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Mohamid Bouazizi

William Kelly

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Mohamed Bouazizi - the man who toppled Tunisia.


March 29, 1984 – Mohamed Bouazizi aka “Basbosa” is born in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. His father a Libyan construction worker, dies when he is three.

December 17, 2010 – Mohamed Bouazizi, an unemployed, educated 26 year old set himself afire in front of a local municipal building. Bouazizi’s produce cart was confiscated by police for lack of a permit, and he was unable to meet with corrupt government officials in order to obtain a permit.

January 4, 2011 - 18 days later Bouazizi dies.

A Tunisian graduate in computer science, whose attempted suicide set off violent protests over unemployment across the North Africa nation, has died, his family said. Mohammed Bouazizi, 26, sold fruit and vegetables illegally in Sidi Bouzid since he might not find a job. Last month he soused himself with petrol and set himself alight when police confiscate his produce since he did not have the essential permit. Public protests are rare in Tunisia and dissent is more often than not reserved. Mohammed Bouazizi was visited by the president before his death.

Wiki entry for Bouazizi:

Death of Mohamed Bouazizi

Location Front of a local government building Date January 4, 2011

11:30 a.m (UTC+01) Weapon(s) Paint thinner

Tarek al-Tayyib Muhammad ibn Bouazizi (March 29, 1984 - January 4, 2011), known simply as Mohamed Bouazizi (Arabic: محمد البوعزيزي‎), was a Tunisian street vendor who burned himself on December 17, 2010, in protest of the confiscation of his wares and the humiliation that was inflicted on him by a female municipal official. This act became the catalyst for the 2010-2011 Tunisian Revolution, sparking deadly demonstrations and riots throughout Tunisia in protest of social and political issues in the country. Anger and violence intensified following Bouazizi's death, leading then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down after 23 years in power. Bouazizi's protest eventually led to the protests in several Arab countries.

Following Bouazizi's self-immolation, several other men have emulated this act in other Arab countries in an attempt to bring an end to the oppression they face from corrupt autocratic governments. Although their acts have not provoked the same sort of popular reaction as Bouazizi's, concessions have been made in Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan,[1] as these men and Bouazizi are hailed by some as "heroic martyrs of a new Middle Eastern revolution."[2]

Mohamed Bouazizi, who was known locally as Basboosa,[3]was born in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, on March 29, 1984. His father, a construction worker in Libya, died of a heart attack when Bouazizi was three, and his mother married Bouazizi's uncle some time later.[4] Along with his six siblings,[5]Bouazizi was educated in a one-room country school in a village named Sidi Salah.[6] Although multiple media outlets reported that Bouazizi had a university degree,[5][7][8] his sister, Samia Bouazizi, stated that he had never graduated from high school,[9] but that it was something he had wanted for both himself and his sisters.[6] With his uncle in poor health and unable to work regularly,[10] Bouazizi had worked various jobs since he was ten,[4] and in his late teens he quit school in order to work full-time.[10]

Bouazizi lived in a modest stucco home, a twenty-minute walk from the center of Sidi Bouzid,[11][12] a rural town in Tunisia burdened by corruption[13] and suffering an unemployment rate estimated at 30%.[4] According to his mother, Mannoubia Bouazizi, he applied to join the army, but was refused, and several subsequent job applications had also resulted in rejection.[10] He supported his mother, uncle, and younger siblings, including paying for one of his sisters to attend university, by earning approximately US$140 per month[10][6] selling his produce on the street in Sidi Bouzid. He was also working toward the goal of buying a work van, according to his sister Samia.[13]

Confiscation of wares and self-immolation

Local police officers had targeted Bouazizi for years, even during his childhood, regularly confiscating his small wheelbarrow of produce;[10] but Bouazizi had few options to try to make a living, so he continued to work as a street vendor. On the morning of December 17, 2010, he had contracted approximately US$200 in debt to buy his merchandise.[14] Soon after setting up his cart, the police confiscated his wares again, ostensibly because Bouazizi did not have a vendor's permit.[1] However, although some sources state thatstreet vending is illegal in Tunisia,[15] and that Bouazizi lacked a required permit,[6][1] according to the head of Sidi Bouzid's state office for employment and independent work, no permit is needed to sell from a cart.

It was also claimed that Bouazizi did not have the funds to bribe the police officials to allow his street vending to continue.[6][16] Two of Bouazizi's siblings accused authorities of attempting to extort money from their brother,[13] and during an interview with Reuters, one of his sisters stated, "What kind of repression do you imagine it takes for a young man to do this? A man who has to feed his family by buying goods on credit when they fine him ... and take his goods. In Sidi Bouzid, those with no connections and no money for bribes are humiliated and insulted and not allowed to live."

