In a video debate on bloggingheads.tv, Shadi Hamid discusses the January 14 political uprising in Tunisia and what implications in may have for the greater Arab world.
“Protests in Tunisia were sparked on December 15 when a young, unemployed Tunisian set himself on fire. This was sort of the catalyzing event that provoked protests and riots throughout Tunisia spreading through various regions and finally to the capital. And just two days ago the longtime president who has been in power since 1987 fled to Saudi Arabia. This is a historic event. It’s a first for the Arab World.”
“I was really surprised. I think a lot of us thought President Zine El Abidine Bin Ali would try to hold on a little longer. That there would be some sort of effort to hold on by any means. But it seems that he was a paper tiger and that really forces us to question how stable some of these regimes are. The thing about Tunisia is that it was considered to be the most stable of the stable. If we had talked a month or two ago, and had talked about which regime was most likely to fall at the hands of popular revolt, I don’t think Tunisia would have been in the top five at all. I have to say, if it happened in Tunisia, a lot of people are saying perhaps it could happen anywhere else.”
“When the regime starts shooting into crowds will protestors disperse and go home? This is what’s amazing in the Tunisian case. The regime used brut force. Some estimates say more than 60 people were killed by police and security. Let’s say we’re talking about Egypt. Let’s say the Mubarak regime starts shooting into a crowd of 5,000; what is the response going to be on the part of the protesters? I think the Tunisians showed a lot of courage and bravery in saying we’re not going to leave the streets until we get what we want.”
This is what opaque, unaccountable, monarchic rule looks like. The way this was done is not a way that gives any transparency. If you’re another senior prince or another senior businessman, you don’t know what you can do to avoid a similar fate.