In Tunisia, it was heartening to see people lose their fear of the police state that controlled their life’s for far to long. All of course triggered by the self-immolation of Muhammad Bonazizi in Siddi Bouzi, in response to being bullied by officials and lack of work for himself as a fruit seller. So far most of the protestations have been secular in nature, though many have attempted to paint it all religiously. The crowds who are still up against the military, were largely good-natured, nationalistic and hopeful. Not surprising really as it was there own liberation that was primary in their minds rather then levelling any hatred against other states or people. On my last night in Tunis, the Kasbah rocked to the news that another regime was about it fall amongst the Arab regimes when it heard that Gadaffi was on the run shouting out “ three down, more to go”
We should not forget that these have been secular dictatorships committing many of these political and human rights abuses, which Arabs have risen against, long before they aligned themselves with the war on terror. At a very emotional rally of Liberte Equite in Tunis, we saw many of the families who have had members of their family disappear over the years still grieving for them. We also heard instances of mindless abuse. One of the worst cases of abuses we came across was with a blind gentlemen called Fathi Messaoudi and his family who himself had been chased out the country and his family harassed throughout his absense. Unfortunately there is clear evidence that the British authorities did not help the situation when he came to our shores.
Yet while the dictators have fallen, the dictatorships are still largely intact. Take for example, Egypt. Whilst Mubarak may not be on the scene, it’s the military council that has taken over with a new president Omar Sulieman with a dubious past, who are charged with running presidential election in the near future and negotiating with the opposition. The situation though in Tunisia is better, with an amnesty for political prisoners; freedom to assembly and form political groupings yet we still have a void that needs to be filled, as constitutional changes are also being considered. Many of the political parties are still bewildered at the pace that things have changed and have yet to put their stalls out to the electorate, though this has not stop more then 35 political parties setting up.
A meeting of the Arab league today will look terribly bare now without three autocratic leaders in their long held seats gone. And with the distinct possibility of more following them, adding to the emptiness. So far we have only had Arab republics fall and not yet any Arab monarchies. They fellow Arabs encouragingly shouted in the Kasbah, its “over to you now in Bahrain”, as Tunisian proudly lead the way after beginning it all across the Arab world. For myself, it was good to see at first hand the Arab awakening.