Regardless, Bouazizi was publicly humiliated when a 45-year-old female municipal official, F. Hamdi,[5][10][4]slapped him in the face, spat at him, confiscated his electronic weighing scales, and tossed aside his fruit and vegetable cart;[1] all while her two colleagues assisted her in beating him.[17] It was also stated that she made a slur against his deceased father.[12][1] Her gender made his humiliation worse due to expectations in the Arab world.

Angered by the confrontation,[19] Bouazizi went to the governor's office to complain.[1] Following the governor's refusal to see or listen to him,[1] even after Bouazizi was quoted as saying "'If you don't see me, I'll burn myself'," he acquired a can of gasoline (or two bottles of paint thinner) and, at 11:30 a.m. local time (less than an hour after the altercation),[1][20] he doused himself in front of a local government building and set himself alight.

According to Bouazizi's mother, who was not told of her son's intention before he carried out this act,[20] he committed suicide because he had been humiliated and not because of their poverty.[1] "It got to him deep inside, it hurt his pride," she said, referring to the police harassment.

According to the Bouazizi family lawyer, Bouazizi was taken by ambulance to a medical facility in Sidi Bouzid. When they were not able to cope with Bouazizi's severe burns, he was taken to the city of Sfax, more than 70 miles away.[6] Later, as the government's interest in his case grew, he was transferred to a hospital in the town of Ben Arous at the Burn and Trauma Centre, where he was visited by then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.[21] He died there, eighteen days after the immolation, on January 4, 2011, at 5:30 p.m. local time.

It is estimated that more than 5,000 people participated in the funeral procession that began in Sidi Bouzid and continued through to Bouazizi's native village, though police did not allow the procession to pass near the spot at which Bouazizi had burned himself.[24] From the crowd, many were heard chanting "Farewell, Mohammed, we will avenge you. We weep for you today. We will make those who caused your death weep."[25] He was buried at Garaat Bennour cemetery, 10 miles from Sidi Bouzid.

On February 4, 2011, the mayor of Paris has announced that, as a tribute to honour Bouazizi, a place in Paris will be named after him.

On December 20, 2010, the female officer, who accosted Bouazizi the day of his immolation, was suspended along with the secretary-general (Governor) of Sidi Bouzid.[28] The report of this suspension was subsequently denied by the secretary-general of the Sidi Bouzid municipality, Mohamed Saleh Messaoudi.[29] The female officer, F. Hamdi, was reportedly dismissed from her duties and has since fled Sidi Bouzid.[10]There was also a report that she was arrested on orders from then-President Ben Ali and she is in jail in another unspecified town.

Outraged by the events that led to Bouazizi's self-immolation,protests began in Sidi Bouzid, building for more than two weeks, with attempts by police to quiet the unrest serving only to fuel what had become a violent and deadly movement.[30] After Bouazizi's death, the protests became widespread, moving into the more affluent areas and eventually into the capital.[1] The anger and violence became so intense that President Ben Ali fled Tunisia with his family,[1] trying first to go to Paris, but was refused refuge by the French government. They were eventually welcomed into Saudi Arabia under many conditions, ending his 23-year dictatorship and sparking "angry condemnation" among Saudis.[30] In Tunisia, unrest persists as a new regime takes over, leaving many citizens of Tunisia feeling as though their needs are still being ignored.

Since Bouazizi's self-immolation led to the successful overthrow of the Ben Ali regime, a number of self-immolation protests emulating Bouazizi's have taken place in other Arab countries.[1] In Algeria, Mohsen Bouterfif set himself on fire after a meeting with a town mayor failed in helping him find employment and housing on January 13, 2011. He later died of his wounds. Another Algerian man attempted but failed to burn himself.[32] In Egypt, Abdou Abdel-Moneim Jaafar, a 49-year-old restaurant owner, set himself alight in front of the Egyptian Parliament.[33] In Saudi Arabia, an unidentified 65-year-old man died on January 21, 2011, after setting himself on fire in the town of Samtah, Jizan. This was apparently the kingdom's first known case of self-immolation.

Although these self-immolation cases have not provoked the same kind of popular reaction that Bouazizi's death did in Tunisia, the Egyptian, Yemeni, and Jordanian governments have experienced significant protests and made major concessions in response to them.[1] As such, these men and Bouazizi are being hailed by some as "heroic martyrs of a new Middle Eastern revolution."

