Albany, NY – In today's Academic Minute, Dr. Roni Berger of Adelphi University recounts her experience as an eyewitness to revolution on a recent trip to Tunisia.
Dr. Berger is a professor of social work at Adelphi University where she teaches courses in quantitative and qualitative research methods and practice with individuals, families and groups. She also teaches courses on practicing social work in communities of immigrants and refugees. She holds a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Dr. Roni Berger - Tunisian Revolution
In January, I spent two weeks in Tunisia in what was planned as a vacation with Punic, Roman and Byzantine archeological sites and mosaics, and green oases in the desert. It became an unexpected opportunity to witness violent demonstrations, as I was forced to take side dirt roads and escorted by armed vehicles.
Two aspects prompted me to turn my trip into an educational lesson for my students. First, how a nation of educated young women and men used social networks to spread the message of frustration, organize protests and document casualties, in spite of censorship by an oppressive and corrupted regime. While originally many demonstrators were students, eventually the storm engulfed all social strata, and you could follow the uprising unfolding.
Second, the combination of modern and traditional values that dominate this relatively progressive Muslim country. For example, women enjoy equal legal rights, a considerable representation in the parliament, and, polygamy is prohibited. Yet, progress is slow because of Tunisia's patriarchal heritage. Apparently, women have a central role in the rebuilding of Tunisia.
At this time, the future is uncertain. Some are afraid that extreme Muslim groups are waiting in the wings to take over, as may be suggested by the burning of the ancient synagogue on the island of Djerba. A domino effect has been engulfing other Arab countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Jordan and the process is far from over.