Egypt uprising only part of unrest in North Africa

February 3, 2011 12:02:38 AM PST
Experts say what we're seeing in Egypt is the culmination of simmering unrest throughout North Africa. Scholars at UC Berkeley spoke Wednesday night about the growing unrest this year in North Africa. The entire region is a potential tinderbox with uprisings in Egypt, Yemen, and Tunisia.

In Berkeley, there's a huge appetite for information on what's happening in that part of the world.

"If this is going to continue, I know I can go back and I can be an active member and I can be proud of our society again," says Tunisian UC Berkeley student Meriem Ben Saleh.

The room was packed at UC Berkeley as people listened to Ben Saleh, an engineering Ph.D. candidate. She spoke about the overthrow of Tunisia's authoritarian leader, which set off the Egyptian uprising 10 days later. Her parent's inspired her to leave Tunisia.

"They pushed me to go out to go out of the country because they, themselves, don't believe in the system. They never believed in it and even when they had their memberships of the party in their wallets, they had it just to protect our family," says Ben Saleh.

Tunisian activist Bassem Bouguerra says the Tunisian overthrow went unnoticed by the western media because of heavy censorship. His political blog was blacked out.

"We were just overwhelmed with so much darkness, so much dictatorship, so much violence and police brutality and we just don't know how to get out," says Bouguerra.

"I think it amounts to a revolution, yes," says UC Berkeley public policy Prof. Michael Nacht.

Nacht just returned from a year in the Obama administration. He says the Arab-style democracy, seen in Iraq, could be the template for Egypt, Tunisia and possibly Yemen. But he warns that it's still early and history has seen revolutions undergo a series of regimes.

"You could have a lot of modern, younger democratically-oriented people who perhaps could even topple Mubarak, but then they themselves could be overthrown by another autocrat by the army, by the Muslim Brotherhood or by somebody else," says Nacht.

Nacht also pointed out that chaos makes it easier for extremist groups to take over and that is a big concern for the U.S.