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Movements for Change

How Individuals, Social Media and Al Jazeera Are Changing Pakistan, Egypt and Tunisia

Rauf Arif

This book explores social media as an alternative channel of communication and resistance in Pakistan, Tunisia and Egypt, and argues that the term "Arab Spring" limits the scope of acknowledgement for the ongoing online and offline political uprisings in the Muslim World, which started beyond the geographical boundaries of the Middle East. Beginning with an exploration of the pivotal role of Al Jazeera and how it used social media content from protestors to make the uprisings a global conversation, this book takes readers through an overview of creative political protests in each of the three case countries, before delving into an in-depth examination of a specific icon that sparked each revolution in question, and an overview of social movements and the politico-cultural context in each country. In closing, this book offers an understanding on how the new collective memories of nations using social media to protest will affect future generations who are striving to rise against authoritarian regimes, including the Algerian Spring that is ongoing in 2019.

This book can appeal to a wide range of audiences, both inside and outside the academic world. Within academia, courses covering topics such as social media, social movements, comparative politics, Middle Eastern studies and global communication could use this book as a learning tool. In non-academic settings, journalism practitioners could benefit from this book to examine how social media can be an alternate media in the absence of traditional media, and how traditional news media outlets can collaborate with and utilize social media to perform their journalistic duty in oppressive regimes.

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10 Catching Fire



Catching Fire

Let’s revisit the incident of the Tunisian burning man that is believed to have been the spark of the political uprisings in Tunisia, commonly referred to as the Jasmine Revolution, which triggered political unrest in different parts of the Muslim world. Since age 10, Mohamed Bouazizi was the sole breadwinner for his family, selling fruits and vegetables from his wooden cart in the local market of Sidi Bouzid (Ryan, 2011a). Because of his poor economic conditions, he did not graduate from high school, but made sure that his five younger siblings had a chance to continue their education (de Soto, 2011). In other words, Bouazizi was no more than an average Tunisian who had no political interests nor a powerful background. There was nothing charming about his everyday struggles to get up in the morning and leave his home to push his cart through the streets selling vegetables and fruits. Neither was he known for spending a crazy amount of time on the Internet as a social media star. He probably did not even own a smartphone. One might wonder how, then, did such an average young Tunisian became the reason for revolutions that not only shook the Muslim world, but in fact brought the political hierarchy of several Middle Eastern countries down in a matter of weeks.

This chapter explores the events and circumstances associated with Bouazizi’s radical step to take his own life by setting himself alight. The still...

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