How Egyptian and Tunisian youth hacked the Arab Spring


(Source: MIT Technology Review)

The street revolutions that overthrew the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia in January and February had no Lenin or Trotsky; but two secretive Tunisians known as "Foetus" and "Waterman," and their organization, Takriz, who performed a remarkable and largely unknown role. Many groups helped remove Tunisia's President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power—students, unionists, lawyers, teachers, human rights activists, and online dissidents—and Takriz has links with all of these. But its main audience is alienated street youth: the lifeblood, often spilled, of the rebellion in North Africa. That youth rebellion has since spread far beyond Tunisia and Egypt to enflame the entire region…..

In Tunisia, Riadh "Astrubal" Guerfali, a law professor in France cofounded a collective blog, Nawaat, with a Tunisian exile, Sami Ben Gharbia. Guerfali and Gharbia found innovative ways to use technology: scouring plane-spotter sites for a video exposé of the reviled first lady, Leila, using the presidential jet to go shopping; "geo-bombing" the presidential palace by adding videos of human rights testimony that appear in the YouTube layer of Google Earth and Google Maps; and charting Tunisia's prisons.

Another innovation is Takriz's strong relationship with soccer fans. The mosque and the soccer pitch have been the only release valves for anger and frustration among the young under autocratic Middle Eastern rule, says James M. Dorsey, senior fellow at the Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, who writes a blog called The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer. "Soccer gets little attention," he says, "because soccer fans don't bomb World Trade Centers." They fight local battles instead, often against the police.

Read the full story in MIT’s Technology Review


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