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January 19, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 3521

Arab and Iranian Reactions to the Tunisia Uprising

January 19, 2011
North Africa, Tunisia | Special Dispatch No. 3521

The events in Tunisia and their possible impact on other Arab countries have been at the focus of public discourse in the Arab media. In all countries except Libya, both the political and the religious leadership expressed support for the Tunisian uprising. Among the questions that concerned many writers was the possibility of similar events occurring elsewhere in the Arab world. Syria and Iran, which are rivals of the pro-Western Arab camp, downplayed the economic distress and political oppression that had sparked the uprising, pointing instead to the pro-Western orientation of deposed Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali as the main reason for his ousting. They predicted that similar events would occur in other pro-Western states (such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan). Egyptian spokesmen, on the other hand, contended that a similar uprising could never occur in Egypt, because the regime there protected its citizens from the ravages of the global economic crisis.

The Syrian and Jordanian governments hurried to take economic measures aimed at easing conditions for their people as a precaution against similar unrest in their own countries, while Saudi spokesmen were mainly concerned with explaining their country's decision to host Ben Ali.

Sweeping Support for the Will of the Tunisian People among Political and Religious Circles

With the exception of Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi – who criticized the uprising, saying that it would have been better if Ben Ali had continued to rule, even for the rest of his life, because he was "the best leader for Tunisia"[1] – nearly all Arab and Iranian responses to the uprising expressed support for the will of the Tunisian people, while attempting to interpret the events in ways that served the interests of a particular country or of sectors within it.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry, for example, expressed confidence in the Tunisian people's wisdom and in its ability to fix the situation while preventing anarchy in the country.[2] The spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Ramin Mehmanparast, stated that Iran wanted the demands of the Tunisian nation to be met and that Tehran would be willing to assist them.[3] Saudi Arabia, which is hosting Ben Ali, announced that it supported any step benefiting the Tunisian people.[4]

It is interesting to note the confused response of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to the events. PLO Executive Committee Chairman Yasser 'Abd Rabbo released a communiqué on behalf of the Palestinian leadership praising the Tunisian people's uprising, which, he said, proved "the creative ability of the peoples for implementing self-determination." However, the Palestinian leadership quickly renounced 'Abd Rabbo's communiqué; Ahmad 'Abd Al-Rahman, advisor for PLO affairs to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas, clarified that "the Executive Committee did not even convene" and "did not release any communiqué on the situation in Tunisia." He added that the PA wished "[only] good things for Tunisia."[5]

The support for the will of the Tunisian people was given religious backing as well. Some Al-Azhar sheikhs explained that the deposing of Ben Ali was sanctioned by the shari'a. Dr. 'Abd Al-Mu'ti Bayoumi, a member of the Al-Azhar Academy for Islamic Research, explained that according to the shari'a, the duty of obeying the ruler is not absolute: if the ruler fails to meet the people's needs and to afford them a dignified existence, they may rise against him.[6]

Prominent Sunni cleric Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi expressed support for Ben Ali's ousting in his weekly Al-Jazeera program "Shari'a and Life," which was dedicated this week to Islam's stand on "oppressive rulers": "We salute the [Tunisian] people, which has taught the Arab and Islamic peoples, as well as the oppressed peoples in general, the following lesson: Do not despair, and do not fear the tyrants, for the tyrants are weaker than a fly, and more feeble than a spider-web. They quickly collapse in the face of the power of steadfast and resolute peoples…

"The tyrants never listen and never heed advice, until they are toppled. Once they are toppled... After four weeks, Ben Ali said: I get it. You idiot! It took four weeks and hundreds of casualties for you to get it?! Why didn't you get it during all this time? This is the case with all the tyrants…

"As far as I am concerned, freedom takes precedence over the implementation of the shari'a. There must be no restrictions on liberties."[7]

