01/19/2011, 00.00
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Unstable Tunisia troubles Arab world, between Islam and democracy

New attempts to form a government of national unity after the departure of four ministers linked to the unions. Ben Ali's party marginalized. Poverty, unemployment, corruption - the roots of the insurgency - will make Tunisia a model for other Arab states. Al-Qaradawi calls on all Islamic peoples to rise up to "demand their rights."

Doha (AsiaNews) – There seems to be no end to the protests in Tunis and other parts of the country, as the national unity government crumbles after the flight of the dictator Ben Ali. Meanwhile, because of the poverty that is gripping the Arab world, more and more people are setting themselves on fire (up to 14), while Islamic fundamentalism tries to ride the wave of protests.

At least 10  thousand people took part yesterday in a march in Sidi Bouzid, where demonstrations that led to the fall of Ben Ali and his flight to Saudi Arabia first broke out on January 14 last. The spark that ignited the powder keg a month ago was the suicide by fire of a young unemployed man. Yesterday, the police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Other events were also held in Monastir, on the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, the national unity government headed by Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi has already lost four ministers from the unions: the opposition has set a condition that the new government be purged of all members of Ben Ali's party (the Constitutional Democratic Rally, Cdr), accused of corruption. Ghannouchi in the afternoon will try to rebuild a government, cleansing it of members linked Cdr. He and Fouad Mebazaâ, the interim president, have officially distanced themselves from Cdr.  

Pending future elections in mid-July, the Islamist Ennahda movement ("Renaissance"), haunted by Ben Ali, announced its intention to apply for legalization to allow it participate in elections. Dismantled after the '91 elections, where it won 17% of the votes, Ennahda claims to represent moderate and reformist Islam, along the lines of the Turkish AKP. At the same time, Moncef Marzouki, historic leader of the opposition to Ben Ali, has returned to Tunisia and announced his intention to run for president. Marzouki is president of the Congress Party for the republic, and has worked in the field of human rights and was arrested several times during the dictatorship. His party was banned in 2001 and in 2002 he fled to France.  

What is taking place in Tunisia is shaking the Arab world to its very core. More or less benevolent dictatorships are everywhere in the Middle East and North Africa and this is the first time in a generation that an Arab regime has changed through a grassroots movement without the assistance of some foreign power.

What makes Tunisia similar to other Middle Eastern countries is poverty and the desire for change. In Tunisia, unemployment has reached 13.1%, the increase in food prices, along with corruption of leadership and lack of freedom, sparked month long demonstrations that led to the fall of Ben Ali, considered a "socialist ".

According to Gallup research of the 22 Arab countries, young people between 15 and 29 have a strong desire to migrate, to have a better life, or find a job. They represent 40-45% of the population in countries such as Yemen, Morocco and Tunisia, and only 5% in the Gulf. Confidence in their governments reached an average of 50% (34% in the poorest Arab countries, and 90% in the rich Gulf countries).

These similarities explain the spread of protest by self-immolation.

After the young Tunisian Mohamed Bouaziz, 13 more people have set themselves on fire in Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania (and France). In Algeria, people who live below the poverty are 23% of the population, in Egypt nearly 50% in Mauritania more than 50%, 25% in Jordan.

While the Tunisians are seeking to emerge from the confusion and misery - the fall of the regime has led to 78 deaths, 94 injuries and damages to 2 billion dollars - an ideological conflict rages in the Middle East, over its future and the future of the Arab world. Last Friday, the radical sheikh al-Qaradawi of Qatar proclaimed that "the revolution in Tunisia is a popular revolution against injustice" and that Islamic nations must support it. "The people - he added - must rise up and demand their rights" and called "before God, all Islamic leaders, except those who show mercy."

Some see Qaradawi’s address as an attempt to ride the wave Tunisia’s revolt - popular and secular – gearing it towards fundamentalism.

From the pages of the newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, editor Tariq Alhomayed has replied: " What is this leadership model which al-Qaradawi wants the Tunisians to adopt? Is it the Islamic regime in Sudan, which has left us with a divided and separated Arab country? Or does he want a system similar to the Emirate of Hamas in Gaza, which sits perched upon the Palestinians, like an occupying force? Does al-Qaradawi want a state based on a certain principle, whereby what is prohibited is the foundation, and what is permitted is the exception?".

The journalist concluded by advising al-Qaradawi to " leave them [the Tunisians] to their own devices " for the country's progress. (IA)
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