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Posts Tagged ‘protest

Tunisia’s political struggle as documentary graffiti

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The ‘Zoo Project’ is a Franco-Algerian graffiti artist based in Paris, and who visited Tunis in March and April and created images of political struggle. As well as a series of murals, Zoo Project created 40 life-sized figures representing some of the 236 people who were killed in the uprising in Tunisia earlier this year.

This is a gritty, truthful, considerate and refreshingly public way to illustrate what happened in Tunisia, and the questions that remain. Here’s a selection from a terrific, socially highly carged gallery of street art. [Thanks to The Guardian global development news for posting this.]

Zoo Project created 40 life-sized figures representing some of the 236 (according to official numbers) people who were killed in January's uprising. This has been called the martyrs series, Tunis. This creation was found in the Bab-Souika district. Art: Zoo Project / Photo: zoo-project.com

The Constitutional Democratic Rally party (RCD) was swept from power on 14 January 2011, after 23 years of repressive rule. Mass protests in Tunis, and in towns across the country, were sparked when Mohamed Bouazizi, an unemployed graduate, set fire to himself in front of government buildings in his home town of Sidi Bouzid. Art: Zoo Project / Photo: Elissa Jobson

Tunisians are adjusting to the realities of free political speech. Politics, human rights and the justice system are now discussed openly in the cafes and bars of Tunis. But some habits are hard to shake and people can still be heard speaking in hushed tones when the conversation turns to the police or the Ben Ali regime. Art: Zoo Project / Photo: Sondos Belhassen

The popular uprising that unseated the dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January grew out of chronic youth unemployment; social and economic disparities between the affluent coastal regions and the impoverished interior; and a lack of political freedom. Art: Zoo Project / Photo: Elissa Jobson

The streets of Bahrain, Algiers, Sana’a

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A Bahrain woman shows empty packages of tear gas and sound bomb used by riots police in Manama, February 14, 2011. Small-scale clashes erupted in two Bahraini villages as security forces tightened their grip on Shi'ite communities for Monday's "Day of Rage" protests inspired by upheaval in Egypt and Tunisia. Helicopters circled over the capital Manama, where protesters were expected to gather in the afternoon, and police cars stepped up their presence in Shi'ite villages, breaking up one protest with teargas and rubber bullets. At least 14 people were injured in clashes overnight and on Monday. Photo: Reuters

A Bahraini woman shows empty packages of tear gas and sound bomb used by riots police in Manama, February 14, 2011. Small-scale clashes erupted in two Bahraini villages as security forces tightened their grip on Shi'ite communities for Monday's "Day of Rage" protests inspired by upheaval in Egypt and Tunisia. Helicopters circled over the capital Manama, where protesters were expected to gather in the afternoon, and police cars stepped up their presence in Shi'ite villages, breaking up one protest with teargas and rubber bullets. At least 14 people were injured in clashes overnight and on Monday. Photo: Reuters

Yemeni anti-government protestors shout slogans during a demonstration demanding political reform and the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011. Yemeni police have clashed with anti-government protesters demanding political reform and the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Several thousand protesters, many of them university students, tried to reach the central square in the capital of Sanaa on Sunday, but were pushed back by police using clubs. It was the third straight day of anti-government protests. Photo: AP

Yemeni anti-government protestors shout slogans during a demonstration demanding political reform and the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011. Yemeni police have clashed with anti-government protesters demanding political reform and the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Several thousand protesters, many of them university students, tried to reach the central square in the capital of Sanaa on Sunday, but were pushed back by police using clubs. It was the third straight day of anti-government protests. Photo: AP

An anti-government protester chants slogan in front of riot police during a demonstration in Algiers February 12, 2011. About 50 people shouted anti-government slogans in a square in Algeria's capital on Saturday but were encircled by hundreds of police determined to stamp out any attempt to stage an Egypt-style revolt. Photo: Reuters

An anti-government protester chants slogan in front of riot police during a demonstration in Algiers February 12, 2011. About 50 people shouted anti-government slogans in a square in Algeria's capital on Saturday but were encircled by hundreds of police determined to stamp out any attempt to stage an Egypt-style revolt. Photo: Reuters

Written by makanaka

February 17, 2011 at 22:31

The kiss of democracy in Cairo

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Lefteris Pitarakis / AP. An Egyptian anti-government activist kisses a riot police officer following clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters poured into the streets of Egypt Friday, stoning and confronting police who fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas in the most violent and chaotic scenes yet in the challenge to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule. An inspiring photo by Lefteris Pitarakis of AP: an Egyptian anti-government activist kisses a riot police officer following clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters poured into the streets of Egypt Friday, stoning and confronting police who fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas in the most violent and chaotic scenes yet in the challenge to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. [Via photoblog on msnbc.com.]

