7th December 2010: TUNISIA: Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian vegetable peddler, sets himself ablaze in the town of Sidi Bouzid after his cart is confiscated by a policewoman who slapped him and spat in his face. The Arab Spring is born. The Arab world is turned upside-down.
Many Arab Spring demonstrations have resulted in violent actions from authorities, as well as from pro-government militias and counter-demonstrators. In return for the hostility from authorities, many protesters have answered with violence. This has created a never ending circle of aggression in most areas. Demonstrators in the Arab world often operate under the slogan “Ash-sah’b yurid isqat an-nizam.” (“The people want to bring down the regime”).
These are the type of events the developed western world likes to ignore. However, during this past month, I had the privilege of assisting with an endeavor Michael has been passionate about for a long time. During Ireland’s recent Constitutional Convention, Michael was part of a team to bring elected representatives from four different Arab Spring states to Ireland. The purpose of this event, “Reconstituting Constitutions, 2014,” was to provide an arena where representatives from Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya were able to create a dialogue between their parliaments, Ireland included.
During the planning stage, I spent a lot of time trying to keep the most recent news updates in the hands of those planning the event. This turned out to be very interesting in the last few days leading up to the event. There were reports that came out claiming that six Egyptians, including two Egyptian Diplomats, had been abducted in Libya. No one on the Irish side new exactly how the representatives of the two countries would react, or if even if they would. The main question loomed: should the issue be addressed or left untouched. With only a day between when the delegates were arriving in Dublin and the final stages of planning, the decision was made to leave the issue untouched, and let any reactions by the representatives take place unaided. Turns out, no one from either country cared.
The final day of the visit took place in two different locations. The morning was spent facilitating round tables in the conference rooms of LH 2000. These programs were conducted to discuss ideas that had been generated from the weekend events. As it turns out, many Arab State representatives not only had an idea of how to improve the situation in their own country, but they also had ideas of how to change the Irish Constitution! The afternoon was spent in a conference at TCD (Trinity College). The Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA), who worked closely with the representatives from the Irish Parliament, were in charge of the event. Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, Michael, and another TD, Maureen O’Sullivan, all spoke. The event concluded with a panel consisting of one representative from each Spring State. They were asked questions and proceeded to explain how they planned to take what they had learned while in Ireland and make improvements to the situations in their own country.
A riot begins in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.
I was amazed at how curious the delegates from the four states were in Ireland’s system. Each of the countries represented at the event are at very different stages of enacting a constitution of their own. The weekend was a success and the the future of the four nations, although an uphill battle, continues to take small steps forward.