Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution was about Freedom not Looting


By Umer Sultan| As posted at AnnArbor.com

AnnArbor.com in this Sunday’s print edition included a story of Tunisia’s resent massive public uprising as something of a grand incident of looting. The story focused mainly on riots, looting, prison inmates getting free but the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ was about more important things than these.

For 23 years, Tunisia was ruled by the iron fist regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Secret agents were in every corner of the country to make sure no neighbor was threatening the regime of Ben Ali. Opposition to the regime was a reason enough to be jailed with occasional torture. Then the Tunisians got many university graduates who couldn’t find decent jobs. Mohammed Bouazizi was one of such unemployed college graduate, who was working hard to make his ends meet by selling fruits and vegetables by using his mobile cart. His only crime was that he didn’t have permit to sell the vegetables.

In December, a woman magistrate confiscated his weights, his only source of income, and slapped him. He went to report the incident to the local authorities where “he was barred from entering and nobody wanted to listen to his plight. Angry, humiliated and desperate, Bouazizi drenched himself in petrol and set himself ablaze outside the local governor’s office,” twenty eight days later Dictator Ben Ali fled the country.

The people of Tunisia were able to topple the 23 years of dictatorship by themselves so that they can tell the world that they have a right to a decent life as well. Algerians have been out on the streets protesting against their regime against unemployment following Tunisians. An Algerian named Mohsen Bouterfif set himself alight by following the footsteps of Mohammed Bouaziz, sparking further protests in Algeria.

The Jasmine Revolution is the first genuine public uprising in an Arab country against the despot and it send chills to all the despots and tyrants in the region. Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi was very disheartened to see Ben Ali flee and said “There is none better than Zine to govern Tunisia…” and Algerian and Egyptian regimes went on alert. Israeli PM Netanyahu said in a statement that the region is instable as if all of a sudden people demanding their rights in their government is instability.

We should support the call of Tunisians for their demand for Human Rights, and we should encourage our politicians in Washington to support the government in Tunisia that will uphold democracy and civil liberties. Let’s remember that the Jasmine Revolution was a revolution for Freedom and that is what matters. Few incidents of looting and foreigners getting stuck on their vacations should not distract news reporters from the reality, as Mona Eltahawy wrote at Guardian:

“Let’s have no whining about how those pesky Tunisians who risked their lives in their thousands to face down a despot ruined the idyllic package-holiday-in-a-police-state for so many European tourists.

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