Al Jazeera English
Interview with Dr. Radwan Masmoudi of CSID
Interview with Al-Jazeera English aired on Jan. 12, 2011, two days before Ben Ali fled the country..
Tunisia, a game changer in the Middle East
By Radwan A. Masmoudi | Al-Arabiya
The opposition has now been galvanised and united like never before. In the past, the government played on the
divisions between Islamic and secular forces to keep the opposition weak and divided, but Tunisians abhor violence and extremism, and do not want a theocratic
government. What they do want and deserve is a democratic system of government that is based on their Islamic values and
The rules of the game are changing. The interim government, or any future government, must pay close attention to public opinion and sentiments. They promise to legalise
all political parties, and organise free and fair elections with international observers within six months. They also promise to reform the political system to allow
greater transparency and accountability. Government officials have been reminded that they are public servants. Let's see if they can act the
Having seen the success of people's power in Tunisia, it is probable that other Arab populations will demand similar rights and reforms in the coming months and years.
Already there are reports of self-immolation by people in Algeria, Egypt and Mauritania, hoping to be heard and to set their countries upon the same path as
Tunisia. Arab leaders must reform or face their people.
The genie of democratic change is out of the bottle.
Read Full Article
Tunisia nudges Arab world out of its hopelessness
It is uncertain whether the uprising that toppled Tunisia's autocratic government can be replicated in Egypt and elsewhere. But for now, at least, it has
kindled an optimism in places where it had long been extinguished.
By Jeffrey Fleishman | Los Angeles Times
People hold a candlelight vigil in Tunis, Tunisia, to mourn the dozens who died in the protests that drove the country's president from power. The sign reads
"peace to their souls."
The Arab world had been empty of hope for years, but then, at
the dawn of winter, Tunisia tumbled into anarchy and, suddenly, Arabs spotted a glimmer of renewal.Read Full Article
"The Tunisian revolution has brought hope to all Arabs," said Amira Nader, an Egyptian costume designer.
"I had lost any enthusiasm that an Arab population could one day get rid of an authoritarian regime. Most Arabs, including myself, had reached the point where we didn't
believe in our abilities to change.... We had been disillusioned for so many years."
Many Arabs began to believe the myth that they could not rise up and fix all that had gone wrong. Like a doomed man in a spy novel, the region veered from anger to
resignation, from intrigue to delusion.
Egypt's police state is strong and pervasive, much more adept at crushing protests than its Tunisian counterpart. The commitment of dissidents and the government should
be tested Tuesday, when activists have called for national demonstrations, nearly two months after President Hosni Mubarak's
ruling National Democratic Party was widely accused of stealing parliamentary elections.
Whatever unfolds in Egypt or other nations, though, Arabs, at least temporarily, sense a bit of pride and optimism. "After a time during which we used to offer
catastrophic models of 'Lebanonization,' 'Somalization,' and 'Iraqization,' we now have a model that is worthy of respect to offer the world: 'Tunisification,' " Yasser
abu-Hilalah wrote in Jordan's Al Ghad newspaper.
Opposition in Tunisia Finds Chance for Rebirth
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK| The New York Times
Ali Larayedh was imprisoned and tortured for 14 years for his role as a leader of the outlawed Islamist movement here, then hounded
for the past six years by the omnipresent Tunisian secret police. Ali Larayedh says his once-outlawed party, Al-Nahda, ascribes to a uniquely liberal
version of Islamist politics.
In an interview in the lobby of the Africa Hotel in Tunis, Mr. Larayedh insisted that his party posed no threat to Tunisians or to tourists sipping French wine in their
bikinis along the Mediterranean beaches. Years of contemplation in prison and exile had helped his party, known as Al-Nahda, or the Renaissance, to "enlarge our views to
encompass Western values," he said.
"We are Muslim, but we are not against modernism," he said. And he cited his party's strong embrace of women's rights, even to the point of
advocating a quota to ensure a minimum representation of women in Parliament, "until they get their voices." He added, "We are not going to exclude women like some other
extremists." His party's only demands, he said, are a fair and open democratic process, an amnesty for political exiles and social programs to help the
hard-pressed interior of the country.
