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The WSF in the revolutionary atmosphere of the Arab world

quarta-feira 17 de abril de 2013, por Rita Freire, Rita Freire Rita Freire

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Despite these tensions and almost inevitable differences, the many representatives expressing of the struggles in the Arab world marched together during WSF for the liberation of Palestine. The WSF also contributed to raising awareness of the Saharawi and Kurdish people

When the World Social Forum (WSF) was created in 2001 in the city of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul (south of Brazil), no one could have predicted that it would be replicated years later in Tunisia. The WSF proposed another future for the world, engendered by civil society at a time when the former dictatorship of Ben Ali in Tunisia was condemning any voices of dissent to prison. In the years since the people of the country have ended the years of stagnant politics, taking to the streets to over throw the dictatorship, sparking a series similar uprisings across the Arab world and were to host their own WSF. Surely this must have seemed unimaginable to the Tunisian and other participants who attended the first event in 2001 event.

Twelve years later, in late March 2013, young activists from different countries began arriving in the capital Tunis, traveling the temporary office of the WSF in Avenue Bourguiba, to help in the planning of the final tasks for the event that brought together about 50 thousand people to the University of El Manar. Along with them, communication activists, hackers, members of unlicensed community radio stations in Africa, who also held their own discussions as part of the ‘Third World Forum of Free Media’. This hive of volunteers, journalists and media activists all congregating around the WSF was already a sign of its impact, just as the event had been in Porto Alegre.

In the years since the first WSF, the geopolitical environment of social transformation has moved its focus Latin America, where many authoritarian governments have been replaced by more popular alternatives to North Africa and the Middle East. In the two years since actions in Tunisia triggered the Arab Spring, Ben Ali was removed from power, Hosni Mubarak was toppled in Egypt, revolts have occurred across the region of the Maghreb and Mashreq and other movements such as Occupy Wall Street and Indignados of Spain have been inspired.

Che, Chavez and Chokri

Although the WSF supports all social movements that hold to account, but do not participate in political parties or governments, two events in the sphere of political sphere have contributed to a symbolic link between the resistance in Latin America and the Arab world.

The murder of Chokri Belaid, leader of a party representing democratic opposition to the new conservative government of Tunisia, in early February 2013 prompted thousands of people to once again take to the streets. It could have been thought that the crime could have caused a decline in participation in the WSF with people feeling dissatisfied with democracy but in the murder had the opposite effect. It produced an immediate demonstration in support of global civil society from the people of Tunisia, against violent outputs.

Comparatively, the Latin Americans arrived in Tunis still coming to terms with the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and looking for a way to stand up to with external domination of the continent without him.

The WSF also saw a series of self-organised concerts in Avenida Bourgiba with creative acts and tributes to the former leaders with people waering t-shirts with the slogan, “Che, Chavez and Chokri”.

Common denominator: Palestine

The last two years have brought not only revolutionary winds to the region of the Arabic world. They also brought violent reactions from the threatened regimes, unwanted foreign intervention (for example the clashes in Mali between different movements of “liberation” between secular and Islamist parties) and also in fighting between leftists around the world. In Syria, where Bashar Al-Assad is threatened, rebels accuse supporters of peace and stability as traitors to the Arab Spring, and the defenders of governments accuse the rebels of being mercenaries in the service the west.

Despite these tensions and almost inevitable differences, the many representatives expressing of the struggles in the Arab world marched together during WSF, for the common cause: the liberation of Palestine. Many share a commitment to end the Israeli occupation in the wake of another massacre in Gaza, in November 2012, this acts as a common denominator to all social movements and organisations present.

The WSF also contributed to raising awareness of the Saharawi people who, twice, in editions of the WSF in Dakar, Senegal, and now Tunisia, suffered hostilities from Moroccan activists, opposed the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco’s colonial state. The assaults have undermined Morocco’s chances of hosting the next edition of the event, a dream of Moroccan democratic organisations.

Apart from the Sahara and Palestine, Kurdistan, another group of stateless people were cause for concern at the WSF. The representative of the Kurdistan International Council, Yilmaz Orkan, who had been trying to seek international support for peace talks in Turkey, where the Kurdish population live under repression, was arrested at Brussels airport en-route to Tunis. This came after a series of unexplained murders and arrests of Kurds in European countries in recent months which have sparked more diplomatic discussion of the displaced people who are divided between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, and seeking political recognition. All these events, loaded with revolutionary tension, composed the environment for the WSF to reflect on its own role.

It is possible that an upcoming meeting of the International Council will take place in Tunisia within six months, after a process of consultation with the social movements and organisations. Some of the questions to come out of the event in Tunisia was how to find a way of becoming more responsive, serving a greater democratic function that instance, improving internal organisation and supporting the actions of solidarity in a more effective way. While these might be the questions facing the Arab world, they are also at the centre of the WSF itself.

Foto: Deborah Moreira/Ciranda

Ver online : The Brazilian Post - World Social Forum: solidarity from Brazil to the Arabic World