The Tunisian Revolution wouldn’t have succeeded without Tunisian people’s courage and sacrifices during their four weeks of relentless, now historical, uprising. Social media has played an undeniable role in coordinating protesters’ efforts in what Sami Ben Gharbia, co-editor of Nawaat.org and director of Global Voices Advocacy, calls a cascade of information, which eventually convinced more people –the middle class in particular– to join the movement.
The role of the internet and social media in emboldening the Tunisian uprising that led to the first ever popular Arab revolution to topple an Arab dictator, was pivotal. I’m not saying it was a Twitter Revolution, I’m saying Twitter and social media were an effective weapon of mass dissemination. They were the catalyst that helped the movement reach the critical mass that swept through the country, from Sidi Bouzid all the way to the capital Tunis, and in no time.
Today, Egyptians responded to calls for a march against the 30-year rule of Husni Mubarak. People took to (and are still in) the streets of Cairo and main Egyptian cities, peacefully venting their anger against three decades of corruption and repression. Most of the protesters are young and have spent all their lives under Mubarak’s police state and emergency rules. Facebook and Twitter again have been instrumental in coordinating protesters’ efforts as small groups in their hundreds congregated in the streets and public squares of Cairo and Alexandria, to gradually form huge masses of tens of thousands calling for change.
As in Tunisia a couple of weeks before, the ubiquitousness of cameras and cell phones has allowed for those little sparks of bravery to be captured and shared, inspiring even more support and sympathy.
It’s difficult not to draw a parallel between the show of courage by this single man, braving the night curfew in the streets of Tunis, on the night of the departure of Ben Ali, while the security situation in the country was still uncertain…
… and the incredible bravery of this young man who stands in front of a water cannon armored truck, à la Tiananmen Square Tank Man, barring it from chasing protesters:
A video is worth a million words. Those images shared widely on social media are sustaining a cross-regional movement of popular anger that is set to grow. The exact role of social media in driving reform in the Arab world is still a controversial issue. It has been discussed in many a news outlet recently.
My Global Voices colleague, Antoun Issa and I, have been discussing that very subject and the poor Western media coverage of the Tunisian revolution on Al Jazeera’s Listening Post last week. Our segment can be seen at roughly 8m05s:
My colleagues at Global Voices Advocacy and indefatigable freedom advocates, Sami Ben Gharbia and Nasser Weddady have been talking on Aljazeera’s Riz Khan Show alongside Egyptian journalist and blogger, Wael Abbas, discussing whether social media is driving reform in the Arab world: