't to say that Wikileaks was the prime mover, but it was one of the major issues.

And the other thing -- it's one thing every one knows -- but it's another if everyone knows that everyone else knows.

Of course, there would be no way to prove things either way, but my understanding I that Tunisians think Wikileaks was a part of what happened. here's an example. Should we believe people who were involved, or random Internet commenters who hate wikileaks?
Rumors and innuendo in black and white are still rumors and innuendo.
Uh, no.
posted by delmoi at 11:27 PM on January 14, 2011


Why the hell does a thread about Tunisian politics have to turn into a goddamn debate about Wikileaks?

Because it's an American site.
posted by pompomtom at 11:44 PM on January 14, 2011


Uh, no. - Cuz everything on the interwebz is true.
posted by Ardiril at 12:05 AM on January 15, 2011


Ars Technica have a roundup of various technology-related aspects of the overthrow, including such details as:
We'll take that Facebook password, please: It soon got much worse. The Committee to Protect Journalists said that its own research found that "the [state-run] Tunisian Internet Agency is harvesting passwords and usernames of bloggers, reporters, political activists, and protesters by injecting hidden JavaScript" into many popular site login pages.

This extended to sites like Facebook, where the main login page mysteriously had 10 additional lines of code inserted when it arrived at Tunisian computers. (Such code injection is technically simple using various pieces of deep packet inspection gear, and it was made easier by the fact that the Tunisian government would periodically block secure HTTPS connections.)
And the other thing -- it's one thing every one knows -- but it's another if everyone knows that everyone else knows.

Proof is distinct from opinion. Plenty of people have offered the opinion that modern Britain is a US lapdog (for example), but there's no shortage of denial of the idea. Offering that opinion while backing it up with US embassy cables describing the bemused contempt the authors feel for the fawning and grovelling of an incoming UK government makes it a little hard to argue against.

In any case, as with others I'll note this is only half the battle, if that. The history of post-colonial Africa and the Middle East has plenty of examples, Iran being one that's already been mentioned, of how the overthrow of a bad regime can end up with a worse outcome. I hope Tunisians get the government their courage deserves.
posted by rodgerd at 12:16 AM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Suddenly realizing that *they* were Ben Ali's last line of defence, and not any foreign power, some among the higher ranks of the hierarchy must have immediately started hedging their bets, so as to get a chance of benefitting from the sacrifice of the many, rather than being swept asid> by it.


For a remarkable (fictionalised, of course) account of the last hours of an autocratic regime, read Mario Vargas Llosa's The Feast of the Goat. It describes exactly that phenomenon: once the USA and other American countries imposed an embargo on Trujillo-ruled Dominican Republic and started denouncing human rights abuses and corruption, the political elites started conspiring and looking into regime change.
posted by jgbustos at 1:49 AM on January 15, 2011


See also the "preference cascade." The book that introduced the concept is Timur Kuran's 1995 Private Truths, Public Lies.
posted by GrammarMoses at 6:40 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, the cable didn't say that the average Tunisian thought that the administration was corrupt but rather that Senior U.S. diplomats thought the Ben Ali government was corrupt
The article linked to says no such thing; it's full of quotes from the cable like "provokes the ire of Tunisians" and "inspires outrage among Tunisians" and "Tunisians joke about the corruption" and "rumors about the corruption add fuel to the fire of unemployment, inflation, and conspicuous displays of wealth".

I mean none of these to be actual word for word quotes - they're off the top of my head - but there are definitely things similar to them in there.
posted by Flunkie at 7:00 AM on January 15, 2011


apparently this is "the first time an Arab dictator is overthrown by a popular uprising," and while clinton rips arabs on lack of reform, hypocritically since "Ben Ali was [a] close ally of the US," the process of extracting ourselves from the region would likely be complicated...
As much as I agree that the U.S. should not be on the side of Middle Eastern/North African autocrats, the idea that we can simply throw those same autocrats under the bus while simultaneously holding onto the notion that America is the provider of stability and security in the Middle East is untenable. The U.S. pact with the devil in the region is born directly from a set of U.S. interests in the region - the defense of Israel and the stability and security of oil exporters. If you want to junk the autocrats, as I think would be wise over the medium term, then you have to redefine America's role with respect to those interests.
also to try and interject some western experialism, i thought clay shirky's appreciation of wikipedia on its 10-year anniversary (and the continuing democratization of authority) might be apropos:

"An authority isn't a person or institution who is always right -- ain't no such animal. An authority is a person or institution who has a process for lowering the likelihood that they are wrong to acceptably low levels."
posted by kliuless at 9:24 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is interesting to me, and I'll admit that I neglected to do much research on Tunisia, despite dating Mr. Ben Ali's niece for a short while. She came to Thanksgiving dinner with my family, and then afterward I went to the dinner her relatives in NYC were having. She invited me to a wedding at the Presidential estate in Tunisia, but I declined, because the Thanksgiving night here had turned very weird. Ask me about it at a meetup, not comfortable relating that here. What I can say, is that this post explains a lot for me.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:27 PM on January 16, 2011


Saw this local blog linked elsewhere, Tunisia Scenario. Self-immolation now spreading to Algeria and there's been solidarity protests in Yemen.
posted by Abiezer at 2:51 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


On wlcentral.org, there are summaries of of each cable's relevant contents as well as the various new sources :

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced his intention to serve as interim president, and protesters immediately refused to have him. (original source?)