Edited by William Kelly
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Egypt: how the people span the wheel of their country's history | World news | guardian.co.uk

Egypt: how the people span the wheel of their country's history

By overcoming their fears and defying the man whose regime had terrorised them for 30 years, Cairo's protesters not only drove out Hosni Mubarak, they have changed the Arab world

David Sharrock, Jack Shenker in Cairo and Paul Harris

There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune, says Brutus in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar as he urges his comrades to seize the moment to overthrow the ruler they see as a tyrant. It has taken decades for the storm surge to break over Egypt, but when it finally did the forces of change proved irresistible, sweeping awayHosni Mubarak in just 18 days of popular and peaceful street protests.

The most remarkable feature of all is that nobody saw it coming. For all its resources, the United States and its western allies were taken completely by surprise by the brutally swift events which are now reshaping the geo-strategic map of the Middle East. Regime change, the Arab street has shown, need not be given such a bad name after all.

Some have called this moment the Arab world's 1989, when the Iron Curtain fell in eastern Europe – but that was presaged by the years of reform in the Soviet Union under Gorbachev. In truth, there are no real precedents.

A first draft of why it happened must begin in a rural town in Tunisia on the shores of the Mediterranean where Mohamed Bouazizi was the unlikeliest catalyst of the extraordinary realignment in the region.

Known locally as Basboosa, Mohamed, aged 26, was a street fruit vendor in Sidi Bouzid, where unemployment is conservatively estimated at 30%. He earned around £87 a month, the money going to support his six siblings, including one sister in university. He was regularly stopped by police, who expected him to pay them bribes to allow him to sell his wares from a wheelbarrow. On the morning of 17 December last year he had spent the equivalent of £125 on merchandise when it was seized.

What made the loss harder to take was the humiliation. A 45-year-old female officer slapped him across the face, spat at him, scattered his fruit on the ground and confiscated his electronic scales. Two of her colleagues joined in, beating him. As a coup de grace, the woman insulted Mohamed's dead father, a labourer who died of a heart attack when his eldest son was just three years old.

Mohamed finally snapped. For decades millions of young men like him right across the North African coastal plain have watched television images beamed from the other side of the Mediterranean from a European continent of prosperity, freedom and opportunity. They have watched the cronies of their own regimes growing older and, in their decadence, more arrogant and corrupt. They have watched hope for a better future leaking away.

Seeking justice, Mohamed went to the local governor's office to complain about his treatment. He issued a warning when told that the governor was unavailable: "If you don't see me, I'll burn myself." At 11.30am, less than an hour after he had been robbed and humiliated by the state's forces, he doused himself in petrol in front of the governor's office and set himself alight.

"What kind of repression do you imagine it takes for a young man to do this?" said his sister Samia when her brother finally died of horrific injuries on 4 January. "A man who has to feed his family by buying goods on credit when they fine him ... and take his goods. In Sidi Bouzid, those with no connections and no money for bribes are humiliated and insulted and not allowed to live."

The young man's desperate action was a rallying call long awaited in his country and its neighbours. Mohamed Bouazizi's death became the spark which lit the bonfire on which the corrupt regime of Tunisia's President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali would also perish. And, like a bushfire out of control, there was soon fears that the "contagion" would spread.

In an eerie coincidence with subsequent events in Egypt, it took 18 days for Mohamed to die, during which time Ben Ali was sufficiently shaken by the growing voices of anger and protest that he visited the dying young man in hospital.

At his funeral 5,000 mourners chanted: "Farewell, Mohamed, we will avenge you. We weep for you today. We will make those who caused your death weep." He was buried at Garaat Bennour cemetery, 10 miles from Sidi Bouzid.

By then there was no turning back for the old guard as riots in Sidi Bouzid spread to the capital, Tunis. It seemed miraculous to Tunisians how quickly the iron fist of Ben Ali, president for 24 years, was loosened. The internet played a vital role, subverting the state-controlled communications channels by allowing ordinary citizens to bypass them and organise democratically.

"Game Over!" taunted the placards and cheers of the jubilant crowds in a deliberate reference to the age of online computer gaming – a world beyond the reach of ageing tyrants, where the sans culottes of the Arab world come together in cyberspace.

For decades Tunisia had been characterised by the west as a "model" Arab nation, but the WikiLeaks saga, months earlier, revealed the ugly truth of what its key sponsor, the United States, really thought of this "mafia state", run as a virtual private enterprise by Ben Ali and his hated, avaricious wife Leila Trabelsi, who plundered 1.5 tonnes of gold from the central bank when they fled to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Ben Ali's removal from power suddenly seemed to be creating a potential domino-effect around the region. First he tried to quell the protests by addressing the nation on state television and promising reforms. But when this failed to stem the tide of opposition, and with confidence among the armed forces ebbing from him, he chose to run. An international arrest warrant has been issued by Tunisia and his assets in Swiss banks have been frozen.

