Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rock the Casbah: Tunisian Edition

Tunisians certainly rocked their casbah; a new government under former President of the Tunisian Chamber of Deputies Fouad Mebazaa took power after widespread riots rocked the state. Longtime 'president' Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia after the military refused orders to crack down on the protesters, and sacking many officials.

The protests came in light of worsening standards of living, censorship and higher food prices (something to keep a tab on this year, as increasingly mentioned by FP).

What I find very interesting about the riots is, similar to the Iranian election riots in 2009, there were A LOT of younger citizens protesting. Yes, there were opposition leaders and people from all parts of Tunisian society taking part in the protests. However, from looking at quite a few photos of the situation, I saw that the majority of those were younger people. The scene of the youth protesting a strict regime, something that some has argued that would happen for years, has actually turned into realty. The fact the conservative Arab governments- pro-western or not- do not reform in order to promote economic growth seems to be a troubling problem.

The youth are left between a rock and a hard place. Do they leave for work? Do they stay and protest? Do they become radicalized?

What we saw in Tunisia can likely happen to other governments if they do not respond to their people's needs. Though Tunisia is not a rentier state, the process which brought the end to Ben Ali could be a very similar end to other leaders. Protests from ignored citizens were able to bring down a virtual dictator. Leaders should take notes, if they don't care for the needs of their citizens, they might be sent packing.

The Iranians may have not been able to bring change in 2009, but the Tunisians showed the world it was possible in 2011.

Tunisia 2011:

Iran 2009

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