Well, first off, I’m back for another semester!
There is so much that went on in the world during break, but I’m glad I took a few weeks off. Now it’s time to keep providing my readers with interesting stories. I thought I’d start with one of the topics I have been asked about most frequently lately: the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.
To start – I want to make this clear – these revolutions are not cyber terror. However, the use of technology in the coordination and logistics of these revolutions has labeled them the “Facebook Revolutions.” This article will focus on a clear, no-nonsense guide to understanding what is going on in these countries, with my personal opinions emerging in various areas. We’ll also get into some of the comparisons between the two revolutions and debate whether or not this is a trend, and predict where the next “domino” will fall.
Status Quo: Common Situations
The status quo prior to the revolutions in both countries is quite similar. I’ve provided data from the United States for comparison:
|Leader||Hosni Mubarak||Zine el Abidine Ben Ali||Barack Obama|
|Leader’s Ascension to Power||Bloodless Coup||Previous Leader Assassinated||Election|
|Average Age||24 years||29.7 years||36.8 years|
|GDP – per capita (PPP)||$6,200||$9,500||$47,400|
What comparisons can be drawn between major statistics in Egypt and Tunisia? Both are countries with very young populations, low per capita income, and high employment. The leaders in the countries have held their positions for a long period of time. Mubarak and Ben Ali are both known for squelching opposition as it arose throughout their respective leadership terms. Both countries’ situations were very similar pre-revolution, a fact which supports a “domino effect” theory of these “Facebook revolutions.” (Data taken from the CIA World Factbook)
Sparks of Revolution
Most revolutions, wars, or other violent, chaotic events begin with some kind of spark to ignite the flame. In Tunisia, a man named Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself aflame in front of a police headquarters in Sidi Bouzid. At the age of twenty six, he was protesting against the police, who had mistreated him only an hour earlier. His self-immolation caused mass rioting and protest in the city, which became the beginnings of revolution. In Egypt, protests took place on January 25th in response to National Police Day, eventually breaking out into violence as police used tear gas on the protesters.
In both cases, information from the Wikileaks documents proved important. In Egypt, a leaked cable went into details regarding the use of police brutality and torture. In Tunisia, Wikileaks contained information regarding the rampant corruption in the government.
These are being called Facebook revolutions because in both cases, social networking sites have been used to spread the revolution and organize the resistance. In Tunisia, protests following Bouazizi’s self-immolation were recorded on Youtube and shared via Facebook. Those looking to respond to police brutality in Egypt rallied around Khaled Mohamed Saeed, who, according to witnesses, was beaten by the police in June of 2010. However, the police reported that he died in attempt to swallow a packet of marijuana while the police were pursuing him. A Facebook page was created in honor of Khaled Saeed, providing organization and a rallying point for future anti-government protests. Protesters in both Egypt and Tunisia utilized the internet and social networking sites to organize their rallies and protests as the revolutions proceeded. In Tunisia, this resulted in Ben Ali fleeing the country. The result of protests in Egypt has yet to be seen, but the government has cut internet service to the population by forcing all Egyptian internet service providers to basically unplug themselves. If the citizens are organizing via Facebook and the internet, what better way to stop resistance then to turnoff the internet?
Circumventing the Outages
In Egypt, many citizens have begun to circumventing internet outages in the country in order to continue organizing the revolution and getting the word out. How are they doing this? Continue reading “Plugging In: Egypt and Tunisia”