The Tunisian Uprising: Lessons in Confronting Tyranny
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The Tunisian Uprising: Lessons in Confronting Tyranny

The Forum of  Independent Egyptian Human Rights Organizations values the Tunisian popular uprising, which brought down one of the strongest authoritarian police states in the Arab World through continuous protests over the last five weeks and prompted the deposed president to flee the country. Efforts continue to eliminate the remaining figures from the ruling party and prevent them from taking the reins of power during the transitional phase in which preparations for general elections and reconsideration of the constitution and a set of specially tailored legislation to consolidate the absolute of power of Ben Ali and his party.

The successes achieved so far by the popular uprising in Tunisia gain a larger value when we consider the spontaneous nature of the protests that sparked the uprising, and the fragility of political forces and civil society weakened for years by the brutal repression, forced exclusion, and close surveillance imposed by the police state on movements and communications of political and human rights activists, trade unionists, and independent media, sealing off all avenues for peaceful change and pursuing a systematic policy of infiltration and co-optation to break political groups and civil society organizations from within.

The road ahead is still long and much remains to be done to eliminate the Tunisian authoritarian regime, oust its leaders, and hold them accountable for a long list of grave human rights violations and the systematic plunder of the nation’s wealth. Many fear that the remnants of Ben Ali’s regime and his party will attempt to circumvent the demands, aspirations, and sacrifices of the Tunisian people to restore their dignity and freedom.

Nevertheless, the Forum believes that the sacrifices of Tunisians and the awakening of their vital forces have paved the way for a political breakthrough that will provide the momentum for political reform and democratic transformation.

In this context, it must be appreciated that the transitional government, despite the retention of a few ministers from the ruling party, inaugurated its work with public promises which, when implemented, will reinstate freedom of expression, information, and association that were so long usurped by Ben Ali’s regime. Most significant among these pledges is the recognition of parties and organizations that were banned in the Ben Ali years, the lifting of all restrictions on the Tunisian League for Human Rights and the Judges Association, and guarantees for the right of civic associations to operate freely. Promises have also been made to guarantee freedom of press and media, abolish the Ministry of Information, which functioned as an effective tool to contain and control media, release political prisoners and detainees, and prepare for the issuance of a general legislative amnesty.

The sacrifices of the Tunisian people have set the wheel of reform spinning. The Forum of Independent Human Rights Organizations believes that the way is prepared for independent political forces, rights groups, trade unions, and other civil society institutions to assume their responsibility to defend and further the gains already made by the uprising by pushing for far-reaching constitutional and legislative reforms and preventing remnants of the regime from turning the current political breakthrough into a temporary spring.

The Forum believes that the uprising has offered a unique example to the Arab world, inspiring confidence in the ability of the people to rid themselves of their oppressors and plunderers without a military coup or foreign intervention.

The Forum hopes that authoritarian Arab regimes will engage responsibly with the lessons taught by developments in Tunisia. They must realize that averting the “Tunisian contagion” cannot be done by deterring suicides in the Tunisian model, offering monetary enticements or bribes in kind, or postponing decisions to raise the prices of basic goods. Nor can it be done by consolidatign repression and crackdown on public liberties or manipulating the constitution and laws to ensure the perpetuation of their authority or to guarantee succession. Rather, a new social contract must be forged between the state and its citizens, based on respect for citizens’ human dignity and recognition of the right of peoples in the Arab world to exercise the same rights enjoyed by their peers in enlightened societies. The new social contract must ensure that state institutions and security agencies are not above the law, provide for effective instruments to counter corruption and hold officials accountable for the plunder and misappropriation of public funds, and prevent impunity for grave human rights violations.

Signatures:

  1. 1. Al-Nadim Center for Treatment and Psychological Rehabilitation for Victims of Violence
  2. 2. Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
  3. 3. Arab Network for Human Rights Information
  4. 4. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
  5. 5. Association for Human Rights Legal Aid
  6. 6. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  7. 7. Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services
  8. 8. Group for Human Rights Legal Aid
  9. 9. Hesham Mubarak Law Center

10. Land Center for Human Rights

11. New Woman Research Center

12. The Arab Penal Reform Organization

13. The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement

14. The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights

15. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

16. The Human Rights Association for the Assistance for the Prisoners

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