Forty-two days into this year, and it’s shaping up to be a momentous calendar. I’m scrambling to include the numerous huge changes in my classes as I also roll out history and civics. I’m going to take a step back and look out my favorite window – the international stage.
On January 9th, people across southern Sudan voted in a referendum for secession. A month later the results were in – 99% for independence. We are in the middle of seeing the world’s newest state emerge after a decades-long civil war and continued oppression and violence. It’s a sign of hope for the countless other victims in the surrounding area (I’m looking at the DRC and CAR specifically, but sadly most of the region in reality).
On January 15th, after just 29 days of student protests, Tunisian dictator Ben Ali surrendered power and flew to Saudi Arabia. Amidst the protests, solidarity actions took place across North Africa and the Middle East. Tunisia is supposed to hold elections in the coming months and has an opportunity to take a huge step forwards from there.
On February 11th, Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak gave up power after 18 days of youth-led protests. This came close on the heels of Tunis and after a week of escalation including a brutal police crackdown, attempted military peacekeeping, mass arrests and beatings of journalists and activists, and even more arrests, beatings, and murders of civilians. Egypt also has the potential to move forwards here and – as what some have called the “fulcrum” of the region – a chance to move other countries forward too.
This doesn’t even touch on rising protests in the rest of North Africa/Middle East, student actions in Puerto Rico as well as England, and huge elections in Uganda. I will be busy keeping an eye on all of these. Needless to say, this day is one of those momentous occasions. Tunisia’s and Egypt’s transition will be a lodestar for the so-called “Arab World,” especially Egypt. Southern Sudan’s viability will be a signal for transition with stability across an unstable region. If I knew any better, I’d say 2011 is going to be a 1968.