While opposition figures, including a leading internet activist, have joined an interim government in preparation for elections within two months, the situation in Tunisia remains highly fluid and volatile, with most ordinary citizens unhappy that so many leading lights of the old regime remain in power.

The results of Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation swiftly prompted protests across the region. Inspired by Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution, large protests began in Algeria, Yemen, Jordan and Egypt, with lesser incidents in Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Oman, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Morocco. Many were characterised by a playful, party atmosphere. In Amman, the Jordanian security forces handed out soft drinks to protesters, who laughed as they chanted "Mubarak you are next!"

The Jordanians could not have known they were right. But to fully comprehend the swirling fury of the Egyptian street one must look back nine months. It was near midnight on Sunday 6 June when two Egyptian police officers walked into the Space Net internet cafe on Boubaset Street, a short stroll from Alexandria's crumbling corniche, and demanded to speak to Khaled Said.

According to his mother and sister, Said, 28, was devoted to his pet cats and enjoyed pacing the seafront, flying kites on his own. His room was a jumble of wires and old car batteries, part of a homemade music system Said used to practise rapping; the thumping bass from behind his door could often be heard well into the early hours.

"He was ordinary, like any one of us," remembers his sister, Zahraa. "He never seemed interested in politics at all."

That night Khaled Said was beaten to death by the two officers who came looking for him. They smashed his head against a marble ledge in the lobby of the building next door before throwing his body into the back of a van, driving around, then dumping it by the roadside. It later emerged that Said had taped a secret video depicting what appeared to be corrupt local security chiefs dividing up the spoils of a drugs bust. His family also discovered self-penned anti-government songs stored on his computer.

Three months ago, in the run-up to Egypt's blatantly rigged parliamentary elections, Zahraa told the Observer that the suffering of her brother and others like him could end up shaking the country to its very foundations: "Change will not come from this regime's version of democracy, it will come in the shape of a tidal wave from below. Maybe the torture and murders carried out by our policemen will set that tidal wave in motion." Her words were prescient.

Khaled Said was not the first Egyptian killed at the hands of Mubarak's police force, nor would he be the last. In Said's Sidi Gabr neighbourhood alone, dozens of police torture cases have been logged by local activists over the past eight months, some of them fatal.

But the brazen manner of this particular murder – on a public street and not behind the blacked-out windows of the Sidi Gabr police headquarters – and the fact that the victim was middle-class, with relatives able to resist pressure from the security services to keep quiet, ensured that the name of Khaled Said quickly become synonymous with the staggering brutality and corruption of Mubarak's vast security apparatus, a brutality and corruption to which almost all Egyptians, to a lesser degree, were exposed on a daily basis.

"That was the turning point," claims Heba Morayef, the Human Rights Watch advocate in Egypt. "Prior to that, demonstrations in favour of political reform struck many ordinary Egyptians as somewhat abstract, even if they had vague sympathy with the sentiments being expressed.

"Police cruelty, however, was something that touched people personally and it inspired a whole new, cross-class section of society to adopt a more combative stance towards the state."

After much dithering and buck-passing by the authorities, the two officers responsible (though not their seniors) were put on trial and mass protests in major cities began. The demonstrations were never more than a few thousand strong, and often smaller – not insignificant in a country where a 30-year-old emergency law effectively criminalises any sort of public expression of dissent, but not enough to panic Mubarak's entrenched political elite.

Online, however, it was a different story. Kolina Khaled Said, a Facebook group meaning "We are all Khaled Said", quickly gathered hundreds of thousands, of supporters, who swapped information on other examples of inhumane police treatment and helped organise small-scale acts of civil disobedience.

Along with a loose network of more explicitly political online activist groups, the anonymous administrators behind Kolina Khaled Said – one of whom turned out to be Google's regional marketing executive, Wael Ghonim, who attended to the web page from his home 1,500 miles away in Dubai – tried to find creative ways to get round Egypt's suffocating legal prohibitions on collective action in an effort to make their voices heard on the ground.

Sometimes small groups of youths would "spontaneously" gather in city centres and sing the national anthem; on other occasions individuals wearing black would walk to the Nile at an appointed hour across the country and stand separately by the river in silence, an innocent routine that still managed to provoke a violent response from the security services.