He said his party was Muslim because it believed in leading by example and persuasion. But it also believed that a head scarf should be the choice of the woman, and that
drinking alcohol need not be restricted by law. Asked for a comparison to another Muslim group - perhaps Egypt's Muslim
Brotherhood, or the pluralistic Islamist party governing Turkey - Mr. Larayedh said Al-Nahda was "more liberal" than all of them, even more liberal than the Islamist
party in neighboring Morocco.
Read Full Article
A Tunisian revolution that's more bloody than jasmine
by Eric Goldstein | The Washington Post
Tunisia indeed has a large middle class, and educated, relatively well-off Tunisians played a key role in toppling the regime. But in
Qasserine and several surrounding cities that consider themselves the cradle of the revolution, the story has been more about blood than jasmine.
Human Rights Watch collected the names of 17 residents of Qasserine whom police gunned down during street protests Jan. 8-10. Six died around the same period in the
smaller city of Tala, about 25 miles north. These two cities lost more than the official number of 21 dead nationwide that the Ben Ali government gave shortly before
collapsing; the exact toll is not yet known. But to the west, five more died in Regueb and two in Menzel Bouzaiane. In the center of this region lies Sidi Bouzid, the
city where the peddler Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire on Dec. 17, triggering the revolt. Police also shot protesters
in the capital, but this southern region bore the brunt of the casualties. The provisional government says 78 died nationwide and
has declared three days of mourning.
The fatal shootings enraged Tunisians nationwide. It is one thing to know that you live in a police state, another to see the police mow down your countrymen. In the
bread riots of 1984, Qasserine residents - now the parents of the youths who revolted this month - took to the streets and paid a heavy price. Since Ben Ali became president in 1987, Tunisians have had no experience of the police killing demonstrators on this scale - for
the simple reason that the police rarely allowed demonstrations to get off the ground.
When police repression did not end the recent unrest, Gen. Rachid Ammar, commander of the army, reportedly refused to order his troops to fire on protesters. Qasserine
residents say that on the afternoon of Jan. 10, the army suddenly replaced the anti-riot police in the city. Soldiers have since handled the continuing demonstrations
without major incident.
It is not only grieving families who have an interest in accountability. If Tunisia is to erect a rights-respecting security
apparatus to replace one based on torture and intimidation, it needs to bring perpetrators to justice and establish a full, public record of the price paid in blood
for the "Jasmine Revolution."
Read Full Article
Ali Baba gone, but what about the 40
The flight of Tunisia's longtime president leaves the small country he ruled and robbed in upheaval. Its Arab neighbours wonder whether it's the start of a trend.
by The Economist
Tunisia came to have more police than France, a country with six times more people. With few real threats to the state to combat, Mr Ben Ali's bloated
security service specialised in such tactics as planting evidence in order to blackmail suspects. Taxi drivers commonly sought protection by joining the RCD or working
as police informants. "Going too often to the mosque could mean a summons to State Security," says one. "They could lift your licence, and put you through hell to get
Benalisme also brought corruption, particularly at the level of the president's own family. With time the web of influence extended
both to the husbands of Mr Ben Ali's four adult daughters and to the many relatives of his second wife, Leila Trabelsi, a former hairdresser whom he married in 1992.
Between them, the Trabelsis and Mr Ben Ali's sons-in-law came to control a huge slice of the economy (see diagram). In recent years their tentacles penetrated deep
into Tunisia's financial system, extracting sweetheart loans from once-respectable banks.
In a rambling television address, the president blamed foreign agitators for the troubles. Sacking his feared interior minister, he promised a huge jobs programme, and
inquiries into corruption and excessive police force. But this was too little, too late-and it also showed weakness.
Rioters were now fighting the police in pitched battles, torching police stations and sacking banks and shops, particularly those thought to belong
to RCD members.
In some cases the police themselves were accused of looting, either as part of a plan to tarnish the protesters and frighten the middle class, or simply to profit from
the collapse of order.
