Mona Eltahawy On The Protests In Algeria: Sounds Like Everyone Is Catching Freedom Fever


As Susie already noted, there are protesters out in Algeria now defying the government ban and taking to the streets anyway. And as CNN's Wolf Blitzer noted, the government there decided that shutting down Internet communications and social networking sites was a smart way to deal with the civil unrest there along with a heavy police presence cracking down on protesters. Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy weighed in on whether every dictator in the Middle East ought to be worried about the possibility of facing the same fate of those in Egypt and Tunisia.

BLITZER: Let's bring in the Egyptian journalist, the Arab Affairs Analyst Mona Eltahawy, she is joining us once again.

Mona, the protests in Tunisia led to a revolution there. In Egypt led to a revolution there. Today we are seeing in Algeria, some major demonstrations going on. What's going on in the region?

MONA ELTAHAWY, ARAB AFFAIRS ANALYST: It sounds to me, Wolf, like everyone is catching freedom fever. I've been Tweeting about this and comparing to a rally, like some kind of rally race, where the baton started in Tunisia and handed it to Egypt, and now Egypt is kind of going, OK, who wants it next, guys?

As you said, Algeria, we saw protests in Algeria today and interestingly the Algerian authorities shut down Facebook and they did the Internet -- I think it was Facebook, mostly. But if you'll remember, Hosni Mubarak also tried to quell "unrest"-- quote/unquote-- in Egypt by shutting down the Internet. I just don't think that these dictators are getting it. That it's not about shutting down Facebook and the Internet, it is about listening to your people. I think that's what the freedom fever is.

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers some pictures, still photos of some of the signs and some of the protests in Algeria today.

What about Jordan? Is King Abdullah, is he vulnerable there?

ELTAHAWY: I think the entire region is vulnerable. We have to approach monarchies is a bit different than we do republics, just because of the structure of societies there. There he's vulnerable, too. He saw protests during Egypt's uprising calling for the government to be fired, basically, and we just heard Fionnuala talk about the Muslim Brotherhood there in Jordan. I think every country in the region has basically just kind of sat back and watched in amazement.

Now every dictator is obviously watching in fear. But every Arab I know is so excited by what happened because basically what we're seeing happen in one month, we saw two Arab dictators toppled. And Arabs are sitting back and thinking wow, we can do this. We can get rid of these guys who have been suffocating our countries for decades upon decades. That's not something you can quell.

We hear of some governments - like, Bahrain, for example, promised to give, I don't know, a raise or something, and others are promising all kinds of money. It's not about giving monetary incentives to stop a revolution, surely it is about listening to your people and their desire for freedom.

BLITZER: Is Bashir Al Assad in Syria threatened right now?

ELTAHAWY : There is this timetable for revolution, that has been circling, circulating around Twitter and Facebook, where every country is getting its own hash tag and date. Protests are planned in Syria. Protests are planned in Libya. So countries you don't normally hear of having these kind of popular uprisings, or public dissent, and that usually crush down quite harshly. Obviously Syria and Libya are very different from Egypt, but what is the saying is that people are watching and thinking we can do it, too.

Again, they are on Facebook, the Libyan authorities shut down pages that were inviting people basically to this revolution. So I think everyone is vulnerable. And we'll see all these dictators try to take these measures. But once you catch freedom fever, it's hard to go back.

BLITZER: ARE you confident that this is going to work in Egypt?

ELTAHAWY: I'm very confident it's going to work because I think hearing all the discussions so far about the armed forces, the military, will they step aside? I think what happened in Egypt is as the armed forces were in the streets in Cairo, they saw the determination in Egyptians' eyes. Egyptians have awakened to this amazing political empowerment, and the military knows that Egyptians will continue to rise up against anyone who tries to impose a regime on them. I think that's what's changed in Egypt. It's changed for young people, it has changed for women and the way Muslims and Christians get along. So much has changed and that keeps me optimistic.

BLITZER: Mona Eltahawy. I follow her on Twitter. At Mona Eltahawy, let me spell it for our viewers here in the United States and around the world, @M-O-N-AE-L-T-A-H-A-W-Y. She's very active on Twitter it is a very good place to do.

Thanks very much, Mona.

ELTAHAWY: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for that plug.


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