This vague but energetic new wave of dissent was leaving behind the moribund landscape of formal opposition politics in Egypt, where paper-democrats had long been scrabbling for crumbs of power tossed down by a regime keen to keep up the facade of a pluralist democracy. Now a new alternative avenue of resistance was on the cards and it was led from below, by those who had never known anything other than Mubarak's autocratic rule. With a demographic time-bomb ticking below the surface – two-thirds of Egypt's population is below the age of 30, and each year 700,000 new graduates chase 200,000 jobs – conditions were ripe for a social explosion.

Into this combustible mix entered Kolina Khaled Said, the creators of which took great pains to cast their movement as not party-political, not backed by shadowy foreign forces, and dedicated primarily to encouraging Egyptians not to be afraid. The ingredients for massive social unrest may have been falling into place, but still in the way stood the firmest obstacle of all: fear.

Through a prodigious web of overlapping security agencies ranging from armed riot police to plain-clothes informants to the baltagiyya – casually-employed ex-prisoners and local thugs – Mubarak's ruling clique had effectively instilled a sense of hopelessness in an overwhelming proportion of the population, whose instincts lay in avoiding the state, not defying it.

But there was never any doubt that frustration at the status quo was deep and potent in every geographical and social corner of Egypt. If ever a critical mass of street protests were to develop and individuals thought the state's gendarmerie was no longer impregnable, it was likely that a full-scale uprising would quickly balloon.

But something was needed to break down that initial aversion to open disobedience. Tunisia provided it. Arab neighbours had faced down their own security forces and won; perhaps now Egyptians could do the same.

But a change of tactics was essential if the omnipresent state security agencies were to be outwitted; 25 January, the date of a national holiday devoted to celebrating the achievements of the police force, was selected as the "day of rage" to exploit growing public resentment against Mubarak's security forces which had been fuelled so successfully by Kolina Khaled Said.

An umbrella coalition of youth activists formed small cells and spent the preceding weeks meeting in secret, plotting a series of devolved, localised protests designed to put maximum strain on the state security resources.

In Cairo, 20 protest sites in densely populated, largely working-class neighbourhoods were selected and publicised. One extra location, in the warren of back streets of the Giza neighbourhood of Bulaq Al-Duqrur, was never broadcast – and took police completely by surprise.

"Usually we rally in one place and immediately get kettled in by hundreds or thousands of riot police," said Ahmed Salah, who was involved in planning for 25 January.

"This time we were determined to do something different – be multi-polar, fast-moving, and too mobile for the amin markazi [central security forces], giving us the chance to walk down hundreds of different roads and show normal passers-by that taking to the streets was actually possible."

The plan worked better than they could ever have imagined. Throughout the capital and across the country, pockets of protest sprung up and overpowered the thinly stretched riot police, who had no choice but to let the marches continue. Later, when the different strands rallied in city centres – including Cairo's symbolic Tahrir Square –the police used guns and tear gas to disperse them.

But it was already too late. By destroying the smokescreen of police invincibility, even for only a few hours, the youths had pierced Mubarak's last line of defence – the fear his subjects felt at the thought of confronting him – and a fatal blow was struck to a 30-year dictatorial regime.

Nevertheless, Mubarak would prove to be a mightier force than Tunisia's Ben Ali. He knew he could rely upon the support of the Americans, who had long granted him premier status in the region not just as guarantor of peace with Israel but also the bulwark against Islamist militancy. And, as a fabled military hero, he was not just the creature of the all-powerful armed forces but for decades their own guarantee of stability and continuity.

It was only as the demonstrators refused to desert Tahrir Square or accept Mubarak's concessions for as long as they fell short of his departure, and as Washington dithered and flip-flopped, that the army began to have its doubts about continuing to back him.

Repeatedly over the past two weeks the Obama administration, the State Department, CIA and the Pentagon had been unsettled and confused by the situation in Egypt. Caught unawares at the prospect of the protests actually succeeding, they reacted too slowly, then too quickly and, finally, were rescued by events on the ground.

But few should be surprised; American strategy was caught between a rock and a hard place. There was an urgent need to respond to the pro-democracy movement, but at the same time that movement was aimed at unseating one of America's most trusted Arab allies, a man who had been a friend to five presidents over three decades.

At the start the crisis only rippled slowly through Washington. On 26 January, a day after protests began in Egypt, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called Egypt a "strong ally". The impression of support for a president whose army soaks up more than one billion dollars of US aid a year was strengthened a day later when vice-president Joe Biden said Mubarak was not a dictator.

American policy appeared in total disarray. Obama's envoy in the crisis, old school diplomat Frank Wisner, travelled to the country. On 5 February he expressed public support for Mubarak staying on, yet such was the confusion in US policymaking now that, mere hours later, both the White House and the State Department disavowed his comments.

