How chatter started a revolution

Tunisia is a web-savvy country where 2 million of its 10 million population have Facebook accounts.When Wikileaks, the whistleblower website, released 10 cables written by US diplomats about Tunisia, word spread rapidly via the internet and social networking sites. The diplomatic chatter ranged from corruption in the country to a dinner hosted by El Materi, the son-in-law of Tunisia’s then-President, Zine al-Abidine BenAli for the U.S. ambassador.

The memos from 2006 to 2009, were first published in November 2010 and translated by Al-Jazeera, a popular TV network in the region.   Corruption of Ben Ali’s “Family” was the main theme that ran through the cables, a family that was above the law and ruled the country without restraint or control. See https://tunileaks.appspot.com/

“The WikiLeaks revelations confirmed that people surrounding president Ben Ali were corrupt and spent a lot of money. They lived in mansions and had their food delivered to them directly from France. It was happening at a time when ordinary Tunisians were struggling to find jobs and feed their families,” said North Africa and Mideast expert Mary-Jane Deeb.

The confirmation of this huge disparity between “the Family” and ordinary citizens angered the Tunisians, an anger that boiled over when a young educated but unemployed man, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest when a municipal aide seized his unlicensed vegetable cart and proceeded to harrass and humiliate him. That was the final catalyst that started the 28-day Tunisian Revolution that ousted President Ben Ali and forced him and his family to flee to Saudi Arabia.

And that’s how Wikileaks’ disclosure helped start off a revolution, first in Tunisia and then in quick succession in Egypt, Bahrain, Iran, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan and Libya. Now the world watches as history unfolds and the spirit of revolution and change of the old guard spreads through the new media of Twitter and Facebook.

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