Lebanese bloggers have joined the chorus of concern over the Tunisian riots that have thus far claimed 24 lives.
Sympathy and support is extended to the Tunisian youth protesting the authoritarianism, corruption, and poor economic management of President Zine el Abidine ben Ali, dubbed the “Arab Pinochet” by Lebanese blogger, the Angry Arab.
The protests began after the self-immolation attempt of 24-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi, in frustration at the country’s high unemployment, soaring food prices and government corruption.
The Arab world is following attentively Tunisia’s worst internal crisis in decades, as many Arabs empathise with the desperation felt by the Tunisian protestors.
Rita Chemaly wrote a powerful blog post in support of the protestors:
c’est une horreur,
les images tournent en boucle,
je regarde el jazeera,
je zappe, pour voir cnn, euronews, puis France 1, 2, 3 et m6,
je regarde les chaînes libanaises, aussi. . .
une nouvelle est reprise, des images floues,
des images sous titrees “rassass hayy” “des balles” vraies, contre ceux qui protestent pour leur pain de ce jour et de tous les jours!
des personnes tuees, et le ministre de la communication, dit, on veut et nous ouvrons le dialogue, pire, l’éminent monsieur déclare: nous sommes contre la violence!
oui, le monsieur le déclarait alors que des personnes sont tuées!
et cher monsieur: savez vous que tirer à bout portant sur des jeunes étudiants, sur des jeunes qui protestent pour leur pain de ce jour, pour leur travail de demain, et pour l’avenir de tous, est une violence de votre part? Une exaction contre leur liberte de s’exprimer, d’etre des citoyens, et de vivre?
J’ai vecu au Liban au siecle ou on nous offrait des “douches” gratuites, lors de nos manifestations,
Oh Liban de ce temps la, ou les étudiants étaient suivis, pourchassés, et douches, ou es-tu, pour donner des leçons de tenue a ce cher gouvernement qui use de ses balles et de sa police, et son armée légitime pour encercler des régions et assaillir les présumés assaillants?
Courage chers amis, en Algérie, en Égypte, et surtout en Tunisie!!
It’s a horror,
The images run non-stop,
I watch Al Jazeera,
I switch, to watch CNN, Euronews, then France 1, 2, 3 and M6,
I watch the Lebanese channels, as well. . .
Images subtitled “live bullets”, against those who are protesting for their bread for this day and for every day!
People killed, and the Minister of Communication says we want and we will open dialogue, worse, the eminent Minister declares: we are against violence!
Yes, the Minister declared it while people are being killed!
And dear Minister: do you know that firing rounds on young students, on the youth who are protesting for their bread, for their jobs tomorrow, and for the future of all, is violence on your part? An act of violence against their freedom to express, to be citizens, and to live?
I lived in Lebanon in the century when we were offered free “showers” during our demonstrations,
Oh Lebanon of this period, when students were followed, pursued and soaked, where are you, to give lessons to this dear government that uses its bullets and its police, and its legitimate army to encircle regions and assail presumed assailants?
Courage dear friends, in Algeria, in Egypt and especially in Tunisia!
The Angry Arab criticises the International Monetary Fund’s economic policies for Tunisia as a possible catalyst for the current unrest:
The fate of the protests is unclear at this point. The Ben Ali government is frantic to control the situation by sending police and security enforcements in the cities affected by the protests. The protesters have been peaceful and have not resorted to any violence or destruction of property. Some protesters simply held a loaf of bread and others are simply holding signs that call for jobs and dignity.
In the meantime, the IMF is continuing to push Tunisia to more austere economic policies on the expenditure side, recommending that the government ends its support for food and fuel products and reform its social security system, a code word for privatizing the pension system in Tunisia which benefits the masses of poor Tunisians. The greatest hypocrisy in all of this is that the IMF recommends these policies in the name of greater employment and growth which is the IMF’s cut-and-paste recipe for all nations it studies.
The Angry Arab continues his coverage of Tunisia’s protests by highlighting that Tunisia’s armed forces are using Israeli-made tear gas against protestors:
. . . Tunisians have picked up tear gas cans with Hebrew writing identifying them from Israel. It is widely believed that secret relations exist. Now we know where the regime gets its tear gas. Other tear gas cans are in English and advise use for animals. This is how they treat Arabs! Not that Arab regimes need lessons from anyone as to how to kill their own people, but the regime mimics Israeli brutality against Palestinians where Palestinians have died after being hit by tear gas cans.
Beirut Springrefers to the unrest in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait as a sign of “Arab decay”, and questions whether Lebanon will ever see a similar revolt:
So what’s in common between the protests in Tunisia, the explosion in Alexandria, the riots in Jordan and the political turmoil in Kuwait?
These four seemingly unrelated incidents over the last month all draw attention to the accelerating decay of the institutional foundations and fraying of the social fabric across many of the so-called “moderate,” pro-Western Arab regimes. What seems to link these four ongoing episodes, despite the obvious differences, is a combination of authoritarian retrenchment, unfulfilled economic promises, rising sectarianism at the popular level, and deep frustration among an increasingly tech-savvy rising generation.
What’s interesting to me is the lack of any social upheavals in Lebanon that are not related to politics. Does this mean that our system of sectarian checks and balances produces a more dynamic and adaptable social fabric?
The Tunisian protests, in addition to unrest in other Arab states, are a clear indication of the widespread discontent felt by Arabs toward their despotic rulers. In such a struggle, Tunisians will find friends and sympathisers across the region, including Lebanon.
Antoun Issa is a Lebanese-Australian writer. This article was first published in Global Voices Online on 11 January 2011 under a Creative Commons license.