Written by makanaka

January 30, 2011 at 23:56

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In Cairo, a roar for reform

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Cartoon in Al-Ahram by Fathi Abul Ezz.

Al Jazeera stands out as the news group with the most comprehensive coverage of the unfolding situation in Egypt. It has given readers a frontline taste of the atmosphere on the street in Cairo through the reportage of Ahmed Moor, a Palestinian-American freelance journalist based in the city, and who was born in the Gaza Strip, Palestine.

Moor’s ‘A day with Egypt’s protesters’ can be read here. This is a sample:

“I milled about for a half-hour trying to surreptitiously snap pictures of the scene when I heard the first dim shouts to my right. I shot across the street to get a look and saw a large group of riot guards forming a two-man thick cordon around a group of about 30 demonstrators.

“They were tightening their human noose when some of the protesters pushed back and broke through. Fifty of us joined in and within minutes 300 people were marching down the street away from the square.

“A chant went up: Hurriya! Hurriya! Hurriya! – Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!

“The riot police approached from the rear and formed a barrier several men deep. Ahead of us, a group of sour-looking Mukhabarat men tried to block the group of several hundred protesters in – but we pushed and overwhelmed them.

“Someone holding a cellphone to my left yelled in a heated voice that there were more protesters by the museum. The men at the head of the protest, the ones leading the chants, began to run breathlessly around the corner and we followed, also breathless. I panted as I ran, disbelieving what was happening. Rounding the corner, I came face to face with a crowd of more than 1,000 demonstrators and my heart swelled and my head spun.

“Within 20 minutes there were several thousand of us on the streets, and by the end of the hour several more thousand. The police decided to try to take control at that point and personnel carrier armed with a water cannon tore through the crowd. We split in two and demonstrators began to attack the vehicle. Hundreds of men chased after the truck but rejoined the main protest minutes later.”

Egypt’s veteran and somewhat stodgy Al-Ahram reported that since Wednesday (January 26) morning “police trucks and state security forces could be seen in several areas throughout Egypt, after Tuesday’s unprecedented demonstrations calling for radical political and economic reforms. Spots expecting demonstrations have been guarded by state security after the ministry of interior declared that no demonstrations of any kind will be tolerated”.

“Despite official warnings,” Al-Ahram said, “several demonstrations calls or rumours of some have been spreading on social media sites. Although the government has cracked down on activists’ Internet tools, blocking Twitter, Facebook and a number of Egyptian news websites, online activists have been able to post and discuss possible meeting points as the “Day of Anger” looked set to continue for several more days.”

Al Jazeera has also reported that prime minister Ahmed Nazif made what may have been the government’s first concession to protesters. In a statement to a state news agency, he pledged that the country’s leadership was committed to allowing freedom of expression “by legitimate means.” But his statement came as the interior ministry said that 500 protesters had been arrested on Tuesday and Wednesday in an effort to clamp down on the public unrest. The ministry had said earlier on Wednesday that new demonstrations would not be allowed. Thousands of armoured police had been deployed at key locations around the capital in anticipation of renewed demonstrations on Wednesday, which some have called the most significant in Egypt since massive riots over the price of bread in the 1970s.

The new protests over living conditions and an autocratic government have broken out in Cairo a day after large and deadly demonstrations, calling for the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak, swept across the country. More than 500 protesters were arrested by security forces as the government vowed to crackdown on them. On Wednesday evening, thousands of demonstrators were spread throughout downtown Cairo after being dispersed by security forces. Many had gathered on Gelaa Street, near central Tahrir Square – the site of a violent early morning confrontation between security forces and protesters who had been planning to sleep the night in defiance of the government.

Written by makanaka

January 26, 2011 at 23:40

How will Tunisia now find itself?

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After enduring more than two decades of Ben Ali's rule, Tunisians became fed up with the stagnant social order and the president's tight grip on power. Photo: Al-Jazeera/AFP

After enduring more than two decades of Ben Ali's rule, Tunisians became fed up with the stagnant social order and the president's tight grip on power. Photo: Al-Jazeera/AFP

The always reflective and eminently readable Al-Ahram Weekly has several commentaries on events in Tunisia. Its writers have discussed the tricky socio-political questions in Tunisia which seem to have remained unasked, they have touched upon the 20th century history of coups and uprisings (and also what the Americans are used to calling ‘regime change’), and on the difficulties of bringing democracy back to a country that has been ruled by a despot for 23 years.

