Friday, December 31, 2010

This week in the Middle East

Can Tunisian protesters end the 'Arab malaise'? Will Egypt ever catch the people traffickers? What is a woman's life worth?

Brian Whitaker
, Thursday 30 December 2010

"Arabs in revolt

The biggest story from the Middle East this week … No, the biggest, most important and most inspiring story from the Middle East this year is one that most readers may only vaguely have heard of, if at all. It's the Tunisian uprising.

For almost two weeks now, people up and down the country have been protesting, some of them rioting, others demonstrating peacefully – and all in a police state where the penalties for defying the regime are severe......

So, what we have in Tunisia today is the birth of a genuine, national, indigenous, popular movement, not against colonialists or foreign occupiers but against their own repressive regime, and one which is not tainted (as in Iran) by international power games.

This is something new, which is why it's so important. For years, writers have complained about the "Arab malaise" – the way Arabs have become accustomed to playing the role of victims, their passivity in the face of home-grown tyrants, and so on. The need, as I explained in my recent book, is for Arabs to stop being prisoners of their history and start shaping their own destiny. At long last, that is what the people of Tunisia are trying to do......

Tackling the economic problems will need a new kind of Tunisian politics – a kind where criticism is allowed, where arguments can be heard and eventually resolved by popular consent. And it's hard to see a role for Ben Ali in any of that, and you can bet your bottom dinar that other Arab leaders will be watching developments nervously."

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