So tarnished was the reputation of the police that Mr Ben Ali belatedly asked Tunisia's army to intervene. Some units did enter the capital, but refused to
use force against protesters, who greeted them with cheers.
There is another way in which Tunisia's experience could prove subtly inspiring. "The one constant in revolutions is the primordial role played by the army," said Jean
Tulard, a French historian of revolutions, in an interview in Le Monde. So far Tunisia's army, kept small to forestall coup attempts, has won kudos for holding the
fort, and not playing politics. Yet it is the army which is believed to have persuaded Mr Ben Ali to leave. Perhaps a few
generals elsewhere in the Arab world are thinking that they, too, might better serve their countries by doing something similar.
Read Full Article
by ROGER COHEN | The New York Times
Unseemly, perhaps, but a lot is at stake. If Tunisia can become the Arab world's Turkey, a functioning democracy where
Islamism is part of the electoral mosaic rather than a threat to it, the tired refrain of all the Arab despots that they are the only bulwark against the jihadists
will be seen for the self-serving lie it has become.
I can't see President Hosni Mubarak, who's headed that regime for three decades, facing less than upheaval if he tries to hand power to his son, Gamal, in the current
environment. There's more than a touch of "We're all Tunisians now" among misruled Arabs right now. They're talking Tunisian
That's cause for Tunisia to take great care to get this right - as I believe it can. Sure, it's tempting to go with the baying crowd: off with all their heads! But Iraq
showed the dangers of overnight dismantlement of a system - party, security forces and all. The hundreds of thousands of people affected don't disappear; they nurse
Tunisia has a lot going for it in this quest: high levels of education, emancipated women encouraged over decades to use birth control, manageable size, and an Islamist
movement that Michael Willis, a North Africa expert at St. Antony's College, Oxford, described as "perhaps the mildest and most pragmatic around."
Their exiled leader, Rached Ghannouchi, has been multiplying conciliatory statements. A democratic Tunisia can do the Turkish thing.
Read Full Article
There will, in coming weeks, be agents provocateurs bent on the worst, and the usual Muslim-hating naysayers. Arab democracy
is threatening to a host of vested interests and glib clichés. It is also the only way out of the radicalizing impasse of Arab klepto-gerontocracies and, as such, a
vital American interest.
Jubilation at Jasmine Revolution, but will democracy follow regime
by Michael Allen | Democracy Digest
Protests in Egypt are often quashed swiftly by the police, who prevent marching
So much for Arab strongmen. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (left)has fled the country - reportedly to Saudi Arabia - after thousands
of demonstrators took to the capital's streets to demand his resignation.
"This is a demonstration of hope," said Moncef Ben Mrad, an independent newspaper editor. "It is the birth of a people who demand more freedom."
"No doubt, every Arab leader has watched Tunisia's revolt in fear while citizens across the Arab world watch in solidarity, elated at that rarity: open
revolution," said Egyptian writer Mona Eltahawy.
Others were suggesting that a democratic tsunami could wash away the region's ageing autocrats. "There will be no way for Arab leaders to escape from this," said
Shadi Hamid, research director at the Brookings Institution's Doha Center. "Tunisia's reputation was of being the most stable in the Arab regimes. If it can happen in
Tunisia, it can happen anywhere."
The elation is merited and understandable, but some democracy advocates will remain cautious, fearful that Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution could yet be a re-run of
Kyrgyzstan's Tulip Revolution. One painful lesson of the so-called color revolutions is that regime change does not necessarily lead to democratization.
"The ruling party will to try maintain its grip on power, but the party is even more discredited than Ben Ali
himself," said Radwan Masmoudi, an exiled Tunisian democracy advocate who heads the US-based Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy.
"The only solution is a national unity government, followed by free and fair elections under international monitoring," he told Democracy Digest. "This is
very feasible and doable."
"This is a crucial moment. There is a change of regime under way. Now it's the succession," said opposition leader Najib Chebbi."It must lead to profound reforms, to reform the law and let the people choose."
Western diplomats consider Chebbi the opposition's most credible figure, but media censorship means that he is little-known beyond opposition
Read Full Article
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