Measures Taken by the Arab Regimes to Prevent Unrest in Their Own Countries

Despite their statements supporting the Tunisian people's decision, concern was expressed in some Arab countries about the possible spread of the popular protests.[8] Some countries, such as Syria and Jordan, took economic measures to ease conditions for the population, apparently out of awareness that the Tunisian uprising had been sparked by economic hardship. According to the Syrian news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad announced the establishment of a National Social Aid Fund, budgeted at 10-12 billion Syrian liras annually, aimed at aiding families living below the poverty line.[9] The Syrian website All for Syria reported that the authorities had agreed to pay the salaries of Tartous port workers who have been striking in protest of their employment conditions; to cancel layoffs at the Syrian broadcasting authority, and to increase the electricity subsidy for civil servants.[10]

During the month of unrest in Tunisia that preceded Ben Ali's ousting, the Jordanian authorities lowered taxes on natural gas, diesel, and petrol, allocated USD 20 million to subsidizing basic goods, and invested a similar sum in new projects in economically distressed areas.[11]

The Al-Misriyoun daily reported that in response to the unrest in Tunisia, the Egyptian authorities had announced a state of emergency in the country, and had convened an urgent meeting of the National Defense Council, with the participation of President Hosni Mubarak and the heads of the government, parliament, and security apparatuses, in order to discuss potential repercussions. The paper assessed that the authorities would minimize mention in the government press of Gamal Mubarak as a possible successor to his father, would avoid raising prices, and would ban demonstrations and protest rallies.[12] Presidential spokesman Suleiman 'Awwad, however, denied that Mubarak had attended any emergency meetings, but stressed that there was no intention to raise prices or to impose new taxes on the Egyptian public.[13] At the Arab economic summit held today (January 19) in Sharm El-Sheikh, which has focused on the Tunisia crisis, Arab League Secretary-General 'Amr Moussa urged the Arab leaders to give serious consideration to Tunisia's economic and other problems, as they would have an impact on all the Arab countries.[14]

Egyptian Government: No Fear of a Similar Uprising in Egypt

The Egyptian press stressed the right of the Tunisian people to "realize its desire for change" and "its dreams," calling upon them to handle the new reality through "dialogue and democratic means."[15] Opposition papers assessed that the Tunisian protests could spread to Egypt, while the government papers rejected this claim on the grounds that the Tunisia events had been the result of circumstances unique to that country. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit dismissed such concerns as "nonsensical," saying that each society had its own "particular circumstances." He added that the most important consideration was the "will of the Tunisian people," but warned of those "trying to pour oil on the fire," including Western or Western-funded satellite channels, which, he said, were "trying to inflame emotions in the Arab societies." Egyptian Trade and Industry Minister Rashid Muhammad Rashid explained that what had happened in Tunisia could not possibly happen in Egypt, because most of Egypt's citizens were protected from the global rise in prices, pointing out that even the price of petrol in Egypt "had not gone up since 2008".[16]

The editor of the Roz Al-Yousef daily, 'Abdallah Kamal, who is a member of Egypt's ruling party and is known as being close to President Mubarak, likewise rejected the notion of the uprising spreading to other Arab countries: "Some expect the events in Tunisia to spark a plague [of uprisings] by Arab peoples against their states, causing the Arab regimes to fall one by one, like a stack of dominoes... The events in Tunisia will undoubtedly have repercussions, at least in the Arab Maghreb, but that since each country has its own unique circumstances and characteristics, the [Tunisian] scenario will not necessarily repeat itself in other countries."[17]

Saudi Arabia: We have Not Granted Asylum to Ben Ali

Saudi Arabia was concerned with attempts to justify its hosting of Ben Ali and with denying it had granted him political asylum. The Saudi embassy in Tunisia denied reports that Saudi Arabia had maintained contacts with Ben Ali's office in order to arrange transportation to the kingdom for him and his family and to grant him asylum there for the duration of the crisis. In a statement to the London daily Al-Hayat, Saudi Ambassador to Tunisia 'Abdallah bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz bin Mu'ammar said: "We condemn these false allegations, for we in the embassy heard nothing of Ben Ali's arrival in the Kingdom until the day following his departure from Tunisia. His departure from [the country] was arranged by officials from the Tunisian president's office... The [Saudi] embassy did not grant asylum to any Tunisian in the course of the current crisis in Tunisia following the ousting of the former president, nor did anyone approach it with such a request."[18]

