ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Arab Beacon

The upsurge for democracy in the Arab countries could well be revolutionary for the entire world.

We are truly living in one of those epiphanic moments of global history which will define much of our interconnected lives for some time in the future. Benumbed by a massive propaganda war of more than a decade, it was entirely unexpected that the Arab nation states would explode so suddenly in a revolutionary upsurge for democracy. Ever since the terror attacks on United States’ cities on 11 September 2001, there has been such a harangue about the threat of Islam and of Muslims overrunning the world that no one ever expected the clarion call for democracy to come from the Arab street. US President Barack Obama, the US foreign policy establishment, and even the most optimist left wing radical have all been “behind the curve” of developments in Tunisia and Egypt and the spreading prairie fire in Jordan, Yemen, Syria and other countries of west Asia and North Africa.

The present revolt in Egypt started from the breakdown of fear, as claimed by many of the protestors, after witnessing the collapse of Zine Abidine Ben Ali’s dictatorship in neighbouring Tunisia. The Tunisian revolt itself started with public expression of anguish at the self-immolation of an educated unemployed young man who took his life when the corrupt police and municipal officials revoked his licence to sell vegetables, his only source of income and dignity. Typical of so many other mass revolts in history – who can forget the impoverished women in St Petersburg queuing up for bread on a cold, snowbound February day in 1917 that led to the abdication of the czar and the beginning of the Russian revolution? – it was this small private act of desperation by one man which has uncorked an unprecedented upsurge of protests all over the Arab world. As long as the revolt remained confined to Tunisia, a relatively small country, it could be seen as a brave, yet isolated, example of a popular democratic upsurge unseating a despised dictator. However, from very early it became clear that Tunisia was the Bastille, whose fall would send shockwaves throughout the entire region, if not the world.

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