Tunisia`s `Jasmin revolution` jolts Arab world

Joke making rounds that Ben Ali had fled the country after 23 years in power.

Updated: Jan 15, 2011, 23:55 PM IST

Cairo: The ousting of Tunisia`s president after violent protests is a stark warning to authoritarian regimes across the Arab world, whose people have long voiced similar grievances, analysts said on Saturday.

A joke making the rounds in Egypt shortly after the news that the Tunisian leader, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, had fled the country after 23 years in power, reflects the mood on the streets of Arab nations.

It says: "Ben Ali`s plane is approaching Sharm el-Sheikh (Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak`s residence on the Red Sea resort) not to land, but to pick up more passengers!"

Tunisia`s "Jasmin Revolution," as it has been dubbed, "is the first popular uprising to succeed in removing a president in the Arab world," said Amr Hamzawy of the Carnegie Middle East Centre based in Beirut.
"It could be quite inspiring for the rest of the Arab world."

"Some ingredients in Tunisia are relevant elsewhere," from Morocco to Algeria and Egypt to Jordan, he said, citing unemployment, heavy handedness of police and human rights violations.

The Tunisian example also shows change can come from the Arab societies themselves.

"It doesn`t have to be an invasion like in Iraq. It`s a big lesson for autocratic regimes in the region," Hamzawy said.

The Lebanese daily An Nahar said in an editorial that the "echo" of the unprecedented revolution would resound "in more than one country of the region."
On Friday, dozens of Egyptians joined a group of Tunisians outside their embassy in central Cairo amid scenes of jubilation and a heavy police presence.

"Listen to the Tunisians, it`s your turn Egyptians!," they chanted.

"Politics in the Middle East often spills over with much speed and ease because of porous borders and shared cultures," said Bilal Saab, a researcher at the University of Maryland.

In neighbouring Algeria, deadly riots have also rocked the country this month in protest at the rise in price of basic goods.

In Jordan, thousands took to the streets yesterday in several cities to protest against unemployment and inflation, demanding the sacking of the government.

But while the message from Tunisia would be heard loudly in the rest of the Arab world, some say, its short-term impact and the potential spread of popular uprisings were still too difficult to evaluate.

Bureau Report