In an interview with Al-Jazeera TV, Jamal Khashoggi, a senior Saudi journalist who was formerly the editor of Al-Watan and the spokesman of the Saudi embassy in Washington, attempted to justify Saudi Arabia's hosting of Ben Ali by explaining that upon arriving in Jeddah he had still been president, but that now he was considered a "political refugee, not a head of state," and the Saudi authorities were not allowing him to make political statements or to maintain contact with Tunisia.[19]

Iranian Dailies: A Similar Upheaval Is Likely in Many Arab Countries

For some countries, the Tunisian uprising served as an opportunity to criticize the pro-Western Arab states. Editorials in Iran and Syria, for example, pointed to Tunisia's pro-Western policies as the main reason for Ben Ali's downfall, predicting that other pro-Western Arab regimes would meet the same fate due to their policy that came at the expense of their people's needs. Similar opinions were voiced in Lebanese opposition circles, as well as by 'Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, editor of the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, known for its criticism of the Arab regimes.

At an extraordinary summit of the Islamic Inter-Parliamentary Union in Abu Dhabi, Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani urged the Arab leaders to internalize the lesson of the Tunisia revolution and not to place their countries at the service of the West, since relying on the enemies of Islam would bring them only degradation.[20]

The daily Kayhan assessed that the popular intifada in Tunisia reflected a wave of awakening among the peoples throughout the region and would soon bring about additional uprisings against the corrupt dictatorships in the Middle East, including in Saudi Arabia. The daily explained that these regimes, which sought to eradicate Islam both in society and in the administration, lacked popular support and were therefore very vulnerable. It advised them to emulate the regime of the Islamic Revolution, in order to ward off imperialism and tyranny.[21]

In an article titled "The Tunisian Spark that Will Bring Down the Arab Dictatorships," the conservative daily Ebtekar, which is often critical of Ahmadinejad, stated that the popular uprising in Tunisia would spark similar developments in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Libya, due to the deepening schism in all these countries between the leadership and the people. With regard to Egypt, the article noted: "The Egyptians' rage against Mubarak's regime, which is just as corrupt and oppressive as was the tyrannical rule in Tunisia, needs just one spark to set it off, rendering Mubarak's rule untenable." The daily added that in Saudi Arabia, too, loathing and rage towards the regime were mounting, due to the oppression and ever-widening gap between the people and the royal family. Moreover, if power-struggles erupted between the Saudi princes, an uprising would become even more likely. As for Bahrain, the daily stated that the Sunni regime there was using all possible means to widen the Sunni minority at the expense of the Shi'ite majority, in order to legitimize its rule, leading to protest among the Shi'ites, and making an imminent uprising a real possibility.[22]

Another Ebtekar article stated that a similar coup could even take place in Syria, because of its dictatorial regime: "A glance at the Arab kings and presidents, from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and Morocco to Syria, Libya, and Egypt... reveals that they all rule in a similar fashion... In Egypt, Syria and Algeria, the descendants and relatives of the presidents are making plans to [win] elections conducted without the participation of the people." The daily warned that the peoples in these countries would soon rebel against their rulers.[23]

The reformist daily Mardom-Salari likewise opined that a wave of similar revolutions would soon sweep through the Arab states, especially Egypt and Yemen. The Arab states, it said, must learn from the Tunisian experience that any government that forgot its people was destined to lose their support and thus become dependent upon the support of foreign countries – a situation that would rapidly bring about its downfall. The daily stated that the demand for democracy by civil activists and reformists was spreading to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Emirates, and concluded that the Tunisian revolution may cause the Arab leaders to wake up and instate democracy in their countries.[24]

