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Tunisia: After the president fled - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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We were waiting for a war to break out in Lebanon, or a crisis to take place in Iraq, or a huge inferno to erupt in Iran, or chaos to occur anywhere else in our region. We kept our eyes on these regions, and believe me when I tell you that the majority of Arab officials believed that the crisis in Tunisia would be resolved within days, and nobody talked about or paid much attention to what was happening there. Talk was focused on either Lebanon or Iran, and even the US Secretary of State [Hilary Clinton] said, only a few days ago, that her government would discuss the situation in Tunisia with [Tunisian President] Ben Ali after the crises ended!

Just a few days ago the Tunisian regime was complaining about the Arab media [and the lack of coverage of what was happening in Tunisia] whilst the Tunisian Minister of Communication was preoccupied with issuing denials. However just few days later this country – which is isolated and cut-off from the rest of the Arab world – is in flames, resulting in the Tunisian president boarding his plane and leaving Tunisia for the Tunisians, after years of oppression and isolation. It is clear that the situation in Tunisia was slowly heating up, and after country reached breaking point, Tunisia found itself in flames, forcing its present to flee. After years of isolation, suppression, and following a path contrary to the rest of the world – along with other isolationist countries whose regimes now know the importance of allowing the people to vent – the Tunisian street exploded…and the people of [Tunisian poet] Abul Qasim al-Shabi came out [to protest]. It was Abul Qasim al-Shabi who wrote the famous verse [and final two verses of the Tunisian national anthem]”

When the people will to live, destiny must surely respond

Oppression shall then vanish, fetters are certain to break.

However the problem now is that nobody knows where Tunisia’s destiny lies. Everybody has been deceived by false figures and statistics from Tunisia, including even some international institutes, with regards to the development of the country’s education system, economy, etc. This was, at least, until the young Tunisian protestor set fire to himself, which promptly spread to the rest of Tunisia.

The danger of what is happening in Tunisia today is that nobody knows whether the protest movement that has filled the streets is an organized one, or whether this is spontaneous, following years of isolation and suppression. We do not know whether what is happening in Tunisia is power being transferred from one dictator to another, or whether this is a coup riding a wave of anger and popular rebellion, or whether it is truly a change for the better. We do not know if the isolationist Tunisia of yesterday has broken free of its isolation, or whether it will sink further into seclusion joining the endless list of problems and crises in the Arab world.

Nobody is crying over [the collapse of] Ben Ali’s regime, and everybody is praying that Tunisia does not fall into crisis, and that it’s future is not a sad one. We pray for Tunisia, as we pray for our region at large, particularly as we do not know how long it will be our fate to see [the collapse of] such republics that refuse to act like republics. The president of Tunisia fled his country by airplane, whilst Saddam Hussein was captured hiding in a hole…so when will these republics begin to act like republics? What some people have failed to see is that our kingdoms and emirates today are more open, developed, stable, efficient, and accepting of criticism, and even more flexible [than such republics], as if they were the democracies.

Therefore, it is up to republics to act like republics, so long as they consent to hold elections, establish parliaments, and talk about democracy; in order to avoid chaos and bloodshed!

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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