As the protests refused to die down after Mubarak said that he would resign in September, US policy hardened again. It coalesced around the figure of new vice-president Omar Suleiman. For American – and Israeli – interests, Suleiman seemed ideal. He was known as a strong man and someone who wanted to preserve the strategic status quo, yet also a figure who had made the right noises, in public at least, about making the transition to democracy.

He was seen as someone who could avoid the nightmare American scenario of a popular anti-Israeli government taking power in Egypt or, worst of all, an Islamist-influenced one.

On 8 February, Biden spoke to Suleiman by phone and stressed the need for an orderly, and swift, transition of power. That convinced many in Washington that it was only a matter of time.

Yet the impact of the Egyptian unrest was spiralling out into the rest of American diplomacy. Last Wednesday Obama spoke to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah in a reportedly testy exchange in which the ageing Saudi royal argued for Mubarak to not be humiliated. When news of the conversation leaked it created a flurry of speculation that the revolt in Egypt was exposing the weakness of American power.

On Thursday CIA chief Leon Panetta told Congress that he imminently expected Mubarak to announce that he was likely to stand down. As Mubarak took to the TV screens that evening, Obama watched the speech on Air Force One as he made his way back from an event in Michigan.

Yet Mubarak fell short of the expectations of those in Tahrir Square and of the army generals when he announced he was transferring his remaining powers to Suleiman but remaining as president, if in name only to save his pride.

It was a move that stunned many and seemed to threaten a complete unravelling and a blood bath, with the demonstrators noisily hatching plans to march on the presidential palace in the morning, a move which would force the Army, thus far maintaining a politically detached posture, into choosing sides.

And so it did, the military's supreme council shepherding the defeated Mubarak onto a plane to take him to a luxurious internal exile at his Red Sea palace. It was an extraordinary finale to 18 days of rage; the army had staged a coup with the backing of the people.

Like a swan looking graceful on the surface while kicking its legs furiously underneath, Obama was able to take to the airwaves and welcome in the changes. "The wheel of history turned at a blinding pace," Obama said.

For once, he was spot on.

Edited by William Kelly
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“Panetta and others rejected criticism that U.S.intelligence had failed to warn of the crisis, saying that the buildup ofpotentially explosive pressures had been amply reported but that the specifictriggers to action, such as the protest suicide of a Tunisian vendor, were hardto predict. ‘We are not clairvoyant,’” said James Clapper, director of theOffice of National Intelligence. [1]

[1] (Richard A. Serrano Tribune Washington Bureau, Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, as cited inthe Philadelphia Inquirer, p. A. 13)

The events in Tunisia, that began in the waning days ofDecember, 2010, went unnoticed, not only by US intelligence, but by themainstream media, who didn’t bother to report on the protests there at all, soby the time President Obama gave his State of the Union speech, and theprotests in Egypt were getting underway, the President and the world weretotally ignorant of the catastrophic man-made events that were about toovertake them.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Lessons from the Arab Revolution

Lessons from the Arab Revolution

The escalating revolts in the Arab world were the principal subject of debate at this year's meeting of a high-level discussion group, known as the Club de Monaco, which met in Monte Carlo from 25 to 27 February, reports Patrick Seale.

Europe and the United States were taken by surprise by the revolutionary changes sweeping the Arab world. They failed to foresee the sudden awakening of the Arab peoples. Arab rulers who had evidently imagined they could rule for life have been swept away. Several others are under threat, and may well follow.

It is widely agreed that the Arab world is undergoing a profound transformation and will never be the same again. Europe, a mere step away from the Arab world, was evidently blind to the powerful pressures which were building up and which eventually could no longer be contained.

A striking example was provided by Michele Alliot-Marie, France's Minister of Foreign Affairs, sacked on 27 February by President Nicolas Sarkozy. She is the first European ministerial victim of the Arab revolution -- in particular of the revolution in Tunisia, which overthrew President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Alliot-Marie's catalogue of blunders was to take a vacation in Tunisia when the troubles had already started; to offer the Tunisian President French riot police to help quell the demonstrators; to take free flights on a private plane owned by a businessman close to Ben Ali; and to allow her parents, who had accompanied her on vacation, to buy a hotel company from the same Tunisian businessman. Such errors suggest a profound incomprehension in Paris of the Arab mood.

Inevitably, the escalating revolts in the Arab world were the principal subject of debate at this year's meeting of a high-level discussion group, known as the Club de Monaco, which met in Monte Carlo from 25 to 27 February.

