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Friday, 9th January 2015

From Arab Awakening to Islamic State

Source: Oxford Research Group


On 17 December four years ago a young unemployed Tunisian, Mohamed Bouazizi, trying to make a living as a street vendor, set himself alight. His immediate grievance was harassment from municipal inspectors but this came in the wake of a long period of frustration. He died on 4 January 2011, 18 days later, by which time Tunisia was convulsed by public protests against the elitism and autocratic rule of the regime of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. They peaked on the weekend of 8-9 January and resulted in the collapse of the entire regime.

Within weeks, protest against autocracy had spread across the region, culminating in the extraordinary developments centred on Tahrir Square in Cairo which resulted in the collapse of the Mubarak regime, long supported by the West and widely regarded as one of the most stable if harsh regimes in the entire region. Nearly four years later and in the midst of current turmoil, especially in Iraq and Syria, Tunisia is unique among the ‘awakened’ Arab states in having seen continuing political change leading to an evolving democracy. Yet it is also a state in which many young people are being radicalised into an extreme Islamist outlook and some are joining Islamic State as determined jihadists. Indeed, for the size of its population Tunisia is one of the Islamic State’s leading recruiting grounds.

Why this is happening in a state in the region that has made considerable progress towards representative democracy is a key question. It is rarely asked but is of great importance if one seeks to understand the context in which Islamic State, with all its brutality, is attracting support.

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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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