A Young and Watchful Eye on Changes

A Young and Watchful Eye on Changes
Tunis - November 2012

Tunis – November 2012

Youth has long been the buzz word connecting to the uprisings in North Africa and in the Middle East in the spring of 2011. A demographic shift, we’ve been told, combined with economic and social conditions, resulted in a new resistence culture with new strategies and goals for their respective countries.  Tunisia was one such country, where the median age is 30, and multi-lingual, interconnected youth played an essential role in spearheading the pressure that would lead Ben Ali to flee the country.  Now they are also an important part of safeguarding and assessing the changes that are taking place.  On today’s podcast, we sit in a part in Tunis, together with 3 young people working in the field of non-profit watch dog organizations.  In our 40+ minute conversation you will hear from Amir Kamergi, Khaoula Mhatli, and Yosra Mkadem, regarding the work they are doing and their individual and collective experiences and opinions regarding what is up with Tunisia today, how far we’ve come, and what to make of the future.

“It’s like shock therapy. Something happened that we never expected…  it’s getting better each day, people are growing up… and that’s the great thing about our revolution… we know what we want.” – Yosra Mkadem

I Watch Organization

Recognizing the Mother of Cities

Recognizing the Mother of Cities

“The mother of cities” they call it, I had never heard the term until I arrived in Cairo earlier this week. If I were to imagine what the mother of all cities would look like, I guess like Cairo, it would have to be massive. It would also, like Cairo, have to be a place that cannot be ignored, drivers honk all day and all night, and dusty weathered buildings loom large in every direction you look. And then I would top it off, as Cairo does, with a powerful river – in this case, the Nile definitely fits the bill.

No one who has been here for a week can really tell you about Cairo. I imagine you could be here a year and still not know every corner of a place that is so vast and overwhelming. They say New York City never sleeps, but Cairo turns the night into day. And when you can top it all off with a world reknowned cultural movement for creativity and change, it makes for an extra interesting time to be in the heart of the mother of cities.

But don’t let me romantize the worst quality air imaginable where everyone must automatically smoke the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes per day just by walking down the street. Where some areas don’t feel all that welcoming and even if you were welcome, the standstill traffic would never let you get there in a reasonable time. You sit in a cab for an hour but you only rack up a tiny bill. In fact, you could have probably walked faster but its Cairo and sometimes its more about being comfortable than being logical.

I’m yet to sit in a cafe without someone joining in my conversation and offering a testimony about what has been going on and what they have experienced. It seems no one is afraid to speak anymore, and its hard to imagine them keeping quiet.

That about sums up my first days in Cairo: loud city, talkative people, mind boggling scale.

Infobescity and the Revolutionary Pregnancy of Tunisia

Infobescity and the Revolutionary Pregnancy of Tunisia

“There is an information war going on in Tunisia,” Adel explains to me one beautiful afternoon in a suburb of Tunis, “people are constantly consuming and waiting for that next message.”  In an unexpected podcast conversation my new friend began right away talking about the good news and the bad news when it comes to changes in Tunisia over the past 2 years. He also talks about the importance, now especially, to be an activist-cyclist in this nation in transition.  He guided us safely during our critical mass ride and in this conversation he guides us through how he lived the revolt of 2011.

Nadia Khiari “Willis in Tunis”

Nadia Khiari “Willis in Tunis”

I’ve learned that Tunisia has a fantastic tradition, especially since the Uprising* of 2011, of cartoons with attitude. Nadia Khiari’s “Willis from Tunis” was born from the new freedom to express yourself and criticise things in public and he has wasted no time in becoming a recognized symbol and fearless critic of politics, culture, and Tunisian society in general. But behind the crazy cat there is an even cooler person, a Nadia that knows what she wants out of life and for her country, and since waking up from being a self proclaimed “zombie under the dictatorship”, she is now determined to never stop living her dream – making cartoons.

(Audio features Chris Lydon asking the questions, and me behind the scenes)

* I have decided for myself, with the help of many wise friends, to stop calling it a revolution or a spring, and start calling it an upheaval or uprising.