Washington Times, 16 June, 2011
Known for their generosity to strangers, Tunisians are starting to crack under the weight of caring for hundreds of thousands of refugees from the civil war in neighboring Libya.
About 2,000 refugees cross into Tunisia every day, adding to more than 200,000 who have sought shelter there since the Libyan conflict broke out in February.
“The Tunisians have been so generous since Day One,” said Firas Kayal, spokesman in Tunisia for the U.N. refugee agency. “But, of course, you cannot take that for granted.”
Tunisia is struggling with a fractious government and crippled economy five months after its January revolution that overthrew longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked the so-called “Arab Spring.” Continue reading
Washington Times, May 9, 2011
A cold rain is falling on the Arab Spring, as autocrats violently cling to power; but many pro-democracy advocates still hope for the change inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia that toppled long-term rulers.
Western observers of the region remain worried about the civil war in Libya and the brutal crackdowns on peaceful protests in Syria and Yemen.
“It’s just not clear yet how it is going to turn out,” said Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American professor of Arab studies at New York’s Columbia University. “It’s early … I wouldn’t say that it’s not necessarily going to be successful in Yemen, or Syria.”
In spite of the see-saw pattern of most of the protest movements, some observers say there is a good chance that the seeds from the Arab Spring eventually will put down deep roots in the entire region.
“I think it’s a matter of time,” said Maha Azzam, an Egyptian-born Middle East specialist at London’s Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House.
“While each country has its own circumstances, the grievances of protesters are very similar – the demands for greater accountability and greater participation are not going to diminish.” Continue reading