Some Iranian papers opposed to Ahmadinejad used the Tunisia events as an opportunity to voice implicit criticism against him. The daily Jomhouri-ye Eslami, which is close to the religious seminaries of Qom and to Ahmadinejad's rival Hashemi Rafsanjani, stated that leaders in the region, especially the Egyptian, Jordanian, Sudanese, Yemeni, and Algerian leaders – some of whom have been keeping their countries under dictatorial rule without free elections for decades – were worried by the Tunisian events, because the situation in their own countries resembled the situation that had prevailed in Tunisia before the uprising. The daily pointed out that, even though Ben Ali had won 90% of the vote in last year's presidential elections, recent events demonstrated that this result had been forged. The daily said further that the Tunisian uprising had been sparked not only by economic distress, but also by the people's demand for freedom and rejection of dictatorship. Jomhouri-ye Eslami concluded that the uprising may trigger "unexpected events" in Arab countries, adding that Israel and the West were concerned regarding who would succeed Ben Ali, who had been their ally, especially Israel's.[25]

The Kaleme website, associated with protest movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, emphasized that Ben Ali had been one of the first leaders to congratulate Ahmadinejad after last year's presidential elections, and that he had failed to heed the people's protest until it was too late.[26]

Syrian Press: The Arab Regimes Must Learn the Tunisian Lesson and Sever Ties with the West

Despite the aforementioned precautions taken by the Syrian regime in response to the Tunisian crisis, the Syrian press chose to focus on Ben Ali's good relations with the West, which were presented as the reason for his downfall. The daily Al-Watan, which is close to the Syrian regime, explained the events as an outcry against Ben Ali's ties to the West and his commitment to Western interests at the expense of his own people's interests. The daily called upon Arab regimes with similar policies to abandon the West, which, it said, would forsake them in the moment of truth, and to follow Syria's example by acting in accordance with the aspirations of their people. Waddah 'Abd Rabbo, the daily's editor, wrote: "President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was perhaps the Arab president closest to the West, especially to the European Union countries and the U.S., which only two days ago he called 'friends of Tunisia.' These countries were the Tunisian regime's main support...

"No Arab regime can ignore [the lesson of Tunisia], especially those regimes with a policy identical to that of [Ben Ali], which depend upon their 'friends' to defend them and their thrones... The Arab leaders who rely on the West must internalize the lesson of Tunisia in their choices... [Their] decisions must [reflect] the interests of the Arab peoples rather than those of distant lands, and must serve the security and stability of the Arab region, rather than instigate artificial civil wars and domestic crises from which only the enemies of the Arabs benefit. [The Arab leaders] must depend upon [their own] peoples and not upon false 'friends,' who were the first to abandon President Ben Ali's regime...

"This is a hard lesson, but it teaches us that the correct [choice], which will guarantee the security and stability of the peoples and the homeland, is for the people to unite around its leaders. That has been the experience of Syria, whose leadership has always stood alongside the choices and aspirations of the people. True, it has paid a steep price in sanctions and has lost 'friends' in the West, but it has gained the [loyalty of] the [Syrian] people and of all the Arab peoples, who look upon Syria with admiration and esteem, since it represents the aspirations of every fighting Arab..."[27]

'Ali Jamalo, editor of the Syrian website Champress, which is close to the Syrian regime, expressed a similar view, adding that the U.S. was encouraging conflict between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon and Sudan: "Tunisia is a lesson for anyone who thinks that the power of a regime, any regime, derives from the will of Washington and Tel Aviv. [What happened to Ben Ali] is somewhat similar to the fate of the Iranian shah, who did above and beyond for the U.S. and Israel and carried out everything that was asked of him at the expense of the rights and honor of his nation... [But] when the moment of truth came, Washington denied him entry [to the U.S.]... This is [what happens] to anyone who believes that Washington's silence about his crimes against his people and their honor means [guaranteed] security for life...

