“Change”- Said the Tunisian Ambassador in the UK

By Farrukh I. Younus
Freelance Writer - United Kingdom

Talk Hatem Atallah
Mr Hatem Atallah, the Tunisian ambassador in the UK
Mr Hatem Atallah, the Tunisian ambassador in UK

Beginning with a short recitation of the Qur’an, a committee room at the House of Lords held an audience with Mr Hatem Atallah, the Tunisian ambassador in the UK,  who spoke on the subject of the Tunisian revolution.

Neither planned nor organized, revolution for change came from deep within the people where, as he said, "The movement was its own leader."

As the first revolution in the Arab region there was no template to follow and unlike subsequent calls for political change, the Tunisians didn’t opt to make amendments to their constitution, they preferred instead the option of effectively starting from scratch; a process which is on-going even today.

As the ambassador of Tunisia spoke, I felt a sense of calm. And with that in mind, if indeed the ‘Arab spring’ can bring more like this ambassador to the forefront of change, then despite it taking time, change will be for the better.

Dr Noureddine Miladi, a lecturer in Media Studies and Sociology, joined the ambassador. He contextualized the change with the example of the French revolution which took some 70 years, resulting in the death of thousands.

Tunisia’s change took place in a matter of weeks without such a grand loss of life. And while technology has played an important part in initiating change, the country – like any - requires a grand change in its culture.

Serving People is a Key

Dr Noureddine Miladi, a lecturer in Media Studies and Sociology.

Corruption of course is nothing new, but cultural change cannot take place overnight, it is a process of education, spanning perhaps a generation, if not more.

During the evening, the example of citizenship was given, like how any Brit traveling abroad, should they need help can simply contact the embassy and benefit from immediate support. I had to pause and ponder on singular point.

Here, there is a direct relationship between myself as a citizen, and my nation, where its representatives work not for their own gain, but to serve the people.

And this was the message both men pressed, the need to educate those in the police that they serve the people, those in political office that they serve the people. To build on the notion that unlike other Arab states where citizens are disenfranchised, here the citizens feel a sense of empowerment, they feel as if they had a voice, had respect.

Yet despite this drastic changes for Tunisia and  for other regions in the mindset, the media empire which days before the revolution was pandering to the whims of the political ruling class, focuses its energy on finding fault.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it seems as if the established media channels, are insisting that it is. This unreal expectation is being pushed onto the wider populace, and while at present the impact is minimal, over time it may counter the success already gained. All the while very real concerns exist, such as addressing the 800,000 who are unemployed, improving trade relations, establishing wider levels of security to allow for tourism, etc.

The international community at large has and continues to speak of the Tunisian example, while ordinary people there do not want charity, they should, like the rest of us, be presented with opportunity.

A Remark Which Many Disagreed With

The evening allowed those of us with an interest the opportunity to interact with the Tunisian ambassador who can be described as a career professional, a marked difference to a political appointee.


The House of Lords, the British Parliament, London. (Photo taken by Farrukh Younus).

There must be a sense of unease amongst other Arab nations, many of whose rulers continue to appease their populations with empty promises, that if it has happened in Tunisia it can happen to them. And sadly, we see different approaches to addressing this fear, from some of the wealthier nations increasing their allowances to their citizens, to other nations openly oppressing their citizens.

Perhaps the most troubling comment from the evening happened to be a remark from Lord Sheikh, our host from the evening, who stated that he has met President Assad of Syria, saying that he is a nice man, and it is those around him who are not.

The statement left many of the audience in shock, and it’s perhaps the first time I felt the need to openly disagree with him. Whatever the truth of the matter, the slaughter of one’s own citizens in such a shameless way, is a sad example of how the ‘Arab Spring’ hasn’t had the same effect across the region.

As the ambassador of Tunisia spoke, I felt a sense of calm. And with that in mind, if indeed the ‘Arab spring’ can bring more like this ambassador to the forefront of change, then despite it taking time, change will be for the better.

Related Links:
Tunisia's Democracy...British or French
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Farrukh I Younus has a background in mobile phone strategy across Europe and Asia, and has visited China on more than 25 occasions. Dedicated to understanding and delivering solutions based on new technology, Younus has spoken on the subject to the European Parliament in Brussels, and regularly attends industry-leading conferences. He currently runs a video platform, Implausibleblog, delivering lifestyle content via social media; where his focus is on understanding consumer behaviour with regards to digital content and digital advertising. His interests include travel, nouvelle cuisine, and chocolate.

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