Friday, February 18, 2011

Men can make history...

.... all the more so in the age of Facebook and YouTube! There is recent evidence to this effect.

The pent-up discontent against the government of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia was unleashed into a street rebellion with the self-immolation of a 26-year old fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi. This was in response to being slapped by Faida Hamdy, a 45-year-old municipal inspector in Sidi Bouzid.

He immediately became the hero and she the villain in a rebellion that resulted in President Ben Ali fleeing to Saudi Arabia on Jaunary 14 after 23 years in power. His suicide, the symbol of daily humiliations and petty corruption by low-level officials, was the catalyst for protests that spread from the countryside to the capital and then on to Egypt and across the Arab world.

One of the rallying points for Egypt’s revolution was the beating to death by the police in Alexandria last year of Khaled Said, a 28-year-old Egyptian businessman. He was pulled from an Internet cafe in Alexandria last June by two plainclothes police officers, who witnesses say then beat him to death in the lobby of a residential building. Human rights advocates said he was killed because he had evidence of police corruption.

A Facebook memorial dedicated to him, We Are All Khaled Said, maintained by a Google marketing executive named Wael Ghonim, evolved into an anti-torture site followed by hundreds of thousands of users on Facebook. Ghonim himself was kidnapped off the street in Cairo, blindfolded and held for 12 days. After his release, he gave an emotional television interview about his detention and the government’s brutal attempt to stop the protests that helped to add momentum to the movement.

The presence of social networking sites and video sharing channels like YouTube are extraordinarily powerful force multipliers for such revolts. An impassioned speech on human rights by Egyptian activist Asmaa Mahfouz, widely circulated on YouTube and Facebook, played an important part in mobilizing thousands of protesters to gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square on January 25, sparking off the rebellion that ultimately overthrew President Hosni Mubarak.

1 comment:

sai prasad said...

Are we carrying this a little too far?

What is the reach of the net? of Face book? Youtube?

If discontent was simmering, how long would it take for the sites to be closed down?

I think that the recession that has set in and unemployment has increased the level of discontent among the youth.

The information revolution by way of TV, Internet etc has made people realize that they are deprived of good things in life. The income difeerential and unemployment seem to be the core issue (I agree with Raghuram rajan on this) which have triggered off the rebellion.