What is required for a successful total revolution to take place? How to avoid the potential risks?
The revolution in Tunisia was the result of revolutionaries taking control of the information system: social networks. Thanks to state censorship of TV, radio and newspapers, people came to trust the internet as a news source more than the government media. We overcame internet censorship by educating people about circumvention tools and copy & pasting everything we saw elsewhere, so multiple copies existed. So we were socially
By crafting the right messages and spreading the right ideas, we managed to connect the social networks of well educated unemployed youth in forgotten regions of the country (e.g. Sidibouzid) and the social network of wealthy people *in the regime* (friends, family of Ben Ali, people from the ruling party, military, security, etc…). We connected the social networks together.. And BOOM! :)
This is what it takes for a global revolution: taking control of social networks to rebuild trust between people inside and outside the governements/oligarchies. But two issues have to be taken into account. Firstly, social networks are in the hands of US oligarchies, so the battle in the US will be difficult. It’s probably safer to build „meat space“ (ie. real life) social networks as with the Occupy movement. Secondly, we’re heading for a world war in 2022 because of the lack of natural resources. We can avoid it with a global revolution–which is argument number one for people-powered propaganda, if you ask me–but in case it happens that war tactics are needed, a more classical revolution is still possible, although history shows those kinds of revolutions can have bad results. Maybe we’ll find better ideas in time.
What initiatives contributed to the Tunisian Revolution?
2005: WISIS demonstrations in the streets, hunger strikes, police clampdown on dissidents. Some of my friends were tortured, people who I consider crucial during the 2011 revolution.
2008: Uprisings in south Tunisia were violently repressed. We tried to cover what was happening in blogs, without success. Social networks did not yet have the reach that they do today.
2009: Presidential elections. A lot of people had had enough of this blatant display of corruption. Left Party Ettajdid presented a candidate, and he and his militants got violently repressed by the regime.
2010: We organized a demonstration against internet censorship. I was a public figure associated with the protest, and I was arrested. That event catalyzed the political scene again and more importantly: removed the barrier of fear from a lot of people.
The Arab Spring will necessarily entail a greater involvement of Islamists in the politics of the former authoritarian regimes. What was the involvement of Islamists in Tunisia?
In Tunisia, Islamic groups were counter revolutionaries during the revolution, spreading a public message to not support the uprisings because it was led by „drunk thugs“. But they were conspiring in the background, to seize power if it succeeded. And that’s what happened. They did not participate in the revolution.
What does the Tunisia revolution mean for social change?
Very little until now. Since Islamists are in power, they have not seemed interested in social change–or any change. They’re only interested in keeping their position of power and sustaining the order.
In light of new found freedoms, are media and journalists in Tunisia fulfilling their roles and responsibilities?
They’re doing their best. They are constantly attacked by the Islamists for not being enough pro-government/pro Islamists. They are harrassed by Islamist militias. The more independent are targets of smear campaigns.
Did you attend, lead or organize a protest before you were arrested?
Yes, I broadcasted the protest in Tunis on December 27, 2010 live on the internet. http://www.justin.tv/slimamamou/b/276429565
Do you remember the day you were arrested? How did your family take this news?
They were very scared. Especially because I was arrested before and generally you get a worse treatment when it’s not the first time. I shared my GPS position using my smart phone when I knew I would get arrested. So, the news got immediately out that I was in the Interior Ministry, arrested by State Security. That place is the place where people get tortured and killed. And nobody ever informs your family that you were arrested and are being held there. So I guess they endured hell.
Were you arrested for being part of Anonymous?
Were there some protests or something in prison (hunger strike…)?
No. I was interrogated for 5 days and stayed in jail for „only“ 3 days.
What are the prison conditions in Tunisia?
Very difficult. Rooms designed to hold 100 people were packed with 200. But due to the huge international pressure for my freedom, the jail authorities were given instructions to take care of myself and my friend Azyz Amami, who was also arrested. Hillary Clinton lectured the Tunisian embassador in Washington about our situation. :) Anonymous did a great job supporting us and it was very helpful. Thanks guys. ;)
MINISTER FOR YOUTH AND SPORTS
How did it happen that you became Minister for Youth and Sports?
By coincidence. Since there was a huge campaign for my liberation. I became the de-facto public figure of the youth revolution among members of the regime. So when the prime minister, who was already in place during Ben Ali, decided to tactically inculde a symbol of the revolution in the government, I was an obvious choice because he knew nobody else.
I got called by the Prime Minister’s cabinet. They said: we want to offer you this position, I said: OK. They said: You don’t want to think about it? I said: No. After half an hour they were announcing the new government on TV and I was part of it.
Why did you resign from your post as Minister for Youth and Sports?
When I entered the interim government it was only for one mission: organising the elections and making sure the process and the people in the governement were serious. We had never had any real elections, so we were not trusting the government to organize them fairly. But I was in a very difficult situation. My friends were telling me I was compromising with a corrupt regime. Other friends were still demonstrating in the streets and getting beaten by the police of the government I was a member of. Internet censorship was back by court order from the military of the government I was part of. I resisted until everything concerning elections was set up, then I resigned.
PIRATES AND WIKILEAKS
LOL, I’m a founder of the Pirate Party :) http://www.partipirate.tn/known-members/ Pirate forever /-)
The unrest was triggered by the self-immolation of a protester. What were the root causes? How the diplomatic cables sparked the Tunisian Revolutions?
The root cause was that people had had enough of the regime. In the beginning it was social demands, protesting unemployment. But then we managed to connect highly educated unemployed people to people close to the regime using social networks. And something magic happened: The Hive. Somewhere in the night between Jan 13 and Jan 14 everybody got the same idea–the regime and Ben Ali were the root of all evil. He had to go.
The diplomatic cables had an impact on people close to the regime, pushing them to join the revolution when they suddenly realized that the US was not supporting the regime. Those people were the ones who executed the revolution by convincing Ben Ali to flee the country. ;)
For Bradley Manning Support Network you said: “I am Slim Amamou, and Bradley Manning saved my life.” Are you somehow directly connected to WikiLeaks (J. Assange, J. Appelbaum, R. Falkvinge)?
LOL, of course not! I don’t want to have the US regime on my back… yet! :)
Are you afraid because of your activism?
Yes. After being tortured by the State Security for 5 days, now I have a clear idea of my limits. I will continue fighting for my freedom, but I will stay prepared to escape from the country in case I face torture again. I have to point out that I was not primarily tortured physically–apart from slaps, kicks, handcuffing and sleep deprivation for 5 days. The real torture was what they said they would do to my friends and family if I didn’t collaborate.
Questions by Nikola Čech, Ingrid Romancová (EN,CZ)
Answers by Slim Amamou (EN)
Translation by Ingrid Romancová (CZ), BrunO (DE)
Editing assistance from Nigel Parry (@flyingmonkeyair, EN), Nikola Čech (CZ)