PARIS — By removing a despot who was the main obstacle to democracy, the Tunisian revolt has immense importance for the Arab and Islamic world. Above all, it has opened up a future that, due to the iron grip of an authoritarian political system backed by European and Arab governments, had been considered closed…
…Tunisia’s experience has shown that a revolution can succeed without relying on a power-oriented Ayatollah Khomeini. When a social movement is spontaneous and horizontal, it has a far greater chance of achieving its goals.
But social revolution is strewn with obstacles at every turn. It will require persistent struggle over many years, not just for a few weeks.
Now there is no turning back. The struggle will bring true democracy if those who made the revolution persist. If they fall back, strongmen are waiting in the wings to seize power out of the vacuum. Then, as in Iran, the people will have to start all over again to regain their freedom.
Abolhassan Bani-Sadr was the first president of Iran after the Iranian revolution overthrew the shah in 1979. He lives in exile outside Paris.