The Islamic country revolution spanning across North Africa and much of the Middle East started in December 2010. The story begins with a Tunisian street trader, Mohamed Bouazizi, who burnt himself to death. This tragic act of protest, bolstered by the use of social networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, sparked off the revolution in Tunisia. The successful dislodging of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali there has since inspired large-scale anti-government protests and unrest across Islamic countries in the entire region.
If you look at the life of Mohamed Bouazizi, you can see a singular, but representative sample of what life is like for millions of people in North Africa and the Middle East. He is a young man living in a country with a high unemployment rate. He is unable to secure a regular job because he doesn’t have the necessary contacts. So, to make ends meet he takes on work in the informal sector. Then, for whatever reason – corruption or otherwise, the authorities grind his attempt to make a decent living to an abrupt halt.
At that moment there is a realisation of sorts for such individuals. The connection between the autocratic regime, corruption and helplessness of the poor is crystal clear. It may have taken one man’s death to add voice to that realisation, but the effect of that voice has since multiplied into a banshee’s scream across all North Africa and the Middle East.
Earlier this month, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was ousted following violent protests in Cairo. As an indication of the scale of the ripple effect, Tunisia is a country of about 10 million people and Egypt of close to 85 million. Anti-government protests were also launched in Bahrain, Yemen, Djibouti, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and even in the stronghold of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Libya. The protests were met with varying degrees of force, as can be expected with such autocratic regimes. The harshest of these to date is undoubtedly Libya, where there have been reports of hundreds of unarmed protestors being killed.
As these revolutions blossom, Wonkie wonders what the impact will be on other countries, and indeed the world. Certainly the other Islamic countries operating under similar regimes will be taking note and preparing for what might shortly become inevitable. The effect of the new voice, however, will be far reaching. Even Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe has taken precautionary action by detaining several dozen people for just discussing the protests in Egypt. What these revolutions are doing, is giving the poor masses hope. Hope that things can change in their favour.
If all it takes for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing, then all that keeps the masses at bay is simply resignation. This is particularly relevant not only for citizens of currently autocratic regimes, but also for those of relatively new democracies – including the likes of South Africa. If citizens fail to diligently hold their government to account, then they are gambling with their own futures. It is a sure bet that it is that very apathy that will lead to their own downfall.
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