Attended by some 40 former prime ministers, ministers, ambassadors, academics and journalists from more than a score of countries, the proceedings were opened by Prince Albert of Monaco, and were chaired by the Club's founder, Claude de Kemoularia, a veteran former French ambassador and international banker, who had served as Minister of State in Monaco under Prince Albert's father, Prince Rainier.

The Club makes no public recommendations, nor does it allow individual speakers to be named, so the remarks that follow are merely some of the lessons I personally drew from the prolonged and animated three-day debate by the distinguished participants.

One such lesson is that the burgeoning democratic movement in the Arab world will need to be underpinned by urgent financial support. If immediate and substantial financial and economic help is not given to Egypt and Tunisia, but also to Yemen and to the Sahel countries bordering the Sahara desert, as well as to other relatively poor countries, the great hopes that have been aroused will be dashed. It is no accident that terrorism thrives where poverty and hopelessness are widespread.

When the Soviet system collapsed in central and Eastern Europe, the West created the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in 1990 to promote economic development, multi-party democracy and to help the transition to capitalist economies.

Something similar is urgently required in the Arab world: if not an Arab development bank, then a massive fund, something in the nature of the Marshall Plan which the United States launched after the Second World War to rescue and revive European economies.

This is today the challenge facing the Arab oil states and their sovereign funds. They must help their poorer neighbours, if they wish to be protected from the storm engulfing the entire region. Europe, too, must lend a hand if it is not to be submerged by a flood of illegal immigrants from across the Mediterranean.

One of the key underlying social reasons for the revolution in the Arab world is the population explosion. In every single country birth rates are too high. Economic growth simply cannot keep pace. As a result, unemployment is a universal problem.

To quote a single example, when Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, there were just three million Egyptians. When Gamal Abd al-Nasser and his 'Free Officers' seized power in 1952, this had risen to 19 million. Today, less than sixty years later, there are 84 million Egyptians, and the number is increasing by nearly a million a year. Clearly, reducing fertility rates and job creation must be the priorities not only of Egypt but of every Arab country. A revision of the educational system must also follow. In most Arab countries, over-burdened schools and universities produce large numbers of poorly-trained graduates for whom no jobs exist.

Another subject of debate by the Club de Monaco was the whole range of issues concerning Israel. The revolution in Egypt was likely to bring Cairo back into the Arab mainstream. This would have a profound impact on Israel's strategic environment. Was it not time for Israel to rethink its security doctrine, so as to seek co-existence with its Arab neighbours rather than military domination?

Now that the United States had failed to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, could Europe and Russia step in to give the process a much-needed nudge? Was Israel beginning to grasp that its continued theft of Palestinian land was a curse from which it must itself inevitably suffer? A major attempt had to be made to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict before it exploded into more violence. There was no viable alternative to a two-state solution.

Iraq's revival was hailed by members of the Club de Monaco. After the horrors of recent decades, the country was being remade as a decentralised democracy. It had overcome its civil war of 2006-7 and was making a successful transition from foreign occupation to real sovereignty. Its relations with such neighbours as Turkey and Iran had much improved. Given time, there were real hopes that Iraq would recover its role as a major oil producer and a leading Arab state.

In country after country, Arab protesters have voiced the same demands. They want an end to random arrests, torture and police brutality; they want the dismantling of the Arab 'security state'; the right to speak and be heard; to participate in politics; to choose their own representatives. They want a better life for themselves and their children, the end of corruption and the gross privileges of a narrow elite. In brief, they want freedom, social justice, economic opportunity, dignity and democratic governance.

Those Arab leaders still in office should urgently take note or face the consequences.

Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East. His latest book is The Struggle for Arab Independence: Riad el-Solh and the Makers of the Modern Middle East (Cambridge University Press).

Copyright © 2011 Patrick Seale – distributed by Agence Global

Edited by William Kelly
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  • 2 weeks later...

Students in Revolutionary Tripoli

Revolutionary Program: Students in Revolutionary Tripoli

Qaddafi Government Aims to Control Libyan Students - NYTimes.com

.... On a government-sponsored tour of a Tripoli school and other trips for a small group of foreign journalists, she and other students braved watchful teachers and official tour guides to explain that as schools here have reopened — some of them after a hiatus of three weeks — the government's violent crackdown on the revolt has already left a deep impression on Libyan children and young adults. And like much of the Middle East, Libya is a nation of young adults: a third of the population is under 15 years old and 70 percent is under 35.

...but they also expressed a remarkable optimism about the future. The 14-year-old girl, for example, said she wanted to make "a big statement" — a rebuttal to Colonel Qaddafi's warnings that tribal strife would mire the country in an intractable civil war pitting western Tripoli against the rebels' eastern stronghold of Benghazi.

