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If Bouazizi reminds us of Jan Palach

revolts in Maghreb and the memory of Communism

The Tunisian flag colors

The Tunisian flag colors

Last December Mohammed Bouazizi set himself alight in the capital of Tunisia unleashing the Jasmin Revolution, as it is called from the name of the national flower. Six more men immolated themselves in the recent weeks in Egypt, Mauritania and Algeria.

It is impossible, writes Antonio Ferrari in the Corriere della Sera, "not to see the similarities between Bouazizi and another hero, Czechoslovakian Jan Palach. Palach, at the end of the Sixties, turned himself into a human torch in St. Venceslas square in Prague to cry his opposition to the Soviet invader. But there is also another picture: the one of president-dictator Ben Ali on his runaway, which reminds the one of Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989".

So far, continues the journalist, "we witness the victory of the mass of Arab youngsters who weakened the power day by day through the Internet and their blogs ". The new Tunisian President Ghannouchi abolished the Ministry of Information Ben Ali who used to intimidate the media and is about forming a government of national unity.

The future though is uncertain: the ex dictator receives the solidarity of many Arab brothers, among whom colonel Khadafi who blames Wikileaks for the unrest. Many people are still nostalgic of Ben Ali’s rule and there are many fundamentalist groups such as in Algeria. "The democratic force of globalization " has yet to ensure a lasting freedom.

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17 January 2011

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Eastern Europe dissent

the truth against the lies of totalitarianism

The so called dissent in Eastern European communist regimes cannot be downplayed to a simple connotation of "opposition" as its definition would suggest, but must be viewed above all as the attempt to build a parallel polis based on every citizen's responsibility and aimed at occupying the spaces of cultural, social and human freedom wrought from the totalitarian regime into the social fabric.  The members of Charter 77 in Czechoslovakya and Solidarnosc in Poland, like Vaclav Havel, Radim Palous, Jacek Kuron, Adam Michnik, have always underlined that "the power of the powerless" consists in defeating fear through the strength created by coilectively assuming one's responsibilities, as proven by the exhortation to "live the truth" in a society based on lie. Their "dissent" has very often consisted in calling for the enforcement of the laws, such as the one about freedom of conscience, and the international accords subscribed by their countries, such as the Helsinki Accords
These stances have given rise to a broad movement which was able to condition the behaviour and mentality of the public opinion, up to the point in which - except in Romania - the totalitarian system was overturned in a peaceful way, without shedding blood, by a new leading class recognized by the majority of the population which is ready to take up the responsibility for public affairs.


The power of the powerless

Not only dissent - the "parallel polis" in Eastern Europe

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Barbel Bohley

pacifist and important member of the Anti DDR forces in East Germany