This is one of those weird days.
I usually drop subjects when they become really popular. I don’t write much about ACTA for instance, but keep informed. I didn’t write much about the Telecoms package after it became popular, but was reasonably informed.Telekompaketet en annan.
On the 27th of December 2010 my friend @rafik contacted me on Twitter asking me to keep track of the #sidibouzid tag. He said there were huge protests and that these protests were different from the protests seen over the last 10 years or so. Not only students and the unemployed were on the streets, but also people from small villages outside Tunis. I retweeted #sidibouzid things every now and then when I understood the French or the tweets were in English. After a week the tag was very popular, and after another few days the MEP Marietje Schaake of the Dutch D66 party published an editorial in NRC.
Samir Allioui, aka boyfriend, told me that she covered the situation very well (we were already keeping track since I arrived at his house on January 3rd). She followed up with a series of interviews and debates over the following week.
A bit before she wrote her first editorial the activist group Anonymous had started campaigns for DDoS:ing and defacing the homepages and servers of the Tunisian government. I’ve mentioned it a couple of times on my blog, but I can’t bring myself to calling it neither campaign nor solidarity – this is a global solution to a graphically limited problem. It’s a global community engaging in global values, not solidarity with people far away. On the internet no one is ever far away.
The Tweet personalities @Takriz and @nawaat were forwarding videos of the protester clashes with Tunisian police. They were all hosted at Facebook that, while free, is an undesirable hosting space. Subsequently, alternative servers for videos were set up and mirrored all over the world. Suddenly a couple of friends and Samir were busy 18 hours a day administrating a video database that made my life and news uptake much more bearable.
Samir was in contact with all sorts of people directly involved with the protests. Mostly Dutch Tunisians and international pirate activists. These were four hours phone conferences every night for getting the latest news about actions and activities on the scene (it is very difficult to obtain any direct information about anything, and mostly it appeared to be pure hearsay). I had originally planned to stay four days or so, but remained for ten and we sat in different parts and tried as well as we could to do something useful. In my case this involved reading loads and posting angry, opinionated blogposts based on my previous experiences with conflict handling of European politicians in relation to Belarus violence. The response to Tunisia was far delayed and much weaker in its criticism.
However that happened, Samir appeared to be one of the first non-arabic speaker who read the news of Ben Ali’s speech to nations. Probably one of the first who knew the speculations about his being in Saudi Arabia and for unknown reasons he appeared to know Ben Ali has family there. Why he knows this is beyond me. I don’t keep track of royalties at all if I can avoid it.
It was at around this time I found out about a diplomatic conference held between the Tunisian foreign ministers and a hoard of European ambassadors. It was held about three days prior to the speech by Ben Ali, and four days before his disappearance. At around the time of the conference all politicians (except me, because I’m slow) shut up.
I’m guessing this is some sort of diplomatically sensitive topic, but I am obsessed with foreign trade and Tunisia has lots of it with the EU so I can’t help but suspect they’re related.
After Ben Ali left the country me and Samir went to Utrecht for a pub meeting (I don’t pub meet as much as Samir, and I have difficulties with the process of getting slightly dizzy from the first beer – at the mature age of 23 I have realized that the rest of the world is much weirder than me and easily get past that state of awkwardness). Samir was jumping and smiling, I am a very inhibited person and considered the hard way towards freedom and democracy that lies ahead. They have internets on some .nl trains now, and on the train we received a message from @rafik: ”we are free”. me and samir congratulated him!
Tunisia is without doubt the place in the Arab countries to start a democratic revolution. This is the most beautiful blogpost I have seen since December 27. The level of education is comparatively high, the potential of islamist fallbacks probably low.
Tunisia has a Pirate Party. Their strategies will almost certainly have to be different from those of the Swedish Piratpartiet but there is a need for an information technology party in Tunisia right now. 20% of the population are connected, the infrastructure is the best of Northern Africa, the cost of connections are also comparatively low, even the lowest in the region.
25% unemployment is not, I guess, something that goes away in a jiffy, but the EU can really help in this. We already have strong ties with Tunisia in trade. The exports of firearms should be reduced and trade should focus more on services. The EU program for introduction of human rights can progress faster (Tunisia will overtake us in no time, the reasons for which make me depressed to think of *EUlosinghumanrights*).
The biggest export of Tunisia to Europe appears to be olive oil. It’s not exactly labour intensive. With their high levels of education I would love to see an outsourcing of the Belgacom customer service to a bunch of knowledgeable, helpful people that do not put you on undefinite hold or promise to call you back in a bit but don’t. Obviously Belgian employees do not fulfill these requirements, the response of which from Belgacom was prolonging their workhours with led to a strike. It would be a wonderful way of raising the quality of interaction with customers I think!! (Nobody will listen to this suggestion because Belgacom is like a monopoly in ADSL and feel perfectly fine mistreating their customers this way – I’ve often wondered why they don’t employ me to increase the quality of their customer service but as a monopoly keeping their customers happy doesn’t necessarily need to be a priority).