"Disregarding the people and ignoring their demands and their right to a free and dignified life is [the inevitable result] of the dependence on foreign [powers]... Today we see how the U.S. supports civil war among Muslims in Lebanon in the name of the international tribunal, and how it supports schism in Sudan in the name of 'very democratic' elections, in order to ignite fire between Christians and Muslims... in Iraq, Egypt and central Africa..."[28]

Nasrallah in Veiled Threat to Rivals in Lebanon: That Is the Fate of Those Who Rely on the West

In a January 16 speech, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah addressed the recent events in Tunisia, praising the Tunisian people for their uprising. In a veiled threat against his enemies in Lebanon, he stated that this was the fate of those who always relied on their ties with France, the U.S., and even Israel.[29]

The daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hizbullah, likewise emphasized that regimes with close ties to the U.S., such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, were perceived as illegitimate, while Iran, Syria, and the "mini-states" of Gaza and the southern Dahiya neighborhood in Beirut enjoyed security and stability.[30]

Sati' Nour Al-Din, editor of the Lebanese daily Al-Safir, which is associated with the opposition, used the events in Tunisia as an opportunity to slam the Egyptian regime: "The Egyptian alternative has been found. No more than a small kick to President Hosni Mubarak's neck is needed to oust him from power and force those around him to give up the notion of passing the presidency [to Gamal Mubarak]."[31]

Editor of London Arabic-Language Daily: An Island Must be Found in the Indian Ocean on Which to Confine Each Arab Dictator

Al-Quds Al-Arabi editor 'Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, known for his support for the Arab world's revolutionary regimes and figures, and for his harsh criticism of the pro-Western Arab regimes, expressed thanks to the Tunisian people for overthrowing the dictatorship, and noted that a similar fate awaited other Arab dictators:

"Thanks to the Tunisian people! Thanks for the pure blood of the martyrs who constituted the foundation for this great victory! Thanks to the army that favored the people and turned its back on the dictatorship and the corrupt [rulers], and set Tunisia and its security and stability above all other considerations!...

"The academy of daring and honor founded by the Tunisian people will become a source of authority and will impart important and beneficial lessons to all the oppressed people of the world, particularly in the Muslim world. The Tunisian army... taught a lesson to the other Arab armies – which have deviated from their national role and have became a means for the dictator to repress the people, and to prop up his corruption... [Tunisian President Ben Ali] is gone and will not return... like Ceauşescu, Marcos, and the shah of Iran.

"The Tunisian people deserve double thanks... [first] for proving that the Arab street is not dead – as others, including me, have assessed – and for being capable of rising up and sacrificing for change; and again for shaming the Western regimes that always boasted of their support for freedom, human rights, and the values of justice and democracy...

"The coming days may be hard for the dictatorial Arab regimes, if not for all [the Arab regimes], because the standard of living in Tunisia is much higher than that in most Arab countries, and the Tunisian dictatorship was less oppressive than [the regime in the other Arab countries].

"The U.S. replaced the regimes hostile to it by invasion and conquest, and by killing hundreds of innocent people, as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Et voila, the Tunisian people has reversed the equation, changing a regime friendly to the U.S. by means of civilized and legitimate protest...

"I propose to [U.S. Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton, after this honorable Tunisian experience, to prepare an island in the Indian Ocean to give an honorable welcome to many Arab dictators, her friends and allies – as the [U.S.] created the detention camp in Guantanamo for its enemies, the Al-Qaeda operatives. I would not exaggerate by saying that the Arab leaders are more dangerous to the U.S. than they [i.e. the Al-Qaeda operatives]."[32]

