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Tuesday, 1st February 2011

Tunisia and Egypt in Context

Tunisia and Egypt in Context

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The consequences of a young unemployed Tunisian, Mohamed Bouazizi, setting himself on fire, continues to reverberate through Tunisia and North Africa. The actual grievance of Mohamed Bouazizi was that when he had tried to sell vegetables to raise some money, on 17 December, he had been prevented by municipal inspectors. This, however, came on top of a long period of intense frustration.

He was severely burnt and died two weeks later. News of his death spread on the internet, setting off a chain of demonstrations, catching almost everyone outside Tunisia by surprise. The intense public anger peaked in the capital, Tunis, over the weekend of 8-9 January, leading to the collapse of the government of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, an autocratic regime that had been in power for 23 years.

An interim administration took power, supported by the Army, and this has promised elections within six months. The administration initially had many members drawn from the previous regime and while some of these subsequently stood down, opposition to the inclusion of any former government ministers continued. Significant moves by the interim government included the release of many political prisoners, some of whom had been detained for more than a decade, and a willingness to allow the safe return to Tunisia of some key exiled political leaders, most notably Mr Rashid Ghannouchi, the leader of the banned Islamist party, al-Nahda (no relation to the interim Prime Minister, Mr Mohammed Ghannouchi).

Following the extraordinarily rapid pace of change in Tunisia, massive unrest in Egypt, demonstrations and self-immolations in several other countries across North Africa and the Middle East, questions have been raised over the likelihood that Tunisia heralds a transformation across the region, and whether that will involve the ascendancy of Islamist political parties.



Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

More articles by Adrian Janes »

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