First published in Islamabad Dateline on 01.02.2011
WAVES OF REVOLUTION
The ways of world have changed; tune is new, instruments have changed / Free your mind from mental slavery; make the young, masters of the old!
Indeed, instruments changed significantly since Iqbal penned down these inspirational lines. It is the age in which powerful authoritarian governments are overthrown by the youth, using social media and music, tools that seem trivial to elder generations.
“Half the population is oppressed and living in misery/ President of the Country/ Your people are dead!” – lyrics of Tunisian rap artist Ben Amor commonly known as El General, who was put behind bars and his music taken off-air as it was causing an uprising in the youth of Tunisia few weeks ago. Today El General is setting the microphone on fire once again as thousands gather to celebrate Ben Ali’s exit and welcome the dawn of a new era in the history of Tunisia.
This was not it. The spark that ignited fire through El General’s political rap and social networking sites has taken Egypt and Yemen by storm. The authoritarian governments of the region try to ban “tools” igniting this rebellion but the young ‘are masters of the old’ when it comes to playing with radio frequencies encrypted with data that overthrow governments.
Egyptian activists like their Tunisian counterparts are using internet to effectively plan out their protests. Ahmed Salah one of the main organizers of protests against Husni Mubarak’s regime says “No one is accepting the people being assigned to government – they are oppressed & corrupt. We need support – we are being killed”. Ahmed was taken in custody and beaten, but his bravery knows no bounds and he says he won’t stop, even if they replace rubber bullets with real ones. Husni Mubarak will have to succumb to people’s power. Some already chant “Mubarak! Mubarak! Saudi Arabia awaits you!”
The pattern is identical, tools almost the same, this is the power of new media which if used effectively can cause decade’s old regimes to collapse. Same tools were used by us during the lawyers movement, and emergency relief efforts when floods struck in Pakistan.
Oscar Morales, whose facebook group “One million voices against FARC” transformed into the biggest demonstration against terrorism in the history of the world in 2008 and which eventually caused the debacle of guerilla organization FARC in Colombia expresses solidarity with Egyptians and says: “I am in tears of emotion and pride. My heart is with you in these defining moments of history”
People like Oscar and Ahmed Salah did not make history; they ‘typed’ it with their own hands.
Would this be the end? Certainly not.
Digital activists around the world relay a warning to world leaders which can be best described in the words of Stephanie Rudat, co-founder of Alliance for Youth Movements: “This is for you Ahmadinejad, Mubarak, Chavez, Jong-Il, Castro, Mugabe, al-Qaddafi, Jintao, Abdullah, Shwe, al-Assad, Karimov, Lukashenka, Zenawi, Deby, and Berdimuhamedow, Listen to your citizens – oppression & corruption is unacceptable! It will no longer be tolerated”
These waves of revolution which are already causing a domino effect in many countries will surely make this decade the era of social media.
Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi is an aeronautical engineer by force, an activist by mind, a lover by heart and a wanderer by soul