Background to Tunisian protests from a former resident

A former resident of some of the hotbeds of the Tunisian uprising points out their significance to put the recent political unrest in context.

A woman celebrates after the announcement that the fallen Tunisian president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali has left the country. A reader provides some historical background to the street protests in Tunisia.
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In reference to the recent events in Tunisia, many of your readers may have missed the significance of youths in Kasserine and Sidi Bouz. I lived and worked in the region in the early 1980s in regional planning. A number of issues may give the current events a broader context.

The governorates of Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid depend largely on subsistence agriculture and pastoralism. Unemployment has been consistently at levels far higher to the national levels. The levels of national growth from industrialisation and tourism never percolated through to the marginalised regions of central Tunisia, whose statistics were often deliberately misrepresented.

Three underlying factors emanating from central Tunisia have caused serious concern to the Tunisian government. One is the danger of Islamic fundamentalism. Armed gangs of fundamentalists attacked the town of Gafsa, to the south of Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid in the late 1970s. The second is the influential role of the Tunisian General Union of Labour.

However, the propensity of incendiary street rioting to spread from central Tunisia to the capital and move from peasant groups to the educated elite, particularly unemployed graduates, provided the dynamic by which the newly exiled president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali replaced the former president Habib Bourghiba in 1987.

Dr Joseph Mullen, University of Manchester, UK

One way to avoid traffic jams

In reference to the front page news article End of the 20kph buffer for speeders (January 13), this is positive news for Abu Dhabi, but why wait two years before introducing this new rule?

The revised speed limits need to be met with proper enforcement of all rules (not just speeding) and awareness campaigns that promote good driving habits.

One such campaign needs to address the problem with drivers leaving a massive gap between them and the car in front while waiting at traffic lights. Although this habit might seem to have no impact on traffic, it is actually one of the causes for traffic jams in cities because it reduces the efficiency of traffic lights. Leaving a big gap reduces the number of cars that can make it across the green light each time. This causes a build-up of traffic and traffic jams.

Drivers should not confuse this with tailgating, which involves the safe gap one has to maintain between from the car in front while traffic is moving. The size of that gap is a function of speed. The faster you go, the bigger the gap should be. However, when you've come to a stop at a traffic light, try to stay as close as possible to the car in front.

Ziad Q, Abu Dhabi

Leadership shown in Brisbane floods

Shadi Ghanim's cartoon on January 13 comparing the floods of Brisbane with the devastation of Katrina in New Orleans overlooks one significant issue: the leadership of Anna Bligh, the premier of Queensland, and her visible dominance of the public relations during this crisis.

By comparison, the New Orleans response is remembered for indecision and lack of strength. It's tough watching my hometown drowning, but I applaud this gritty Queenslander.

Sandy Gallup, Abu Dhabi

An everlasting complaint

I have lived in Discovery Gardens, Dubai, since May, 2010. Since du is the only telecom operator allowed to have service in this area, I must use it for phone, internet and TV service.

I have a peculiar problem where all TV channels freeze every now and then. This happens almost every other week.

There have been so many times that I have called du's customer service. Every time, they make me wait for two or three days until somebody from technical services calls me, at which point I need to explain everything again. Most of the time without visiting my home, a technician will rectify the problem, but only to see it repeat after 10 or 15 days. Then I need to redo my process of complaining again.

Getting annoyed by the situation, I informed du that I needed to be compensated for the denied TV service which I am paying for. I thought at least this will give them a serious intention to look into my problem, only to be surprised to hear that they have the big heart to pay a huge compensation of Dh22.

Habeeb Rahmanm, Dubai

Don't tax workers from India

I refer to Taxman to target Indian expatriates (January 15). Indians working abroad contribute to the Indian economy. In today's global economy, labourers working outside India don't get a good salary. It is difficult to make ends meet. They cannot afford to pay the proposed tax and are not getting benefits from the Indian government.

K Ragavan, India