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‘Tunisami’: Some Insights Into Events in the Arab Region

February 10, 2011

Flag-Pins-Tunisia-Egypt As the popular uprising in Egypt reaches a fever pitch (watch live here), many people are asking what lies behind the mass protests and whether the fall of the corrupt, often-brutal Mubarak regime will give rise to other democracy movements in the region. Writing in Alliance magazine, Atallah Kuttab, founder of the Arab Foundations Forum, sheds some light on the fluid, fast-moving events there:

The wave of protests across the Arab region triggered by events in Tunisia has become a "Tunisami." Having denied them for many years, governments are allowing reforms to establish the basic rights of citizens, to ensure their fair and equal treatment and to establish greater opportunity.

Youth (aged 15 to 24 years old), representing more than a third of the total citizens of the Arab region, have been at the eye of this Tunisami. They are frustrated with the lack of opportunity, education systems that do not help them to start a career, and a lack of transparent governance and widespread corruption. While the horizon is narrowing for them, the information revolution has helped them see what their peers around the world are experiencing and therefore the opportunities that they are missing.

Most people in the region had felt that "revolt" was impossible because of the tight security measures imposed by Arab governments. Not only did the recent events cause people to lose their fear of demonstrating but the location and timing of the demonstrations clearly announced the popular mood (Fridays and Sundays had nicknames like Day of Anger, Day of Departure, and in memory of those killed and injured). This lack of fear at such a popular level is empowering and has created a dream coming true that no government can easily reverse irrespective of what happens next....

In his post, Kuttab summarizes some of the changes that already have taken place in Egypt, Tunisia, and other countries in the region; touches on the implications for the business and philanthropic sectors; and suggests a number of things that foundations, NGOs, and CSOs (civil society organizations) can do over the coming weeks and months.

Good reading on what may well turn out to be the most eventful day of what has been a truly memorable three weeks.

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Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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