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Tunisia: Was it a revolution? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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It is clear that what is currently taking place in Tunisia is not a popular revolution. There were no clear demands from the demonstrators, there was no organized opposition leading the masses, and even Islamic voices have so far been silent. [The fact that there was no full scale revolution] is a positive sign…so what actually happened, and led to President Ben Ali going into exile?

Of course, this pressing question will continue to be asked during the coming phase, and may take a long time to answer, considering that we are now facing conflicting information, and Tunisia remains a country that is somewhat ‘closed’ towards almost all of the Arab world, and its media. Our satellite channels seemed uninterested in reporting genuine facts. The day before yesterday, we witnessed a ridiculously comedic situation, when two Arab satellite channels sought to investigate the issue, and both subsequently failed: The Qatar-based ‘al-Jazeera’ insisted that [ousted] President Ben Ali’s plane was either on its way to the U.A.E or Saudi Arabia, in a form of ‘roulette coverage’, while the Saudi channel ‘al-Arabiya’ maintained that Ben Ali’s plane was heading to Qatar! It was recently revealed that the former President had in fact landed in Jeddah, and Saudi Arabia announced this information immediately.

Ben Ali is not the only political figure to have sought refuge in Saudi Arabia; the country previously received Idi Amin, Nawaz Sharif, and others. It is known that Saudi Arabia does not allow those seeking asylum in the Kingdom to exercise political activity within its territory, but it grants asylum on humanitarian grounds, because it is the great heart of the Arab and Islamic world, and is not a country for revenge or retribution. What some do not remember is that the Ben Ali regime actually stood against Saudi Arabia, during the days of the [Iraqi] occupation of Kuwait, but this is another story, and what is important now is to learn lessons!

Returning to the question I asked in the title, it is clear that what happened in Tunisia was a political conflict, it seems to be closer to a palace coup than a full-scale revolution. With the outbreak of demonstrations, we heard that key figures within the regime had resigned, in a stand against the violence that had been directed towards protestors. However, [on closer inspection] these resignations were to be expected. President Ben Ali had announced a set of emergency reforms during the crisis, including high profile dismissals, and the formation of a committee to investigate corruption amongst key state figures. Thus it appears that some have decided to “jump before they were pushed”. In fact, there was a very limited number that stayed loyal and left [the country] with the President, along with his close family members. Today, the reprisals in Tunisia against those who were formerly close to the President show that what happened was actually a coup against Ben Ali, [rather than a revolution against the regime], and his exile was the agreed settlement.

Thus, we are waiting for more to be uncovered about what happened in Tunisia, but what is important, and indeed most important, is that rational Tunisians must now move to set things straight. Calm and stability must be restored in Tunisia, and the Tunisians must learn that a desire for revenge cannot be their sole motive. If a state is founded on revenge and retribution, the future will be worse than the past. For Tunisia, we hope for a prosperous future. States nurture their populace with stability and respect, rather than violence. Therefore, a sense of responsibility must be shown so that Tunisia remains for all Tunisians.

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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