When the Tunisian street vendor Mohammad Bouazizi burnt himself to death in protest of his dismal prospects, it never crossed in his mind that he would leave behind a public rage and a revolution that would bring a total collapse to one of the most repressive tyrannies the Arab world.
Yes, Mohammad did not burn himself to die but to give a newborn freedom and deliverance to a whole country. The loss of his soul and of the other ninety people who followed him in the three weeks of demonstrations was not a waste comparing to the victory they have brought.
When the Tunisian protesters took to the streets furiously urging the ouster of their president Ben Ali, everybody thought it would be just like all the other protests which usually lead nowhere.
However, the events in Tunisia accelerated unexpectedly and culminated in a most surprising event: the fall of Ben Ali, the president who ruled Tunisia with an iron fist for more than two decades.
The angry Protestors forced him to flee the country with no possibility of return. It is indeed a victory for people power over one of the Arab world’s most repressive regimes.
The Arab streets received the fall and escape of the president with a transfixing jubilance and an overwhelming joy, simply because the fall of Ben Ali marks the first time in recent memory that widespread protests have overthrown an Arab leader.
Besides, the situation the Tunisians revolted against is common to all Arabs. It is the repressive regime which the Arabs share with Tunisians – leaders lack any vision that could possibly justify their long decades in power and puppet governments are incapable of meeting peoples demands.
In spite of that, leaders are getting more determined not to bow to any call of reform or relinquishing their grip on power. They refuse to listen to any advice or to tolerate any criticism.
This situation could represent for many Arabs a spurring motive to get the scenario in Tunisia repeated in many of their countries.
That is why nowadays we see frustrated demonstrators dominating the streets of Cairo, Sana’a, Amman Jordan, and many other capitals in the region. Thus, the change in Tunisia occurred in a moment in which Arabs have become desperate to see any hope of reform to their situation.
In Fact, the Tunisians, by the sacrifices they made and the heroism they showed, have demolished the image that portray Arabs as a lifeless public and a frozen mass. They contributed greatly in raising the confidence of the Arab Street, veering their attention to a new effective tool of change and opening for them new horizons towards a brighter future. This is particularly when Arabs in general utterly failed to seek a reform through those legitimate political tools of elections, demonstrations, and civil organizations.
They realized that all the tools they had tried did not make their situation better, but only worse. That failure, in the long run made the Arabs view, with much bitterness, their leaders as their fate, which they cannot question or refute, but only accept and bear.
Tunisians, however, with their white jasmine revolution, presented a hope and a model for Arabs to follow in resisting the tyranny and dictatorship of their leaders. In a way, their revolution disproves the old slogan by which autocrats implicitly ruled, which held that leaders need not rely on the public’s consent to maintain full sovereignty and to preserve power.
Arab leaders have always been committed to this view, relying on the army to perpetuate their power. We just learnt from the Tunisians, however, that weaponry and artillery cannot stand against the will of the public.
Once the people can no longer endure brutality under such incompetent leadership, they will seek means beyond our expectations to revolt against them and force their removal.
From another perspective, the Tunisians have taught us that any reform in the Arab world should not be sought from the outside, but from the public themselves. When the public becomes aware of their rights and responsibilities, they will rally together for this goal.
Leaders of political parties and many civil right activists have spent decades at the doorsteps of foreign embassies seeking their support in the campaign against their governments and help to get some constitutional rights.
They got precious few results which were unworthy of the effort. The leaders of political parties and social activists have mistakenly underestimated the power of the public.
They believed, just like everybody else, that they cannot rely on the public to bring about the change they sought to achieve. The Tunisians, however have proved all of us wrong, sending a message that there is no more effective means as that of the public to strive for a dignified and just life.
The Tunisians did not receive support from any western country, but by their own will and determination, they uprooted Ben Ali and his clique. In fact, it was the dictator who was a close ally to Western forces, particularly to the United States and France.
They used to offer him their unlimited support and viewed him an important ally in battling terrorism. As such, he cheered them by eradicating Islamic parties, jailing their leaders, and drying up all their financial sources.
Indeed, the dictatorship of the Tunisian president proved the western commitment to the values of democracy and freedom to be a travesty.
Yet, the Tunisians public will be an example for those aspiring for justice and freedom. We all hope that the winds of change in Tunisia will extend west and east to reach the entire Arab world.
However, our worry now is about what would be next. The Tunisians’ revolution will be victorious only if they soon put an end to all the acts of looting and thievery in their country.
We do not want Tunisia to descend into a gloomy labyrinth that cruelly puts the Tunisians, as well as all the Arabs, between the choice of a repressive dictator or a chaotic country.
We will pray for the Tunisians to get out of the insecure situation they are in now and to shortly get their country settled. However, The Tunisians will really be victorious only if a civil government takes over the administration of the country in the very near future.
If not, then all their sacrifices will be a waste; a favor made for another dictator to suppress them for another two decades, if not forever.
Let us just hold our hands tight on our hearts, praying that the dream of the Tunisians will not evaporate before the blood they shed even dries, and that their project will not get buried before their martyrs do. Otherwise, every one of us will be Bouzizi and bottles of diesel will be served freely by governments.