ND Expert: Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution

by Shannon Chapla

Emad Shahin

Of the world’s 22 Arab countries, Tunisia seemed to be the least likely to witness a popular revolution that would force an autocratic president to flee the country, says Emad Shahin, Henry R. Luce Associate Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame.

“For decades, Tunisia was a showcase for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund—a success story of economic reform and structural adjustment,” Shahin says. “Yet, revolution came despite a brutal police state, positive growth rates and decades-long Western support of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s corrupt regime.”

Called The Jasmine Revolution by Tunisians, Shahin says it may send shock waves to other autocratic Arab regimes and to their western backers.

“It shatters several myths,” he says, “the myth of Middle Eastern democratic exceptionalism, the myth of achieving economic reform without political liberalization, and the myth that western backing of autocratic regimes in the region will maintain stability and protect western strategic interests.

“Tunisians who bravely battled Ben Ali’s repressive machine in a non-violent and peaceful resistance show that the key to stability is freedom, dignity and democracy,” Shahin says.

Shahin examines the foundation for democracy and political reform within Islamic law, philosophy and political practices. He formerly taught political science at the American University in Cairo.

Media Advisory: Shahin’s comments may be used in whole or in part. He is available for interviews and can be reached at 202-406-0639 (cell) or Shahin.2@nd.edu