Jihadi Websites Call for Jihad to Bring Down Other Arab Regimes

Not surprisingly, the jihadi websites focused on presenting the Tunisia uprising as jihad, and called to escalate it and spread it to other Arab and Muslim countries by all means possible. In an audio message released by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), dated January 13, before the fleeing of President Ben Ali, AQIM leader Abu Mus'ab 'Abd Al-Wadoud praised the uprising and encouraged the people to step it up and spread it to other Arab and Muslim countries by all means possible. He said that this battle was part of the great battle being waged by the Islamic ummah against its enemies, near and far, and added that justice and freedom would be achieved only with the establishment of an Islamic government, and that the only means of establishing such a government was jihad. Accordingly, 'Abd Al-Wadoud called upon the Tunisians to send their sons to jihad, so that they could train with weapons and acquire military expertise and could participate in a decisive war against the Crusaders and the Jews. He added that anyone not capable of joining the jihad should independently attack Western targets across Tunisia.[33]

The jihadist research institute Da'wat Al-Haqq Lil-Dirasat Wal-Buhouth released a document calling upon the people in the Arab and Muslim countries to follow the example of the Tunisians and to topple the tyrannical, infidel regimes in their countries, because they were no better than the Tunisian regime. The document referred specifically to Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, but also mentioned Libya, Mauritania, Algeria, Iraq, and "the rest of the Gulf regimes."[34]

Members of the jihadist forums responded joyfully to Ben Ali's fleeing Tunisia. In a letter of congratulations to Tunisians, posted on the forums, Moez Garsallaou, a Tunisian mujahid living in Afghanistan, whose internet nickname is Abu Muadh Al-Qairwani, called upon Tunisians not to stop their war on tyrants, but instead to increase efforts to rebel, because the infidel regime had not yet been vanquished. He urged: "Do not stop fighting them, and do not give them an opportunity to regroup and reinforce the foundations of their regime... Fight them as one, attack their centers and their homes, kill their leaders and officials, loosen the bonds of your imprisoned brothers, light a fire under their feet..." Al-Qirwani also urged Tunisians to prepare for jihad and fighting by studying relevant subjects, such as guerilla warfare, the production of bombs, and the like, and to join the jihad fighters in the various arenas.[35]

The Islamist website Al-Saha Al-Arabiyya posted a letter to Tunisian Muslims by extremist Saudi sheikh 'Abd Al-Rahman bin Nasser Al-Barrak, a former lecturer at the Imam Muhammad bin Sa'ud Islamic University in Saudi Arabia. In the letter, dated January 15, 2011, he called on them to avoid being dragged into civil war, but also to act with all their might to institute shari'a law in their country and to vote in their upcoming elections only for candidates true to Islam.[36]

Appendix: Cartoons

Cartoons from Tunisian blog criticizing Indifference of Ben Ali Regime

"Phantom over Carthage"

Debatunisie.canalblog.com

Ben Ali ignores messages: "Go away"; "Unemployment"; "Corruption and Nepotism"; "I'm hungry"


Debatunisie.canalblog.com

"Nothing happened in Sidi Bouzid [where Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire ]!!! Just an idiot who was playing with his lighter!"

Debatunisie.canalblog.com

"An authorized source informs us that a trivial incident happened in (bessmellah) Sidi Bouzid!"

Debatunisie.canalblog.com

The Tunisians Oust Ben Ali


Al-Hayat (London), January 16, 2011


Al-Sabah
(Iraq), January 16, 2011

Mohamed Bouazizi's fruit cart pushes over Ben Ali's throne

Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 18, 2011


Al-Dustour
(Egypt), January 16, 2011.

Impact of Tunisia Events on Other Regimes

"Mr. Ali [Khamenei], when are you joining Ben Ali?"

Roozonline.com, January 16, 2011

Arab leaders frightened by Tunisia events

Al-Dustour (Jordan), January 16, 2011


Arabcartoon.net, January 16, 2011

The boy at the blackboard, representing "the Tunisian Protests", teaches his classmates a lesson: "Revolution is possible"

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Jazeera TV, January 14, 2011. For excerpts from Qadhafi's statements, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 2760, "Tunisian Uprising: Libyan Leader Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi to the Tunisians: 'You Have Brought Shame upon the Arab Peoples,'" January 14, 2011, http://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/2760.htm.