"I, for myself, I wouldn't want a single dude from Benghazi to die," she said, speaking in English. "I even cried for them. We are really, really close to each other."

"The problem," she said, "is that some of the people are sold by money and they go against their own people.

"I am sure people are watching and I may be, like, dead or something, but I shouldn't lie at this point, because there are a lot of lives at stake."

The school's principal tried to interrupt the girl's account of her anxiety. "We were afraid of the news from Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya only, but here in Tripoli there was no problem, there was no problem at all, believe me," the principal said. "They are telling lies, all the news are lies."

But the girl said she and her friends were not afraid of the international media. (She said she had learned English mainly from American movies — Angelina Jolie is a favorite.)

The state news channel "is always green and talking about the same thing, 'Libya is fine, Libya is fine,' " she said, referring to Colonel Qaddafi's representative color. "I got it, so I don't watch that anymore."

The 17-year-old boy, forced to wear a military uniform to school, said he and his friends rolled their eyes at the officer who visited their school to warn them about the evils of the pan-Arab television channels Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. "We have eyes and we can see what we want," he said.

Edited by William Kelly
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Whether or not he was slapped or not is irrelevant, what ever provocations he did (or did not) suffer, no matter what his motives were, Bouazizi's self-immolation triggered the current unrest in the Arab world which has already deposed two corrupt despots and perhaps soon a third (Saleh in Yemen). I imagine however in Gaal's 'mind' this is evidence, if not outright proof, that the protests were the work of the Mossad or some other Jewish organization.

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Whether or not he was slapped or not is irrelevant, what ever provocations he did (or did not) suffer, no matter what his motives were, Bouazizi's self-immolation triggered the current unrest in the Arab world which has already deposed two corrupt despots and perhaps soon a third (Saleh in Yemen). I imagine however in Gaal's 'mind' this is evidence, if not outright proof, that the protests were the work of the Mossad or some other Jewish organization.

Yea, what's the Jews got to do with anything that's happening in the Arab Revolt right now?


When a guy named Scott Rikard mentioned something about Jewish banks on Facebook, I noted that there was once a large Jewish neighborhood in Tripoli until Gadhafi drove them all out.

The neigbhorhood is still there, just no more Jews. Maybe now they will go back.

In any case, Rikard branded me a Christian Israeli loving myopic dolt who is controlled by Edward Bernays - the PR guy who preceeded Linebarger and brought propaganda to Madison Avenue.

But all of these guys - Steve Lendman, Cyntha McKinney, Wayne Madsen, Rikard and others who call the NATO interference in Libya "imperialism" or "colonialism" all fall back on their rhetoric and cliches and fail to put the Libyan revolt into the context of the regional Arab Revolution, where it belongs. They also seem to all have a bug up their butt about Israel and Palestine. Maybe the revolution will get their someday.

And what happened to the stalemate? And the foreign invasion that never came and occupation that never happened?

Check out the political cartoons:

Revolutionary Program

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Mrs Bouazizi's message for Mothers of Libyan Martyrs

When a Libyan rebel fighter in Sirte came out of the house to house street battle with a souvenir - one of Gadhafi's hats - the black hat with ear flaps,

I thought I recognized the hat. It was the kind a duck hunter would wear.

And sure enough, I found a photo of Gadhafi wearing it on February 22, five days into the revolution. He was in Tripoli at the time, and gave a rambling speech from the ramparts of the old castle fort and then visited his supporters in Green Square. As he was getting into one of his golf carts, holding an umbrella and wearing the black hat with ear flaps, a TV reporter asked him a question and he politely paused to respond.

While checking the Al jezzera blog for that day, I found that in Tunisia, Mohamid Bouazizi's mother was also interviewed briefly by a TV reporter

who asked her what she had to say to the mothers of those who were dying in the revolution in Libya, which many believe that her son sparked with his Dec. 17, 2010 self immolation, that led to the ouster of the Tunisian dictator 28 days later.

Mrs. Bouazizi said:

"I feel sorry for the mothers of the martyrs.

My heart is burning with sorrow.

I pray for the souls of all martyrs in Libya.

We tell them, mothers of the martyrs,

may God almighty give you strength and patience.

I tell the people of Libya, may Gold help you,

I hope you get everything you wish for.

God willing Libya will be a free country

We hope your dictator leaves just as Ali has left.

I would like to kiss every martyr's mother on the head

and pray that God may grant them the serenity

and patience to bear the unbearable.

May Libya become a free country.

For photos and the compete story see:

Revolutionary Program: Mrs Bouazizi Speaks to Mothers of Libyan Martyrs

Edited by William Kelly
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