The power of the Tunisian people to force Zine El Abidine Ben Ali out of the country more than two weeks ago inspired the Egyptians to start their own revolution on Jan. 25. These events gives many Arab youth the hope for change. Last week has been a tumultuous one not only for Egyptians but also for all those who live in Arab nations. I believe it will change the face of the Middle East.
I have felt mixed emotions of happiness, fear and suspense over what will happen. Despite the fact that the mobile and Internet services were shut down in Egypt by the Mubarak regime, people are continuing their uprising against the dictator. The protesters might have come from different backgrounds and generations, but they are all united to scream out, “Go away Mubarak!” Al-Jazeera and CNN International are doing a great job in their coverage of the event, but most of my attention was to what people say on Twitter and Facebook. Thank God for electronic media! It has played an important role in organizing people, especially youth to challenge the regime.
The revolution came alive with the support of bloggers and young Internet users all over the world. Since the first day of the events in Egypt, I was glued to my laptop and my smartphone for minute-by-minute updates from my trusted sources of information —Facebook and Twitter. Bloggers from around the world showed their support for the Egyptians by writing and offering technical support, such as new proxies for blocked websites before the Internet shutdown. Bloggers are the new generation of journalists doing their part in spreading information. This is magic! That’s why most of the governments in the third world are so afraid of the Internet and are attempting to limit people’s access to it. It is not a surprise to see the mainstream media receive their information through these bloggers materials, be it videos, photos or telephone calls from the demonstrations. The media can even contact the bloggers and have a live view of the situation. As an example, Wael Abbas, one of the Egyptian bloggers, was called by Aljazeera TV to give his opinion.
The events beginning in Tunisia and continuing in Egypt have shown the effect of social media in the third world. It is important for those who support democracy in those countries and for the human rights activists all around the world to demand that Arab governments review regulations and laws that prevent the flow of free information.
Finally, governments in the Middle East should learn the lesson and start to work with their people on the reforms they have promised. If they do not, the consequences will harsh when the people say their final word.
Fatema Kareem is inspired by the power of social media to bring change to the Arab world.