[2] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 15, 2011.

[3] ISNA (Iran), January 15, 2011.

[4] Alarabiya.net, January 15, 2011.

[5] Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), January 16, 2011.

[6] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), January 16, 2011.

[7] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 2761, " Tunisian Uprising: Leading Sunni Scholar Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi Says to Ousted President Ben Ali: "You Idiot! It Took Four Weeks and Hundreds of Casualties for You to Get It?!", January 16, 2011, http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/2761.

[8] Following the December 17, 2010 self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi, whose extreme act of protest in the town of Sidi Bouzid sparked the massive riots in Tunisia, a wave of similar acts has been noted in Algeria, Mauritania and especially in Egypt. In the last country five people have set themselves on fire in recent days, prompting Al-Azhar sheikhs to issue a fatwa against self-immolation. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 19, 2011. The Tunisia events also sparked a wave of demonstrations in the country. For example, the independent paper Al-Misriyoun reported that, immediately after the news of Ben Ali's ousting became known, activists from Egyptian opposition movements organized protests outside the Tunisian embassy in Cairo, chanting slogans such as: "Popular uprising is the answer to tyranny," and "No to hereditary rule" and "Now it's the Egyptians' turn." Senior Muslim Brotherhood official Dr. Muhammad Al-Baltaji called upon the Egyptian regime to learn a lesson from the Tunisia events and to assuage the resentment of the Egyptian people in order to avoid a similar fate. Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), January 16, 2011.

Demonstrations were also noted elsewhere in the Arab world, for instance in Jordan, which saw riots in the town of Maan even before the Tunisia uprising came to a head. The Tunisia events reignited the protests: Al-Jazeera TV reported that, on January 16, in response to calls by opposition parties and workers' unions, thousands demonstrated outside the Jordanian parliament in protest of rising prices and corruption in the country. The demonstrators called to replace the current government with a "national salvation government headed by someone close to the people." The Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Hamam Sa'id, said at the demonstration that "tyranny" in Jordan must end: "We celebrate with the Tunisian people the fall of the tyrant [Ben Ali]... We in Jordan suffer from the same political tyranny and lack of freedoms that the Tunisian people experienced. We suffer hunger, recurring crises, oppression on security [grounds], and election fraud... [The Jordanian people] wants the freedom to elect its representatives and to make political, economic and social decisions." Aljazeera.net, January 16, 2011.

[9] SANA (Syria), January 15, 2011.

[10] All4syria.info, January 16, 2011.

[11] Al-Dustour (Jordan), January 12, 2011.

[12] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), January 16, 2011.

[13] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 17, 2011.

[14] Aljazeera.net, January 19, 2011.

[15] Al-Gumhouriyya, Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 16, 2011.

[16] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), January 17, 2011.

[17] Roz Al-Yousef (Egypt), January 16, 2011.

[18] Al-Hayat (London) , January 18, 2011.

[19] www.alarabiya.net, January 15, 2011

[20] Mehr (Iran), January 19, 2011.

[21] Kayhan (Iran), January 18, 2011.

[22] Ebtekar (Iran), January 16, 2011.

[23] Ebtekar (Iran), January 17, 2011.

[24] Mardom-Salari (Iran), January 16, 2011.

[25] Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Iran), January 16, 2011.

[26] Kaleme.com (Iran), January 15, 2011.

[27] Al-Watan (Syria), January 16, 2011.

[28] www.champress.net, January 16, 2011.

[29] Moqawama.org, January 16, 2011.

[30] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 15, 2011.

[31] Al-Safir (Lebanon), January 17, 2011.

[32] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 14, 2011

[33] Shumukh Al-Islam, January 13, 2011

[34] Dawaalhaq.wordpress.com, January 15, 2011

[35] Shumukh Al-Islam, January 15, 2011

[36] Alsaha.com, January 16, 2011

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