Arab Spring at Anthony’s

College News News

‘The Arab Uprisings One Year On: Voices from the Ground’, a conference hosted at St Anthony’s College on Wednesday, saw political activists from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya converge to take part in a panel discussion.

The conference, which also involved human rights representatives from Syria, Yemen, Morocco and Bahrain, covered the topics of mercenaries’ roles in the revolutions and the future impact that fundamentalists will have in the new democracies.

Yassine Ayari, a Tunisian cyber activist who co-organised the stifled 22nd May ‘Day of Ammar’ protest against internet filtering in 2010, spoke of the internet as “a very powerful tool for young people”. He described himself as “the blogger who doesn’t wear gloves”, and claimed that the problems that remained in Tunisia were down to the difference in generations: “The old people, they don’t believe in change.”

Seif Abou Zaid, the CEO of Nabadat Foundation, an Egyptian NGO that uses technology to improve education and increase political awareness, encountered difficulties obtaining a visa to visit the UK for the conference.

On Tuesday, he wrote on his twitter account: “The UK embassy in Cairo is the most incompetent government office I’ve ever seen in my life! They’re even worse than our government!”

A few hours later, he wrote: “Being invited to a conference in Oxfrod university [sic] isn’t enough for them to speed up!”

He then was replaced by journalist Ayman Farag, who said that he believed the revolution had become too personally focused on Mubarak, rather than ending the regime as a whole: “The roots of corruption are still there. Nothing has really changed.”

The issue of human rights was raised by Hana El-Gallal, who spoke about the future for Libya: “Either we move to human rights, or weapons will be in everyone’s hands.”

El-Gallal is a law professor at Benghazi University and was education minister in the National Transitional Council.

On 7 March 2011, she wrote a poignant article of appeal in the Independent which began:

“The global community must act to stop Gaddafi and his forces reaching Benghazi. If he gets here, he will kill everyone…”

Also speaking as part of the panel discussion were Atiaf Al-Wazir, a Yemeni blogger leading an investigation into the conduct of President Saleh; and Joseph Daher, a Syrian-Lebanese PhD student who is co-author of ‘The People Demand: a Short History of the Arab Revolutions’.

The event was part of the 2012 Weidenfeld Debate Series, which focuses on “major questions in contemporary international public policy”.

The next event is a panel discussion on the role of literature in the face of human rights violations. It will be hosted at Queen Elizabeth House on 6 March.

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