After decades of suppressed voice, an inability to say what one thought, to protest, to offer a contrary point of view or dissent – the Arab world is at last unshackled to say exactly what it wants and wherever it wants. Nowhere is this more true than on the streets of the Arab capitals where an explosion of graffiti is voicing the views of the people in both words and pictures.
The question of nepotism is in the minds of many people in the Arab world. Some are hopeful that change can be brought by the Arab Spring, but others are doubtful. In a series of blogs, I plan to look into some of the ways nepotism, favoritism and other ills have become ingrained in Arab society.
This is good day for asset recovery. First and foremost it is a victory for the Tunisian people and the Tunisian government. It demonstrates that the consistent and patient efforts undertaken by the authorities in Tunis, including the Tunisian Financial Intelligence Unit, the Committee for the return of Stolen Assets, and the Ministry of Justice, are now paying off.
“If we are able to say that a poor, majority Muslim, and conservative society is capable of making a democracy of international standard, other countries in the region will have no excuse not to follow us,” says Amira Yahyaoui. “But Tunisia won’t succeed unless we continue to be bold. We must be audacious in our ambitions.”
This month marks the midpoint of the transition process in Yemen. As agreed upon in the peace initiative in November 2011, the transition will include a national dialogue that brings together a broad geographic and political cross section of the country, the drafting of a new constitution, and concluding with new parliamentary and presidential elections.
January 14 marks two years to the day since the Tunisian uprising of 2011 and on the outside, things are moving in the right direction. Democratic elections, the drafting of a new constitution and new-found freedoms are examples that change has come. But within Tunisia, there is growing skepticism that the demands of the revolution have not been met.
During my time in Lebanon last summer, I convinced a close friend, Maroun, to start a small manufacturing firm for producing soap and shampoo. Eventually, he got the business off the ground, but there is no such thing as a free lunch. I witnessed the pain that Maroun had to go through to formally register and set up his business.
Three of the six books to receive the 2013 English PEN Award for outstanding writing in translation are by Arab authors. This award goes to works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry supporting inter-cultural understanding and freedom of expression. These are the three: The Silence and the Roar by Syria's Nihad Sirees; Writing Revolution: The Voices from Tunis to Damascus edited by Lebanon's Leyla Al-Zubaidi, and Matthew Cassel and Nemonie Craven Roderick; and Horses of God by Morocco's Mahi Binebine.
Last Thursday I had dinner with my friend Youssef. He told me he was disappointed with the way things were turning out in his country. A young Tunisian educated at the Sorbonne, Youssef took leave from his cushy management consultant job to volunteer for the government after the revolution. Like Youssef many Tunisians feel disillusioned. I replied that now is the time to redouble the efforts.
One could easily think that in Tunisia the "International Right to Know" day would be a celebration. As a result of the January 2011 uprising, the country hosts one of the most progressive access to information laws in the region, its press is active, and civil society has flourished. But what I experienced last Friday was hardly a celebration – it was work.