Opinion: Tunisia serves as a warning to Arab rulers | World| Breaking news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 16.01.2011
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Opinion: Tunisia serves as a warning to Arab rulers

In Tunisia, angry citizen protests have driven the president out of office. The incident has huge implications not only for the nation, but for the future governments of the entire Arab world, says DW's Rainer Sollich.


What happened in Tunisia is a historic event and a strong signal to the entire Arab world. It shows that populations can successfully rise against authoritarian and corrupt rulers, and that "regime change" is possible on its own - without internal or external military intervention, even without leadership from opposition politicians or civilian players.

In Arab blogs and Internet forums we have already seen a wave of sympathy for the Tunisian youth, which should serve as a warning for other rulers in the region. Social injustice, corruption and youth unemployment are almost everywhere, and widespread political repression is on the agenda in many countries. There is also anger and frustration over a lack of opportunities and the deep-seated sense of being withheld personal dignity - a highly explosive mixture in an already extremely volatile world region.

Rainer Sollich

Rainer Sollich is the head of the Arabic program at Deutsche Welle

Tunisia is not an isolated case. In many Arab societies, the discontent is brewing, at least below the surface. And almost everywhere, the youth - which represents practically the majority of the population - offer the largest social protest potential. Algeria and Jordan have already seen angry demonstrations, and Egypt regularly experiences protests. More countries may follow.

Such a dynamic is only desirable to a point. The revolt of the Tunisian youth has led to the overthrow of an authoritarian ruler, which is unarguably a positive achievement. But here, too, people were killed, and the further development of the country is quite uncertain, at least initially. At best, Tunisia could now develop into a model democratic state in the region. At worst, it could lead to new chaos and bloodshed.

All the players in Tunisia have a huge responsibility that extends symbolically beyond their own country. The remaining forces of the old regime, but also the opposition, civil society and the "street" all have a responsibility to initiate a transparent and orderly transfer of power. It must be clear that the old regime is actually abdicating power and paving the way for freedom, pluralism and social justice. The violence on the streets must now end quickly.

As a neighboring region of the Maghreb and the Arab world, Europe should also take a lesson from the events in Tunisia. The most important lesson is this: We must not look away when rulers who work in close political and economic cooperation with the EU disregard basic human rights or - as was recently the case in Egypt - shamelessly manipulate elections. The example of Tunisia shows that authoritarian regimes promise only a false sense of stability.

Author: Rainer Sollich / smh

Editor: Sean Sinico

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