The Tunisian revolution, as a revolution of ordinary people, inspired the demonstrations in Egypt, leading to Mubarak’s fall. It has opened the Tunisian people’s political imagination, which had been foreclosed by the elites in power, with the support of Tunisia’s European and American allies. This new narrative of change through popular revolution has expressed what was previously impossible to say openly: that a radical regime change is necessary and must lead to individual freedom (both economic and political), political representation, and government accountability. The self-immolation of Muhammad Bouazizi made manifest the economic and political plight of the Tunisian youth and the people’s distrust of a state that had humiliated them, repressed all dissent, and practiced corruption at all levels since the country became independent in 1956. Tunisians and Egyptians have expressed their desire to become citizens, rather than subjects, of their states.Read the rest of The power of a new political imagination.
Malika Zeghal is Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor in Contemporary Islamic Thought and Life at Harvard University. She is currently working on a book on states, secularity, and Islam in the contemporary Arab world, forthcoming at Princeton University Press.