The oddities of North African revolutions

While the West has approved the democratic will of the people of Tunisia and Egypt, there are still many oddities in the reasons and events of the revolutions in the countries.

As Aleksey Kornilov noted  in his article for the Russian Magazine, Tunisia was not the richest country, but according to the scale of the developing countries it was doing pretty good,  with the GDP per capita higher than that of China. The formal reason for mass protests in Tunisia was the steep rise of the food prices. But one can see that the food prices are growing in Russia with the same pace. However, there were no revolts in the country.

There is one more interesting detail. In 2006 – 2007, when the world’s first major outbrake of generalized inflation led by rises in agricultural commodity prices occurred, food prices soared in Tunisia even more sharply. But for some reason there was no specific disorder, no protests.

It becomes even more real when one recalls that the Jasmine Revolution was coordinated through the Internet and all sorts of trendy gadgets. But these gudgets are still somehow something a bit luxurious even in more prosperous countries in the Arab world. Hence it turns out that rising food prices particularly outraged those who were least affected by the increase.

It was even more strange and confusing in Egypt. First of all, it seems that the amount of participants of the riots was over exaggerated. So on the “Day of Wrath” “date revolutionaries” threatened to take as much as 80 thousand people to the streets of Cairo. The figure itself is not too impressive, especially if it is considered that the population of the Egyptian capital is about 20 million. But actually they managed to gather only around 20 to 50 thousand people. In the meantime, Egyptian internal forces (the Central Security Forces) number almost 350 thousand. And more than that, there is also regular police with organized reserves.

The origin of the revolutionary situation in Egypt is not so clear as one may think. Of course, it is not the richest country. The tourist season was almost thwarted this year because of the shark attacks which resulted in the loss of profits. It was significant for a tourist oriented country. Later on, the December increase in world prices for agricultural products hit Egypt. However, there were no food shortages in the country, and the country did not witness food shortages during the revolution.

And after all, it would be logical for the riots to start in the south of the country where the most undeveloped areas are. But the revolution began in the center of economic growth, in relatively wealthy Cairo and Alexandria.

The main “feature” of two revolutions, their digital character, could be discussed separately.

What is the reason for gathering people via the Internet in countries famous for their well-functioning traditional non-electronic social networks like large patriarchal families, neighbors of the community, etc. Why should one engage in Internet activity when the Internet itself can be disconnected, as it turned out, in a matter of a second?

In fact, it’s simple. The main advantage of the “internetwork undercover” is a high degree of anonymity. A modern cyber-dissident even when tortured will not name his allies simply because he will not know their real names himself. That’is why a “twitter revolution” can be guided from anywhere in the world.

Well, one more oddity should be mentioned. During both revolutions, up to a quarter of the guiding (where to meet, what to bring, etc.) publications were in English. That is when there is not that many people in Egypt who can speak fluent English, and Tunisia is entirely a French speaking country.

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