Syria, Jordan and Algeria are trying to head off riots by lowering food prices.

Egypt is not Tunisia, But ...

Confusing unrest in Libya
posted by jeffburdges at 4:40 AM on January 17, 2011


Aside from wikileaks' cables, Anonymous' DDoS attacks on the Tunisian government likely helped communicate some sort of international solidarity to the Tunisian protestors, which sounds helpful.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:54 AM on January 17, 2011


Robert Fisk opines, somewhat pessimistic.
posted by Abiezer at 4:54 PM on January 17, 2011


It appears protesters are unhappy key ministers will retain their posts and western opinions are divided.

Amusingly, they've named a blogger activist who was jailed by Ben Ali's outgoing government as the new Secretary for Youth and Sports. Nice gesture, but ...
posted by jeffburdges at 10:13 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


There were attempted self-immolations in Mauritania and Egypt today, and several attempted suicides in Algeria.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:28 PM on January 17, 2011


According to Wikipedia in 2007 Tunisia had the lowest rate of gun ownership out of 178 countries surveyed, at 0.1 guns per 100 residents, compared to 88.8 guns per 100 residents for the U.S. (This caught my eye because of the insistence by some gun enthusiasts I've known that private gun ownership is necessary for the purpose of overthrowing the government should the call for that arise.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:58 AM on January 19, 2011


Amusingly, they've named a blogger activist who was jailed by Ben Ali's outgoing government as the new Secretary for Youth and Sports. Nice gesture, but ...

He's also apparently a 4Channer. Or at least knows enough about Anon to be able to give a talk about it.
posted by empath at 5:56 AM on January 19, 2011


Secular Good, Muslim Bad: Unveiling Tunisia’s Revolution

Nice piece from Religion Dispatches teasing out Western biases in covering Tunisia and other Arab states:

Tunisia’s dictatorship...strictly controlled Tunisia’s religious life. Religiously active Tunisians were persecuted and sometimes forced out of the country, and this contributed in no small part to the universal sense that this government did not respect or reflect the Tunisian people. Tunisia’s Islamist opposition was very comfortable with democracy, much like Turkey’s AKP, but that still didn’t help them. (They’re in exile.)

But that element of the story is missing, and in its place we get this:
"Tunisia is far different from most neighboring Arab countries. There is little Islamist fervor there, it has a large middle class, and under Mr. Ben Ali and his predecessor, Habib Bourguiba, it has invested heavily in education. Not only are women not required to cover their heads, they enjoy a spectrum of civil rights, including free contraception, that are well beyond those in most countries in the region."
To repeat, there’s little “Islamist fervor” in Tunisia because Islamist fervor—something as benign as fasting in Ramadan—can land one in some very hot water. (Put that into perspective: imagine our government preventing folks from observing Lent.) But let’s not end there. Tunisia is also different from most neighboring Arab countries because, we are told, in Tunisia, “women [are] not required to cover their heads”.

For a list of the Arab countries that do not mandate that women cover their heads, how’s this?: Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Yemen, and Bahrain. That’s 15 countries, including the most populous, Egypt. And while I’m not sure about The Sudan, there are of course strong restrictions around women’s dress in Saudi Arabia. That’s possibly 2 countries for the other side. (In fact, in the whole Muslim world, only two other countries legally mandate the veil: Iran and Afghanistan.)

posted by mediareport at 6:01 AM on January 21, 2011


One surefire way to de-radicalize groups of people is to give them something to lose (ie, power).
posted by empath at 7:35 AM on January 21, 2011


Juan Cole, of the University of Michigan, on why democracy may bloom in Tunisia, but won't spread to the rest of the Arab world
posted by homunculus at 8:31 AM on January 21, 2011


OT, but just as an example...
-Immelt calls Obama anti business
-Obama Taps GE's Immelt to Head Economic Advisor Panel

back OT...
-Coopting The Opposition I
-Coopting The Opposition II
-Coopting The Opposition III
-Ben Ali's Neglected Army
posted by kliuless at 8:42 AM on January 21, 2011


This is an extraordinary state of affairs, in which the people have not only taken power in the whole of the Siliana governorate, but are standing strong in the face of the attempt of the army to restore the old mayors back in power. We see how, like in the statement from the Provisional Council of Sidi Bou Ali, they call for a provisional government to be formed, composed of nationally recognised figures not linked to the old regime.
posted by Abiezer at 1:01 AM on January 24, 2011


« Older William Taylor Adams, a progressive Massachusetts ...  |  In 1999, psychologist Robert A... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments