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Could Tunisia be a tipping point for the Arab world?

We may be witnessing the start of a historic process in which developments in Tunisia ignite copycat protests or milder political challenges in other Arab countries.

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The dramatic developments in Tunisia in the past weeks that have seen street demonstrators send former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fleeing the country may prove to be the historic turning point that many in the Arab world have been predicting and anticipating for decades: the point at which disgruntled and often humiliated Arab citizens shed their fear and confront their leaders with demands for serious changes in how their countries are governed. The overthrow of Mr. Ben Ali by fearless citizens who were no longer intimidated by their police and Army is historically significant because of four main reasons:

IN PICTURES: Tunisia riots

1. This is the first example in the past generation of an Arab leader and his system being overthrown by popular action. It marks the end of acquiescence and docility among masses of ordinary Arab citizens who had remained remarkably complacent for decades in the face of the mounting power of Western-backed Arab security states and police- and army-based ruling regimes.


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