“It is not so much the events leading up to this climax that are revealing as the subsequent developments, which various media personalities were perfectly prepared to ignore, caught up as they were in the “thrill” of change, revolutionary fervour and the application of the verses of Abul-Qassem Al-Shabbi,” wrote Abdel-Moneim Said. “In one television interview after the other one could not help but be struck by how familiar it all sounded. We saw it all before, in Iraq where there was an opposition that knew exactly what it opposed, which was the rule of Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party, but that had no clear idea as to what should come next. Also, as was the case in Iraq, the Tunisians did not possess the means to come to terms over an undeniable fact, which was that the order whose façade had just crumbled has its roots in the nature of the Tunisian state.”

“Simply put, the revolutionaries in Tunisia did not differ greatly from their Iraqi counterparts over, firstly, what to do with the “old order”, and secondly, the need to replace it with a “new order” that would be just and democratic, even though they were far from being in one mind as to what these terms meant. What surfaced was a profound spirit of violence and vengefulness.”

“If the revolution broke out because Mohamed Bouazizi couldn’t find a job, how will the new regime create employment for men like him and the 60 others whose deaths ignited and fed the process of change that has swept Tunisia? Of course, the uprising was not only about unemployment. It was also about corruption, poverty and destitution. There were also more obscure factors, though all pointing to rights that were abused and needs that were unfulfilled by a failed regime. However, will the new revolutionaries be able to alleviate these grievances whose very real existence was confirmed by a whole month’s worth of audio-visual testimony? Curiously, no one in Tunisia seems to be asking that question, let alone venturing an answer to it. There is great euphoria because a brutal man has fled, but there is not a single guarantee that an even more brutal one will not replace him.”

Para-military was called out but the demonstrators would not budge. Instead, they demanded that their president step down from power. Photo: Al-Jazeera/AFP

Para-military was called out but the demonstrators would not budge. Instead, they demanded that their president step down from power. Photo: Al-Jazeera/AFP

“For observers chronicling revolutions, the implications of the Tunisian uprising will not be lost on other people who continue to suffer the same agonies in Arab police states, or on their tormenting regimes,” wrote Ayman El-Amir. “The first message from Tunisia was that successful revolutions are now more likely to be undertaken by the masses than by the military. When the military intervened they did so to back the people, not the regime. They better understand their role of safeguarding the country against external threats and, domestically, of preserving the established constitutional order, not to protect the dictator who abused it.”

“The Tunisian people’s revolution would have taken a different course if General Rachid Ammar, chief of staff of the Tunisian Armed Forces, had obeyed the orders of Bin Ali, the commander-in-chief, to crush the uprising. Bin Ali’s paramilitary police had already shot and killed between 60 and 90 demonstrators in different cities but failed to quell the rebellion.”

Within 29 days, Tunisians were able to force their president out of the country from a position he held on to for nearly 23 years. Photo: Al-Jazeera/AFP

Within 29 days, Tunisians were able to force their president out of the country from a position he held on to for nearly 23 years. Photo: Al-Jazeera/AFP

“Some political analysts wonder if the Tunisian people’s revolution could be replicated in Arab countries with similar grievances. After all, the 23 July Free Officers’ Movement in Egypt is said to have been the precursor of similar army coups in Iraq, Yemen and Libya, all embellished by the term “revolution”. Everlasting dictatorships chew on the same worries, although their surrounding cronies assure them their countries are far from it because their people enjoy freedom, stability, rising standards of living and are averse to revolutionary violence – the same slogans the Bin Ali regime fed on.”

“It’s not going to be easy to turn Tunisia from a police state into a democracy,” wrote Salah Eissa. “As we have seen in recent years, countries that get rid of their dictators don’t become democracies by default. Two things make me argue that the democratisation of Tunisia would be difficult. One is that the people that took to the streets acted voluntarily and without leadership. Their protests took place in the absence of guidance and participation on the part of organised parties and political movements. As soon as Bin Ali left the country, they went home. The protesters were common people, not versed in the art of politics. They are the average citizens of a country that hasn’t seen democracy for decades. Without the help of the country’s political parties and movements, public discontent may not turn into sustainable democracy.”

“The other thing is that the political parties and movements of Tunisia seem to be out of practice. After years of authoritarianism, Tunisian parties are disconnected from the public and estranged from each other. They need to find something in common, some goals for the entire nation to agree upon, and to pursue them. This, too, is not going to be easy.”